04 October 2006

The apology that wasn't

Lee Kuan Yew writes to Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi over his remarks that Malaysia and Indonesia want Singapore to be like their compliant Chinese minorities . Full essay.


Anonymous said...

We are really lucky this time that our neighbours did not react in the same as they did for the comments about johor earlier.

The old man has forgotten the difference between national interests and his own points of view. Or maybe, he and many people think, he IS national interest.


Jordan said...

'Malaysia's premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi indicated he was unimpressed with a qualified apology from Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew over his comments on the treatment of the ethnic Chinese minority.
Lee said in a letter that he was sorry for the "discomfort" caused by his claim that
Indonesia and Malaysia were being systematically marginalized.
Abdullah tersely acknowledged the letter and reiterated his view that the remarks by Singapore's founding father were "uncalled for and not appreciated" and risked inflaming racial tensions in the multicultural country.'-AFP

Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's remarks of 'his claim that ethnic Chinese communities in Indonesia and Malaysia were being systematically marginalized' was unnecessary and unwarranted.
What purpose did MM Lee Kuan Yew expect for his racial comment about Chinese and Malays?
Singapore should realize that it is a small country, city-state, with a growing population of 4.5 million people.
Singapore has no natural resources of food. Everything is imported, even the water is from Malaysia.
With the Muslim insurgencies taking over Iraq, the Hezbollah holding ground against Israel, America losing the war in Iraq.
In three and a half years of war, the intervention troops have lost 2,953 soldiers, a figure that could exceed 3,000 deaths before December.
'Senate Majority leader, Senator Bill Frist said Monday 2nd Oct 2006, the war against Taliban guerrillas can never be won militarily and that he favored bringing "people who call themselves Taliban" into the government, re: the war in Afghanistan-AP
Does MM Lee Kuan Yew feel it neccessary to make 'casual' remarks of race?
when Malaysia is an Islamic State and aCountry?
At 83 years old, MM Lee should perhaps leave the politics of national interests to the younger generations of Singapore politicians.
Does Singapore's ruling elite realize that Islamic fundamentalists are willing to die for a cause?
Malaysia has a 26.6-million-strong population consisting of some 60 percent Malay Muslims, with the economy largely controlled by ethnic Chinese who make up some 26 percent of the population.
America cannot defeat the Muslims, what makes Singapore's MM Lee Kuan Yew's racial remarks endure himself towards the political protection of Singaporeans?
You have to wonder, maybe there is 'method in madness"?

Jordan said...

I am taking the liberty of including this article from the IHT.
'KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew of hypocrisy for claiming that Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority was being marginalized, news reports said Saturday.

"You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever," Mahathir said, referring to Lee late Friday in a speech to supporters in northeastern Terengganu state.

"But when (Lee) goes to China, the Chinese there don't want to listen to him. The Chinese in China don't think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalized by Chinese in the world," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.

Lee, the founding father of Singapore, was reported to have said recently that Singapore's neighbors — such as Malaysia and Indonesia — "have problems with their Chinese."

"They are successful. They are hardworking and, therefore, they are systematically marginalized," Lee was widely quoted as saying.

Around a quarter of Malaysia's 26 million citizens are ethnic Chinese. Malaysia maintains a decades-old affirmative action policy that helps the Malay majority, which it says is necessary to maintain social order.

Mahathir — a frequent critic of Singapore before he retired in 2003 after 22 years in power — said Lee should reflect on how the city-state, whose population is predominantly ethnic Chinese, is treating its Malay minority before criticizing Malaysia.

"We should have an independent investigation on why the Malays are left behind in Singapore," Mahathir said. "They are pressured, marginalized and oppressed. That is the kind of government founded on the views of Lee Kuan Yew."

Mahathir's aides could not immediately be contacted to confirm his comments.

Malaysia's top ethnic Chinese government politician, Ong Ka Ting, the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association party, also rejected Lee's statements Friday, saying Malaysians "cannot let a remark like that create unnecessary disharmony or suspicion."

"As a former Prime Minister, (Lee) should realize that such a remark will have a negative impact on (relations with) the neighboring countries," said Ong, whose party is the second largest group in Malaysia's ruling coalition after the United Malays National Organization. UMNO is headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Malaysia and Singapore have close cultural and economic ties. But their governments have sparred over various disputes, such as the price of water that Malaysia sells to its southern neighbor, and have even taken a dispute over a tiny islet to the World Court.- INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE/Sept 23rd 2006

In Singapore, ethnic Malays are not allowed to handle guns in National Service despite the fact that they are Singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

"You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever," Mahathir said, referring to Lee late Friday in a speech to supporters in northeastern Terengganu state.

