Former Malaysian PM talks to Yemen Times”Yemen’s government must listen to the people” [Archives:2004/736/Front Page]

May 10 2004

By Walid Al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed told the Yemen Times in an exclusive interview held last Wednesday that President Saleh and the Yemeni government must listen to what the people of Yemen want to say in order to achieve development.
Mahathir was in the midst of a short visit to Yemen in which he met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Prime Minister Abdulqader Ba Jammal and several governmental and private sector individuals.
In response to a question of how the Yemeni president should respond to the launching of a civil society committee to support the President in his efforts for reform and development through advice and dialogue, Mahathir said, “The government and president must listen to the views of their people. They should not necessarily accept them, but they must carefully listen and have dialogue.”

Dialogue with people: A must
When confronted with the fact that Yemen is suffering from tremendous challenges and difficulties, and that a number of pioneer intellects have formed a committee to express solidarity with the president in presenting them with their views and advice on issues concerning development, he gave the Malaysia example by saying that “in Malaysia for example, we always have dialogue with the private sector, civil society including NGOs, etc. Representatives from all those people will have at least one direct dialogue with the government, and sometimes more frequently. This is necessary because the government wants to know what those people think it has to do in order to enhance the standard of living and develop the country.”

Not anti-Semitic
Mahathir also said that now more people realize that his speech at the OIC summit last year was not anti-Semitic, but rather constructive and based on the call to think.
“Now I think people are beginning to realize that I was not being anti-Semitic in my speech. I think that the Jews made mistakes. They can be wrong, and we have the right to criticize them.”
He also renewed his criticism of the way the US has been supporting Israel by saying, “the USA continues to support Israel irrespective of what they do, even when they assassinated Sheikh Yassin and Dr. Rantissi. In other words, the US is supporting assassinations, and that is extremely dangerous because it is against International law.
So, the US must rethink its support for Israel. When you support Israel irrespective of what it does and against the Palestinians even when they want peace, then you are not helping the peace process.”

Economy, stability civil society
When asked about the priorities of the Yemeni government, Dr. Mahathir focused on the economy, saying that the government should focus more on how to utilize its resources and develop its human resources. He added that stability is also a must for the government to advance.
“You also need security and stability for investments to flourish. Without a stable country and government, you cannot carry out economic development policies. This is also a major priority as stability is necessary for economic development.” he said.
About civil society, Mahathir focused on the importance of dialogue with the government and exchange of ideas and views. “The civil society should assist in finding ways on how to develop the country.” he stressed.
He also noted that being part of the civil society, media also has a responsibility in this respect.
“Free and responsible media that is self-regulated to ensure they carry their professional duties in society should have a major role to play in your country's development. Media should enjoy a lot of freedom, because basically you are committed to assisting the government in development of your country. Of course you have to criticize negative phenomena, and that is important, but it should be done out of care for your country and its development.” he mentioned.
Yemen's growth not enough
Mahathir also added that even though Yemen was progressing, yet it is behind all neighboring countries in The Gulf. “By comparison to other countries in the region, especially oil-rich countries, Yemen's development pace is somewhat behind. Yet I believe that Yemen has the same potential as the other Arab countries, and should make better progress.” he said.
He also noted that his visit aims at promoting Yemen-Malaysia cooperation in trade, traiing and other aspects. He expressed his hope in that there will be greater cooperation in the future between the two countries following the visit.
“I am here together with several businessmen and investors to explore the opportunities of cooperation and expansion of relations between the two countries.”