On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

An unhealthy kind of speculation

More importantly, it succeeded in  ending vicious rumours on the Internet by his
political opponents.

This is not the first time rumours of 
his health had been circulated, particularly on the stock market.

We often forget that Dr Mahathir is  an
ordinary human being. He gets his  bouts
of flu, like all of us. He gets  tired
when he overworks, as do the  rest of

He was admitted to the National  Heart
Institute even though he had a  lung
infection because the doctors  who
performed the heart bypass operation on him in 1989 and those who  subsequently treated him are all  based at the institute.

The saddest part is that some Malaysians seem to have forgotten human values
such as compassion and  being

On this score, it is commendable  that
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang  had,
during the debates in Parliament, wished Dr Mahathir well.

His kind gesture led to a thank-you  note
from Datin Seri Dr Siti Hasmah  Mohamed

But for some of his political opponents, Dr Mahathir's illness has become a
matter of making political  gains.

Websites linked to this group exaggerated his illness.  One of them even  provided an hour-by-hour account of  what would take place in Kuala Lumpur should
the worst take place.

Granted that there is resentment  among
his opponents, their attitude is 
certainly contradictory to their purported principles of justice, the
creation of a civil society and a gentler 
system of governance.

Even if we do not agree with the  prime
minister, let us not lose our  sense of

By the same token, we should all be 
outraged at the assault on Datuk Seri 
Anwar Ibrahim while in police detention even if we do not agree with
his  politics.

Malaysians must know how to separate politics and personal well-being.  There is always that invisible line we  do not cross or else we are no better than
what we describe our opponents  or
enemies to be.

Foreign news reports on Dr Mahathir have also given rise to much  speculation.

It is certainly not unusual for doctors to impose a no-visitors ruling but  one news agency chose to describe  the decision as one that “raised

It even gloated about the prime 
minister's health, raising questions 
about his stamina in facing the general election.

If the restriction was not imposed  by
the hospital, there would have  been no
end to the streams of visitors, 
defeating the purpose of letting him 

But he still met top leaders, including Abdullah and First Finance Minister Tun
Daim Zainuddin.

The speculation surrounding him  could
have been avoided if there were  detailed
information on the nature of  his

Much as we accept that he is like  the
rest of us in terms of health, he is 
unlike us in that he is the prime minister.

The concern shown by Malaysians  is
understandable. Though the nation's economic and political stability  does not hinge on him alone, his well being
can help maintain confidence.

It has to be accepted that any uncertainty caused by the speculation  on his health 
will affect the nation's 
political structure.

Whatever it may be, Malaysians  should
learn from the episode that Internet news is unreliable.

Despite having experienced before  how
the Internet has been abused to  spread
lies and rumours, many Malaysians are still prepared to swallow  everything that appears on their computer

Those behind these vicious lies  apppear
to be those who had complained loudly about the mainstream  media's lack of credibility and

Yet, when they spread such blatant  lies,
it is condoned by their leaders.

Granted that national reconciliation  is
more difficult now, in the wake of 
current political developments, it is 
time for moderate Malaysians to say 
no to those who cannot exercise political self-restraint.

Moderate Malaysians will not accept those who advocate street chaos,  assassination and hurl curses at our  leaders.

We are Malaysians. If you cannot  respect
the prime minister, you  should at least
respect the chair.