"But when (Lee) goes to China, the Chinese there don't want to listen to him. The Chinese in China don't think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalized by Chinese in the world," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.

Mahatir is right!

Anonymous said...

Mahathir and other Malaysian politicians have made numerous remarks about Singaporean Malays being marginalised.

Aside from it being utter balderdash, Singapore politicians have not had their knickers all in a twist nor asked for apologies.

When Singapore politicians make remarks about Chinese Malaysians being marginalised, which is absolutuely true, these buffoons get their knickers all in a twist and demand an apology.

This is typical Malaysian bullying tactics and frankly, I would have preferred that our MM had said, "Sod off!"

MM didn't and for that I am truly sorry.

The truth hurts. TOUGH.

Get over it.

Boey K. Gian

Chris M said...

This article is from Reuters.

'KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad on Friday dismissed Singapore as a "tiny" country and said it should mind its own business in a racial row between the neighbours.
Responding to criticism from Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew that Malaysia mistreated its ethnic Chinese minority, Mahathir said: "Don't be like that Kuan Yew. You just look after your rice bowl, that is all.
"The country is tiny, don't be too proud," added Mahathir, 81, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years until 2003.
A similar reference about Singapore's geographical size had sparked a storm between Singapore and Indonesia in 1998.
Then-Indonesian President B.J. Habibie referred to Singapore as a "little red dot" in a sea of green -- a reference to the fact the city-state of 4.4. million people is surrounded by Malaysia and Indonesia -- two large, predominantly Muslim countries.
Lee, 83, told a forum in Singapore last week that it was vital for Singapore, a predominantly ethnic Chinese state, to stand up to its bigger neighbours.
Singapore and Malaysia have deep economic ties, but diplomatic relations are often strained. The two countries briefly united as one country in 1963 but separated two years later in a falling out related to racial politics.'-reuters

MM Lee's offensive and gratitutious remarks about the Chinese and Malays appear to the political onlooker to be very troubling, espercially in such fragile political times, where Islam is deemed to be an evil religion by the West. MM Lee's remarks may have ignited a 'temporary' political storm in a tea cup. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, appear upset by the above article. I say 'temporary' because MM Lee, as protagonist of this racial banter , has now been given a bandaid, so long as he is alive.
Indonesia is not the threat, but Malaysia looms large, politically, in and over the future of Singapore.
Maybe PM Lee Hsien Loong could be the future Viceroy of Singapore, when Singapore is eventually returned to Malaysia, a full circle?
A thought worth pondering.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me why MM Lee even made this racial remark?
What was MM Lee's motivation? I just don't understand why Lee brought this problem up?

Anonymous said...

I seriously think LKY should retire from politics. That would be the greatest service to Singapore.

Anonymous said...

To Boey K. Gian:
MM Lee is not in a position to tell off the Malaysian govt- "Sod Off!'.
LKY is shooting his mouth off to Malaysia, and not able to kick them as well. Lose face!

Paddy Bowie said...

