Howard has outdone Bush in dissipating  and alienating the regional outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity with the people of  Australia after the Bali terrorist bomb blasts in less than two months and turning it into distrust, anger and apprehension against the Australian government

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The latest American international poll of 38,000 people conducted in 63 languages and dialects in 44 countries over a four-month period (July-October 2002) have found that despite the “initial outpouring of public sympathy following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, discontent with the United States has grown around the world over the past two years”. 

The “What the World Thinks in 2002” Global Attitudes Survey, commissioned by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press in Washington in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations and chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, was released on Wednesday. 

It said: “Images of the U.S. have been tarnished in all types of nations: among longtime NATO allies, in developing countries in Eastern Europe and, most dramatically, in Muslim societies.”

According to the survey, since 2000, favourability ratings for the US had  fallen in 19 of the 27 countries where trend benchmarks were  available.  While criticism of America was  on the rise, however, a reserve of goodwill toward the United States still remained  in 35 of the 42 countries in which the question was asked. “True dislike, if not hatred, of America is concentrated in the Muslim nations of the Middle East and in Central Asia, today’s area of greatest conflict”. 

The findings of the 2002 Global Attitudes Survey vindicated  former US Vice President Al Gore’s criticism in end-September that  “in just one year, the President (Bush) has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11th and converted it into anger and apprehension aimed much more at the United States than at the terrorist network”.

Howard has however  outdone Bush in dissipating  and alienating the  regional outpouring of  sympathy, goodwill and solidarity with the people of Australia  after the Bali terrorist bomb blasts in less than two months, turning it into distrust, anger and apprehension against the Australian Government. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was right when he said yesterday that Howard was being arrogant in refusing to apologise to neighbouring countries for declaring that he will mount pre-emptive strikes on them as part of the anti-terror campaign. The Australian Prime Minister is being downright recalcitrant. 

The meeting which the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer convened with Asean  ambassadors on Wednesday night to “dampen the firestorm”, claiming that Howard had been misunderstood and that it was “the media, at home and abroad” that had inflamed the debate, had proved to be a farce and a charade. 

The Australian media reported that Downer gave the assurance  that Australia would not develop further the pre-emptive doctrine or pursue Howard’s suggestion of changing the United Nations charter to facilitate such attacks and that the ASEAN envoys were urged to convey this message to their governments. 

However, Downer’s undertaking could not hold for even 24 hours as Howard told the Australian Parliament the next morning that Australia was still considering supporting changes to the United Nations Charter allowing nations to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists on foreign soil – which the Australian media conceded “undercut assurances given by the Foreign Minister Downer to ambassadors from Association of South-East Asian Nations on Wednesday night in a meeting called to cool tensions with Australia”. (Sydney Morning Herald 6.12.02) 

Is Howard competing with England, described by some  French as “perfidious Albion”,  the appellation of “perfidious Oz”? 

Downer should convene another meeting with the ASEAN ambassadors to explain the farce and charade of his assurances to  them and the ASEAN governments on Wednesday night.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman