Friday Sep 26, 2003

Malaysia's Mahathir Blasts West at U.N.

Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP)--With his trademark bluntness, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad used his final appearance at the United Nations on Thursday to deride the world body as a "puppet'' of rich and powerful nations.
"This organization is today collapsing on its clay feet, helpless to protect the weak and the poor,'' said Mahathir, who has promised to retire next month after running the Southeast Asian nation with a firm hand for 22 years.
"Its organs have been cut out, dissected and reshaped so that they may perform the way the puppet masters want,'' he said, naming the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization as "instruments of hegemony.''
Mahathir, 77, has used almost every international podium to lambaste the West for two decades, winning a reputation as a loud champion of Third World causes.
He said he may continue that role even after retirement.
"There are some things that need to be said,'' Mahathir told reporters after his speech.
If people wanted to hear his "nasty'' views, he would oblige, he said.
Mahathir criticized the U.S.-led war on Iraq in comments to reporters and said no country could send troops to Iraq without a clear U.N. mandate.
In his speech, he again raised his favorite theme: re-colonization.
"Today we are seeing the resurgence of European imperialism,'' Mahathir said, adding that "puppet regimes are installed, dancing as puppets do.''
Mahathir's prickly views and plain talk have rarely hurt Malaysia, which gained independence from British rule in 1957. He has transformed his country into one of the richest in Asia, and the United States is Malaysia's No. 1 trading partner.
Despite Mahathir's outspoken criticism of globalization, Malaysia remains a major exporter of electronic goods, palm oil and other products and an attractive area for foreign investment and tourism.
Mahathir was perhaps at his vitriolic best after currencies and stock prices started tumbling and foreign investors pulled out of Asia in 1997.
He railed at investor George Soros and "rogue speculators,'' accusing them of trying to destroy Asian economies. He charged the West with plotting to re-colonize the East through economic control.
Mahathir also said he suspected the financial crisis might have risen from a Jewish "agenda,'' saying Jews "are not happy to see the Muslims progress.''
He also rejected free-market conventional wisdom and imposed capital controls that protected Malaysia from the worst of the crisis. By 2001, Malaysia had recovered faster than many countries in the region.
When asked Thursday how Malaysia averted an economic meltdown when all Asian economies were collapsing, Mahathir said, "First lesson is not to take advice from the IMF.''