By Paddy Bowie
02 October, 2006
ONE often encounters foreigners who, on the strength of having been here six months or six years, think they know all there is to know about Malaysia. Even after half a century I would not so presume, being constantly reminded that it is still possible to be taken totally by surprise. As happened recently.
The source was our nearest neighbour, who should have known better. I thought verbal histrionics were the prerogative of this side of the Causeway, especially of late. But Lee Kuan Yew's latest broadside, extraordinary and preposterous as it was, took most of us by surprise. To say that I was floored is an understatement.
How could anyone say our Chinese are "marginalised" and "compliant"? Coming from such an outright authoritarian state, it was almost impertinent. They seem capable of the most staggering obedience.
The answer is not far to seek and goes directly to the Minister Mentor, He Who Must Be Obeyed (with apologies to John Mortimer). Lee is perceived to have inherited the Mantle of Heaven, which in the Confucian ethic inspires the utmost allegiance, for which read compliance. Newcomers on first acquaintance with that well-ordered, disciplined city state are apt to exclaim, "But it's just the West with palm trees". This it is decidedly not. It is a Confucian Chinese society with its own special brand of kiasu, to boot.
Kiasu is what Lee seemed to be exercising in his unprovoked remarks. And as for being marginalised, Singapore's minority race is arguably the most qualified for this.
But not the Malaysian Chinese. Has Lee not heard of Francis Yeoh (about to send in a bullet train to his island and other daring ventures)? You just can't keep them down, our commercial warrior class.
After all, if they hadn't ventured, their ancestors would not have left China in the first place. And successful they are now, the backbone of our economy.
Robert Kuok, Lim Goh Tong, Quek Leng Chan, Teh Hong Piow can testify. The roll call is endless of all those who have responded with the work ethic and the success ethic to the business opportunity Malaysia gave them, and now have overtaken most of the rest of us.
As for the Chinese being "compliant", we may be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of joke. I can hardly say I have noticed this in my own irrepressible colleagues and friends. Is Lee unaware of Lim Kit Siang? Latterly, we may cite Mathias Chang, hardly quiescent, or Tian Chua in Keadilan. The Opposition in Parliament is led by DAP and very vocal they are, too. One is reminded of the well-worn joke about a fishing contest either side of the Johor Strait. The Malaysian caught all the fish, the Singaporean none. The explanation — on this side the fish are allowed to open their mouths.
If being "marginalised" produces a Vincent Tan, I have probably not understood it. In any of those fashionable rankings of our richest citizens there is hardly a non-Chinese among them. We need to contrast this with Singapore where the most glaring phenomenon is what has happened to their local private sector.
Now the latter is dominated by MNCs (once 70 per cent of the corporate sector) now joined by GLCs. It would appear that it is their entrepreneurs who have been marginalised, to the point of extinction, except for a few hardy family businesses in construction and finance.
And the non-compliant also tend to disappear. Where are Francis Seow and J.B. Jeyaratnam? The late Devan Nair, the late James Puthucheary, the late Sandra Woodhull were disgraced for non-conformity — two went to jail, then were dispatched across the Causeway where they were allowed to be independent and became prominent members of the community.
The Chinese this side are taken care of in another way — their educational privileges. We kept the Mandarin schools, the only country in the region to do so. Singapore did not. Besides the linguistic advantage for our Chinese, it allows them to preserve their traditions and pride of race.
Nor can one even begin to consider that the Malaysian Chinese are politically marginalised. On our side they are recognised by a very Malaysian form of proportional representation in government that has yielded six Chinese ministers in Cabinet, 13 Chinese deputy ministers and five parliamentary secretaries. Singapore is lucky to have one Malay in the Cabinet.
Here there is a sizeable contingent of Chinese in Parliament on both the government and the Opposition benches. Altogether they are accorded a place in the political scheme of things commensurate with their share of the population and their interests are well catered for.
This is thanks to our unique political coalition formula. The Malays, despite having the strategic vote and a clear majority, choose to share power in an inclusive system, accommodating Chinese parties like the MCA or Gerakan, and their political brothers in Sabah and Sarawak. One state is controlled by them — Penang — with a Chinese chief minister.
But where Lee got it most seriously wrong relates to the comparative social and economic standing of the different communities. Our "marginalised" Chinese have exceeded the 40 per cent of the corporate wealth allocated to them by the NEP (the lion's share, I may point out), while the Malays have yet to reach 20 per cent, let alone the targeted 30 per cent. There is an embarrassing income disparity — the average income of the Chinese being 1.64 times that of the Malays.
But back to Lee and what possessed him. Was it a fit of pique or was there a hidden agenda in bracketing us with Indonesia? The Chinese there are different.
They are disguised Chinese to begin with, having had to assimilate. Only three per cent of the population, they are irrepressible economically, with 70 per cent of the corporate wealth, a cause for resentment, and periodically they are set upon for it.
Is there a fear factor here? Does Singapore see itself as in a precarious position — this tiny Chinese enclave squeezed between two larger Malay neighbours?
It ought rather to align itself with Malaysia as an oasis of mature democracy, economic development and stability in a region currently in turmoil.
And in all this we claim for Malaysia a unique status as a role model. Its competitive edge is its diversity, a microcosm of the future globalised world.
Instead of marginalising any one race it aims for an interracial synthesis that respects the culture and integrity of each community and strives towards the ultimate of that diversity — a Bangsa Malaysia.
But what will the world believe? In a situation where true identity is based on reality and image on perception — perception drives. Lee carries the legend. This writer feels like David tilting at Goliath but dare not hope for the biblical outcome.
We need to get our story out.
By Paddy Bowie
02 October, 2006

Gerald Heng said...

