Thursday, October 05, 2006

Romance of Three Kingdoms

Romance of Three Kingdoms
James Wong Wing On, Malaysiakini
Oct 4, 06 11:31am

So, Singapore’s minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew has written to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to explain the context of his remark on the “compliant” status of Malaysian and Indonesian Chinese.

Whether one likes it or not, Lee has not retracted what he said. On the contrary, the annex to the letter dated Sept 29 conveys the message that he feels his reasoning is justified. The annex comprised Malaysian news reports that quoted Umno leaders pointing to the ‘marginalisation’ of Malays in Singapore.

Lee merely said he was “sorry” for causing Abdullah “a great deal of discomfort”. This was no apology in the sense of admitting to being wrong.

By also saying that his remark was “less than” what appears in his memoirs published in 1998, Lee postures himself as the more forgiving or magnanimous party.

Another noteworthy feature of the letter is that, although Lee repeatedly referred to former Malaysian premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he avoided naming him. This suggests that Lee’s relationship with Mahathir, his peer in politics, is indeed very negative.

It follows quite naturally that Lee gives the impression that he enjoys more cordial relations with Abdullah. But is this good for Abdullah? The answer is not absolute.

Prevailing logic

The mere impression that Lee likes Abdullah better than Mahathir may indeed boost Abdullah’s standing in the eyes of Singaporeans and members of the international and regional community.

It may be seen as Lee viewing Abdullah as a statesman or a more mature politician who knows how to conduct modern inter-state relations.

It may even enhance Abdullah’s image among a segment of Malaysians who are either sympathetic to Lee’s controversial opinions, or who cherish better relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

However, it must not be ignored that, given the tumultuous bilateral relations since separation of the countries in 1965, as well as the dynamics of contemporary economic competition, the ‘logic’ of ‘the enemy’s friend is the enemy’ does prevail.

This ‘logic’ could be consciously promoted as a political strategy in the currently competitive relationship between Abdullah and Mahathir and their respective supporters.

Lee’s apparent contrast between ‘good guy’ Abdullah and ‘bad boy’ Mahathir may paradoxically help to weaken Abdullah’s position and strengthen that of Mahathir among a certain section of the Malaysian population that subscribes to this ‘logic’.

It is not too far-fetched to assume this could happen. Abdullah has been under fire over the last few months for being too soft or too nice to Singapore, to the point that Mahathir has accused him of ‘selling out’ the country to Singapore, especially by cancelling the construction of the crooked or scenic bridge.

Seen in this light, Lee may have wrongly estimated his standing or that of Abdullah in Malaysia’s fast-changing political landscape or mood.

However, the same cannot be said about Abdullah who seems to be acutely aware of the prevalence of the ‘logic’ in an economic competitor and has attempted to balance this against a proper approach to the letter.

It is not surprising that Abdullah is critical of Lee’s letter, saying he is “not impressed” by the “qualified apology” although he has “taken note” of it.

Abdullah further said: “We have to ensure such a statement should not be made again.”

The question in the minds of observers is whether Abdullah’s attitude is genuine or contrived.

This has added a new dynamic in the intra-party power struggle between Abdullah and Mahathir. The original one-to-one slug-out has turned into the Romance of Three Kingdoms.

Though Rustam Sani a former political sociology lecturer has advised that controversy such as that caused by MM Lee's remarks is a perennial thing, I still can't resist posting the above analysis.

I have always feel that MM Lee has an uncanny resemblance of Cao Cao of Romance of Three Kingdoms. Both are highly intelligent but very paranoid.

But this time round I think MM Lee is doing a "Paul Wolfowitz.” Just like Wolfowitz who had manipulated CSOs against Singapore govt. during the recent IMF/WB meeting, MM Lee has dragged Dr. Mahathir into the controversy to absolve himself.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


That’s no apology, LKY!
Soon Li Tsin
Oct 3, 06 4:12pm

Was Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew sincere in extending an apology to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi over the contentious remark that Chinese Malaysians are being marginalised?

Political commentators offer their take on his gesture.

James Wong Wing On, malaysiakini chief analyst

Lee Kuan Yew did indeed say sorry but he was smart as he did not retract what he said. In fact, he added some more issues in his letter involving (former premier) Dr Mahathir (Mohamed) and the half-bridge.
What he has said is, “Your politicians, including (Umno Youth deputy head) Khairy (Jamaluddin) and Mahathir, always talk bad about Singapore and the marginalised Malays there; all I did was to tell you what you’ve been doing.”

You must understand that the meaning of ‘sorry’ is not necessarily an apology. An apology normally comes with an expression of regret and remorse. Instead, Lee merely said the word ‘sorry’ and added more.

P Ramasamy, former political economy professor

To me the fact of marginalisation is obvious. It doesn’t matter if it comes from Lee or not. There are Malays and non-Malays who are marginalised in Malaysia. You can look at the Chinese, Orang Asli or Eurasians and to some extent the Malays - they have not enjoyed any benefits.

It is a fact and it must be accepted, rather than just complain about it. It has been going on for a long time. Who cares if it’s from Lee? It is a problem that we must address.

Don’t focus on what Lee said. We must ask, are Malaysians happy? Is there national unity and integration? He must have had his reasons for saying what he said.

Mahathir too has said so many bad things about Singapore and Singaporeans have never reacted. Why are Malaysians reacting now?

We should not blow this matter out of proportion. We should look at the marginalisation in our own backyard.

Rustam Sani, former university lecturer in political sociology

This type of controversy will come around every few years. Both sides use the other to garner support in their own country.

When Singapore feels weak, it will come down hard on the opposition. If Umno Malays need support, as seen during (former deputy premier) Anwar Ibrahim’s case when the government was weakened, they pointed fingers at Singapore in order to regain support.

He (Lee) was not saying ‘sorry’ for what he said. He justified what he is saying by claiming he was then speaking to foreigners. His justification was, ‘I have to do this because you Umno leaders have made statements before on the Malays in Singapore.’

Both countries practise this racist perspective and will apologise over and over again, but (such situations) will still come back.

That of course is not an apology for Abdullah didn't ask for one! Abdullah had been reported as saying that he would pen a letter to MM Lee asking him to explain his statement as he could not see the rationale behind it.

Marginalisation, not necessarily along the racial line, exists in every country. There are social, economical and political marginalisation.

In Malaysia and Indonesia if one asks the non-Malay/Indonesian millionaires, they will say that they have not been marginalised. In fact they get assistance from the ruling elite.

In Singapore don't the residents of all races in the opposition wards in Potong Pasir and Hougang get marginalised in the estate upgrading programme?

But the worst kind of marginalisation is the victimisation of the poor, weak and disabled in all races which all government should eradicate.