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SEPTEMBER 1 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 34 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Newsmakers
Passage

There, he's going and said it again
Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's first trip to Malaysia in 10 years will be remembered not for any sweetening of the sour relations that plague the neighbors, but for the 77-year-old minister's blunt comments on Malaysia's domestic politics. Usually he makes such remarks from his Singapore redoubt, and you have to wonder why Malaysians invited him in the first place. Admitting he was "bewildered" by Malaysia's political situation, he diplomatically declined to comment on the guilty verdict and the nine-year prison sentence handed down to former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. He might have exhibited restraint up to that point, but he went on to express disapproval for PM Mahathir Mohamad's handling of the situation. At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Lee noted that Anwar's sacking "was an unmitigated disaster and I felt more sorry for Dr. Mahathir than I did for Anwar. Mahathir had an error of judgment, several errors of judgment which I felt was most unfortunate." Surprisingly, the remarks elicited little response from the Mahathir camp, while the government sought to put as positive a spin as it could on the visit, hoping to improve the always-contentious. Pausing to defend and clarify his remarks, Lee then went on to give an interview to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post a few days later in which he opined that Hong Kong people should either go into business or migrate, but avoid politics — it's a no-win situation. How's that for tact?

Breaking the ties that bind
Internet tycoon Richard Li , 33, who Asiaweek recently named Asia's best dealmaker, has begun to distance himself from his father, billionaire Li Ka-shing (who ranks No. 1 on Asiaweek's Power 50 list this year). On Aug. 16, the young Li resigned his positions in two of his father's companies, Hutchison Whampoa and Hong Kong Electric Holdings. Two days later, he relaunched CyberWorks, the merged unit of his soaring startup Pacific Century CyberWorks and the just-acquired Cable & Wireless HKT. Pledging to double its market capitalization, Li junior also made clear that his recent moves meant that CyberWorks would now be competing against Hutchison in the Internet provider and telecommunications sectors. While making the announcement, he took the opportunity to take issue with reports that cite HKT as second to Hutchison in mobile phone services. Looks like Li senior can expect a run for his money.

LEGAL ASSAULT And Bill Clinton thought he had it hard — he had only Ken Starr and his posse coming after him. But where the U.S. president only squared off against a handful of lawyers, Bangladesh's luckless PM Sheikh Hasina has her hands full with 339. In an unprecedented move, president of the Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association Moinul Hossain filed a contempt of court petition against Hasina on Aug. 16 and 338 of his colleagues quickly followed suit, filing a second petition against the premier on Aug. 20. Hossain accused Hasina of "scandalizing and attacking" the judiciary and the legal profession in an interview with the BBC last month. She lambasted the courts in a July 26 broadcast for acting as "secure shelter" for Bangladesh's hard-core criminals, granting them bail in spite of the efforts of law enforcement agencies to bring them to justice. And the parallels with Washington don't end there — partisan politics is alive and well in Dhaka, too. A third contempt suit looms over Hasina, filed on Aug. 21. The petitioners? 106 opposition MPs, who know a good idea when they think they see one.

Passage
MISSING Jafar Siddiq Hamzah, 35, a U.S. resident and director of the New York-based International Forum on Aceh, since Aug. 5, in Medan, Indonesia. Police say that despite questioning several people they don't know where Hamzah is. Activists in the region say his disappearance is only one of seven in Medan in recent months, all of which remain unsolved.

SELANGOR SHUFFLE Selangor chief minister Abu Hassan Omar was replaced by Mohamad Khir Toyo, a 35-year-old dentist, on Aug. 18. He resigned from the Malaysian state's chief ministership on Aug. 10, citing health and family reasons. Hassan was reportedly upset by poison-pen letters alleging that he had married his sister-in-law and had a child with her.

INTERRED
Leung Kam-kwong, 42, the Hong Kong civil servant who died when protesters set alight flammable liquid inside the city's main immigration office, was buried with the highest honors in Hong Kong on Aug. 20. Chinese immigrants, angry about the government's insistence that they leave the territory, carried out the Aug. 2 attack. One protester also died in the incident, seven other people are still hospitalized with serious injuries.

APPOINTED Gopalkrishna Gandhi, 55, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, to be India's ambassador to Sri Lanka, on Aug. 22. Gandhi was the chief aide of President K. R. Narayan prior to his high-profile assignment to the war-torn island nation.

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