There are journalists in Spore where the Spore is told too in successful tone and content.This Paddy Bowie is obviously a Malaysian tilted journalist.I am a Chinese grown up in Malaysia in three states,Penang,Perak and Johore,in the 1960's the Malaysian story as of now the MCA Chinese make money and the UMNO get apong breakfast and satay dinner from the Chinese and the Indians provide toddy now and then and we are a happy family! DON'T FORGET DAP opposition was jailed for some lengths of time! and we haven't forgotten the DPM on thrumped up charges on Sodomy etc from Dr.MM and his PM team before Pak lah took over!
If Malaysia is such a roaring economic success how come it isn't classified as a First World Nation like Singapore,who can longer claim foreign aid under the UN definition of what is a developed nation.And on the global world competitive rating scale Spore comes with the top 10,number 5.These are neutral adjudication panels![like the UN] where is Malaysia in this scale ? we are not talking about individual Chinese Tycoon successes,there are a comparative number of them in Spore.When we talkout Chinese Marginalization we refer to the common folks as a group !On that score the non-Malays are marginalised by the Constitution!
The special rights quota is a an addiction dependency,if you have it why work hard or become venture capitalist,Pak Malaysia provides!If the Malays really want to escape their Dr.MM's dilemma they should abolished any special rights and level the playing fields in the private and public sector !Even Hospitals in Penang,the good professionals go to work in the private sector because of the marginalization! They go to consult their Doctors at Gleneagles Medical Centre,where my friend and Surgeon___Dr.Peter Vanniasingham still practise Surgery !And I don't have to tell the many cases of infections and deaths from poor sterilization of instruments due to the quota system that put in many under-trained staff! its probably treason to say this! It happened in KL and other places in the 1960's I don't hate ant race or even the Sultanate system,but I and many of my friends in private or public sector feel marginalised!And they bercome quitters because foreign pastures are fatter and greener,but we lost our Community Solidarity and Constituencies! As Dato Onn Ja'afar of Johore used to say "Kita di-sana telah hilang lah di-dunia" Tak ada payong-payong hujan ice batu-batu! alamak kersian bukan ?

Gerald Heng

CC said...

I read all of the fantastic comments, pros n cons, all factual. Please allow me to cut thru' the rhetoric. Singapore is not 'fair' to its Malays in most issues, fair to say? Malaysia is not fair to it's Chinese, again, in most issues?
I have to ask myself, why did MM Lee Kuan Yew bring up this racial remark about the Chinese?
What purpose did it serve?
Was MM Lee attempting to 'plant a seed for future political race problems?
Did MM Lee forget that such remarks are not served well for all Singaporeans?
The apology stated;
'I am sorry that what I said has caused you a great deal of discomfort," wrote Lee.

That statement did not appear to be much of an apology, it sounded more of an insult.
Or could it be just a silly remark on the part of MM Lee, who has just turned 83?
I do not know what to make of MM Lee. Maybe I am just thinking 'out of the box'?

Peter said...

The reply by Lee Kuan Yew really put our leaders to shame. In his reply, Lee listed the number of occasions that our leaders accused the republic of marginalising the Malays. The most glaring example was the remark made by Khairy, the son-in-law of Pak Lah. Now based on this fact, how could Pak Lah ask Lee to apologise for making similar remarks?

Pak Lah, in his capacity of Umno president, prime minister and father-in-law, could have cautioned Khairy and asked him to apologise first. But Pak Lah chose to maintain his elegant silence. Silence, here, means consent and can be interpreted as condoning Khairy's remark. Well and good, as Singapore did not react to it.

But when Lee made his remarks, all these leaders including Pak Lah demanded an apology from the former. To me, it is rather silly and uncalled for. When we could not possibly discipline our very own Khairy, how do you expect to do likewise to Lee.

I believe the whole world is laughing at our leaders' antics after having digested Lee's crafty reply.

Peter said...

The once powerful USSR has vanished, Germany has been reunited and South Africa's apartheid is history. The world is changing fast - technologically and politically. There may come a day when Taiwan will return to the motherland and Korea may also be one.

Yet Malaysia continues to tell the world that we have two classes of citizens: bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras. We have achieved independence for 49 years and yet racial discrimination continues from one generation to the next.

It is a joke to see rich Malays continue to enjoy hefty discounts on the purchase of properties. This must stop and so must all forms of racial discrimination if we truly want to forge a united country.

Let us hope that more Malays have the courage and sincerity to tell their ‘wakil rakyat’ that enough is enough. We do not want to be spoon-fed. Treat everyone as equals.

Anonymous said...

This is a clip from Bloomberg:

'Lee, 83, Singapore's prime minister from 1959 to 1990, last month said Malaysia and Indonesia ``systemically marginalized'' the ethnic Chinese. The comments angered Abdullah, who said the remarks may stir unrest in Malaysia's Chinese community.

