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Saturday, June 12, 1999
Toffler to boycott MSC meeting
KUALA LUMPUR--Renowned author and futurist Alvin Toffler will not attend Malaysia's high-profile Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) advisors meeting in July to protest the treatment of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and Pakistani scientist Dr Munawar Anees.
"Even though I still believe the MSC would be valuable for the country, I cannot, after what was done to Dr Anees and the outcome of the Anwar trial, participate in the project, " said Toffler in an email to CNET Asia.
As a member of the MSC international advisory panel, Toffler and other advisors are invited for annual meetings to discuss and review progress of the project.
Anwar and Dr Anees were arrested on sex charges last September during the height of Malaysia's financial crisis. Both claimed brutality and ill-treatment while in police custody.
Toffler indicated that despite his non-attendance, he has not formally resigned from the panel. "But if my name has been dropped from the list, it reflects the de facto reality."
A controversial official list of the MSC panel, available on the Internet, excludes Toffler's name.
At press time, the list which excludes Toffler, can still be accessed.
This is a US mirror of the Web site for the Multimedia Development Corporation, the one-stop government agency overseeing the MSC project.
The list on the mirror site also includes the names of three prominent personalities who have never been part of the panel: Prince Al-Waleed Talal Al-Saud, chairman of Kingdom Holding Co, John Doerr founding partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Inc and Dr Robert Metcalfe, vice president of technology at International Data Group.
Dr Metcalfe , who is also the founder of 3Com Corp and inventor of the Ethernet, when contacted recently by CNET Asia confirmed he is "still not connected in anyway with the MSC."
The list on the Multimedia Development Corporation's Malaysian Web site includes Toffler's name and excludes Prince Al-Waleed, Doerr and Metcalfe.
Toffler sharply criticized Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad last year after the arrests of Anwar and Dr Anees and suggested it could jeopardize the MSC project.
"Dr Mahathir and I faxed each other when this all began. I said an atmosphere of repression was not conducive to the success of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor. He replied and argued the government's case. I wrote again asking for the release of my friend Dr Munawar Anees on humanitarian grounds.
"After that I heard no more from Dr Mahathir and I went public with my protest," he said.
In November, Toffler threatened to resign from the international advisory panel which was set up in 1997 to advise Dr Mahathir on the MSC's direction and development. The 42-member panel comprises a who's who of global information technology players including Microsoft Corp chairman Bill Gates, IBM Corp chairman Louis Gerstner, Intel Corp CEO Craig Barrett and Sun Microsystems Inc chairman Scott McNealy.
Toffler said he held back from quitting at the time because "I felt it would sever my connection at a time when I still wanted to press for Dr Anees' release."
Dr Anees, who is Anwar's former speechwriter, was sentenced to six month's jail after confessing to being sodomized by Anwar, which is a punishable offence under Malaysian law. He later recanted the confession.
Dr Anees, a respected Islamic scholar and father of two, was finally freed on Jan 18 and is currently in Washington. He spent most of his prison term chained to a hospital bed after he suffered a heart attack while in custody.
Anwar was jailed six years in April after a sensational trial for using police to cover up alleged sexual improprieties. He claims the charges are trumped up and part of a political conspiracy.
Since then, Toffler said he has received repeated invitations to attend MSC-related events, and to meet with Malaysian officials and visit a local university, all of which he has turned down.
The panel is scheduled to meet for the third time on July 8th. Two prior meetings were held in Stanford University, California in January 1997 and in Malaysia in February 1998.
Toffler was all praise for the project when he met with Dr Mahathir on a visit here last August. He reversed his views after the arrests of his friends one month later.
Toffler, who is co-author, with his wife Heidi, of best-selling books Future Shock and The Third Wave, reaffirms that he still respects "the positive things" that Dr Mahathir has done prior to the political crisis.
"He has, in fact, put forward a 21st century vision for his country, in contrast to most other Muslim leaders with obsessions with the past."
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