Malaysia and Singapore were united from 1963 to 1965 in a federation that was marked by clashes between the Chinese and Malay communities. Malaysia imposed quotas protecting the rights of ethnic Malays after hundreds died in race riots, while Singapore moved to ease racial tensions by promoting assimilation between the communities, banning the incitement of racial hatred and restricting public gatherings.

Lee's comments were ``uncalled for,'' Abdullah said, according to a report today by Malaysia's state-owned Bernama news agency, which didn't say if Abdullah accepted the apology.

``There are some truths that are best not spoken, and the history of diplomacy is an illustration of that principle,'' said Richard W. Baker, a former U.S. diplomat in Southeast Asia who's now special assistant to the president of the East-West Center in Honolulu.

`Cause an Uproar'

Lee made the comments during a Sept. 15 panel discussion with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, on the sidelines of International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Singapore.

``For a senior leader and statesman, unless they really don't worry if their remarks would cause an uproar, they know that what they say will be scrutinized very carefully, so on sensitive subjects on race or religions, it behooves them to be very careful,'' Baker said.

Abdullah said Lee's remarks may disturb Malaysia's ethnic Chinese, who make up about a quarter of the country's 27 million people. The Malaysian premier has ``taken note'' of the letter, Bernama reported, citing comments made by the prime minister at a briefing.'

Baker is on target with his comments.

Anti-Goblok said...

To Paddy Bowie
02 October, 2006

> How could anyone say our
> Chinese are "marginalised"
> and "compliant"?

Simple, because it is true?

> Coming from such an
> outright authoritarian
> state, it was almost
> impertinent.

Don't you just love "Tu Quoque" arguments when making your point?

> Kiasu is what Lee seemed to > be exercising in his
> unprovoked remarks.

Unprovoked? Didn't the Malaysian PM's son-in-law recently make some comment about Singapore Malays being marginalised?

> Robert Kuok, Lim Goh Tong, > Quek Leng Chan, Teh Hong
> Piow can testify. The roll > call is endless ...

You are missing the point. That they have succeeded in spite of the institutionalised, racist policies in place speaks well for them.

Repeat your propaganda to that Chinese lad from a poor family who misses the opportunity to get into University despite scoring straight *A*s because his scholarship application has been rejected and given instead to a Bumi with straight *C*s. I am sure he will agree with you that he has not been marginalised.

What about meritocracy and level playing field don't you understand? When that field slopes against because of a racist policy, you are being marginalised. Clear now?

> But what will the world
> believe? In a situation
> where true identity is
> based on reality and image > on perception — perception > drives.

It all depends on which world you actually live in. If it's that alternate universe you seem to inhabit, I guess it doesn't really matter now does it?

> We need to get our story
> out.

You really mean PROPAGANDA don't you?

Yeah, we know the drill and your *story*. There is no racist policy in Malaysia, the Chinese are given *special* treatment and oh BTW, it's squeaky clean and corruption is non-existent yada ... yada ... and in the end the tortoise wins the race.

I just love Aesop's Fables. Clearly you do.


Anonymous said...

Paddy Bowie said

"It ought rather to align itself with Malaysia as an oasis of mature democracy, economic development and stability in a region currently in turmoil.
And in all this we claim for Malaysia a unique status as a role model."

Malaysia a mature democracy? Too funny.

You mean like when a Police head honcho can behave like some Mugabe goon and give disgraced ex-Deputy Prime minister Anwar Ibrahim a severe beating and a black eye? And then get away with a little slap on the wrist. Bad boy.

"And in all this we claim for Malaysia a unique status as a role model."

Suurre. Some role model.

Boey K. Gian

teck soon said...

The Far Eastern Economic Review, in its October issue (which has been banned in Singapore), has an article in which a case is made that ethnic Malays in Singapore are suffering discrimination in the education system, and the article has a number of interesting statistics to make the case. I prefer not to comment on the article, but wanted to draw attention to it. It is available free on their website.

Anonymous said...

Judging from the appalling length of this thread of comments over the article, I'll say that Kuan Yew has succeeded in his trick.

His motive for voicing those stupid remarks was to stir up debate in this direction and divert attention from what's most troubling him. I won't say what's most troubling him, but a big hint is that it's not the IMF/WB issue.

If you guys continue to harp on this marginalisation issue, then you are just falling deeper and deeper into his trap. That is exactly what he wanted. Don't all of you notice that the St Times had been repeating his speech almost everyday? You've gotto wonder why...
Robert L