Sunday, September 19, 2010

NY TIMES INTERVIEW WITH LEE KUAN YEW: Malaysian newspapers respond

Sep 17, 2010
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew commented on Malaysian politics in an interview with The New York Times' Seth Mydans. We carry today excerpts from Malaysian press reactions to his remarks.

Of wise men & strongmen

By Tan Poh Kheng

LEE Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad are strongmen, having led their countries for 31 and 22 years, respectively.

Mr Lee passed the baton to his successor in 1990 but remains active as Minister Mentor. Tun Dr Mahathir stepped down suddenly in 2003 and has been outspoken although he holds no official post.

The two strongmen are in their 80s but still wield immense influence in their respective countries and are not to be dismissed lightly.

Mr Lee's criticisms of Malaysian politics may anger some, but Malaysian politicians, including Dr Mahathir, should learn from his attitude towards race and religion.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Mr Lee said Singapore could 'go looser' on various matters, but 'not race, language and religion'. If Singapore switched to racial politics, he warned, it is finished.

Singapore Chinese 'will not as a majority squeeze the minority... We made quite sure whatever your race, language or religion, you are an equal citizen'.

It is clear that Singapore's economic success and cohesive society are not the results of chance.

As a former prime minister, Dr Mahathir has failed to use his special status to promote national unity. He has stirred controversies and given the government trouble by criticising the policies of his successors, Tun Abdullah Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

A recent example was Dr Mahathir's criticism of Umno for disassociating itself from the Malay rights group Perkasa, a move which he said would lead to Umno losing Malay votes.

Dr Mahathir's words have gone beyond those of a long-winded retiree seeking the limelight. His conduct in the past seven years has exposed his deep-rooted racism.

His speech, at the general assembly of Perkasa, slamming Prime Minister Najib's '1Malaysia' concept smacked of racism, disappointing people who had respected him.

Even the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz has run out of patience with Dr Mahathir and has blasted him for being inconsistent. It is clear that Dr Mahathir has torn apart racial harmony and hurt Umno as well.

A strongman has to step down one day but a wise person will maintain his integrity into his later years. Who may that wise person be: Mr Lee or Dr Mahathir?

This article appeared in Malaysia's Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily on Wednesday. Translated by Ho Cheeng Cheeng.

Singapore 'should emulate Malaysia'

By Tan Melaka

MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has repeated his criticism of Malaysia's political system, saying it marginalises non-Malays by providing Malays with a special position.

Mr Lee is 87 years old while his wife, who is 89, can no longer speak after a stroke two years ago. But he appears to still harbour a grudge over his failure to plant the idea of a Malaysian Malaysia in Malaysia more than 40 years ago.

That idea was eliminated with the ouster of Singapore from Malaysia but it appears to have blossomed again after the General Election of 2008 gave a new lease of life to the Democratic Action Party (DAP) which inherited the Malaysian Malaysia idea. In fact, it's an idea that is marching ahead with the DAP having obtained Malay opposition parties' support.

Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin aptly said Mr Lee's statement was inflammatory as it was like adding fuel to the fires of racism. Mr Lee's statement can fan the anger of Chinese Malaysians who are beginning to see 1Malaysia as Malaysian Malaysia.

Yet, based on articles in newspapers in Singapore and abroad, it appears that the social justice that Mr Lee claims to practise cannot be felt by the new generation of Singaporeans. They feel they are oppressed, especially since they see the freedom enjoyed by their closest neighbour, Malaysia. Malaysians are free to express their dissatisfaction, and can even poke fun at their national anthem!

Singaporeans have for decades lived in fear of acting or speaking. In some cases, they are not free to practise their religion. For example, incense burning is not allowed in HDB estates, while the call to prayer (azan) of mosques cannot be loud.

Mr Lee has not given young Singaporeans what Malaysia has given its young - the air of freedom. In an interview with Seth Mydans of The New York Times recently, Mr Lee rejected the new generation's demands for political openness, saying it could open the door to racial politics. But young Singaporeans do not believe in that doctrine. They are struggling in silence against the authoritarian social controls, and will do so more openly when Mr Lee is no longer in control. Meanwhile, they need moral support, especially from abroad.

Umno Youth should actually sympathise with the new generation of Singaporeans, and help them create a new Singapore that can breathe the air of freedom and democracy. At present, Singapore is a developed country with a Third World democracy.

At least in this case, Singapore should emulate Malaysia.

This article appeared in Malay daily Utusan Malaysia yesterday. Translated by Carolyn Hong.

Glory of the Great Harmony

By Lu Pinqiang

I AM not a follower of Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Yet I deeply admire this statesman for his great foresight and the pragmatic ways in which he ran his country.

Earlier this month, at the ripe old age of 87, Mr Lee gave an interview to The New York Times. In it, he expressed his concerns that young Singaporeans were calling for open political debate, among other things.

He feared that the young in Singapore believe the country's achievements have come about naturally, so they can now do as they please. Mr Lee affirmed that Singapore could never be put on autopilot.

An example he gave was that each and every HDB block cannot have more than a certain percentage of Chinese, Malays or Indians. This was to make sure that all the races integrated well.

Singapore does not permit segregation or any mutual suspicion to emerge between the various races, as this is the most self-destructive thing any country can do to itself.

Not only that, it forbids the majority race from oppressing the minorities, while ensuring that all citizens are treated equally, regardless of their race, language or religion.

This is the most important aspect of national unity that the Singapore Government has been trying to instil in its people.

We can see that the second and third generations of Singapore leaders that came after Mr Lee abide by the Confucian principle of 'Great Harmony', one in which everyone is treated equally and there is mutual trust between the people.

Among all the multiracial countries in the world, Singapore's successful example is the best model for everyone to emulate.

Leaders of countries should all lead by example, be a role model to others, and promote the spirit of 'Great Harmony'. Then, the people would be of one mind with the government and would cherish peace and reject extremist views.

They would also oppose racism and sweep aside those who call on members of certain ethnic groups to 'go back to their homelands' - as happened in Malaysia recently - while working unceasingly to achieve the Confucian ideal of the 'Glory of the Great Harmony'.

The 'Glory of the Great Harmony' is the only path to achieving peace that would last eternally.

This commentary appeared in Malaysia's Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily on Wednesday. Translated by Terence Tan.

What are his motives?

By Zaini Hassan

I WAS very interested to read the Temasek Review website. It is very critical of the Singapore Government, its ruling party, and especially Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, 87.

There was an entry about how Mr Lee had offered permanent residency and citizenship to foreign talent, especially citizens of the People's Republic of China.

His strategy was perhaps to ensure Chinese control of Singapore and also to boost the Indian population of the Republic. Maybe he was planning to ensure that the Chinese in the People's Action Party (PAP) continue to control the island forever.

It is the same as what was done during former Malaysian prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman's time, when he bestowed unconditional citizenship on more than a million Chinese and Indians.

[How is that the same? Did Tunku Abdul Rahman want the Chinese to control M'sia? How does boosting the Indian population in Singapore ensure that the Chinese retain control? This argument lacks logic.]

The political situation in Malaysia is changing. The control of power by the Malays is being increasingly eroded. This is very good for Singapore.

In Malaysia, Malays control the government (so far), but in Singapore, it is the Chinese. There are also some Indians who are given high positions, above the Malays.

But what about the Malays in Singapore? The Singapore Government always cites meritocracy. The argument is that if the Malays are not qualified, they are not fit to hold certain offices, and therefore they are not being marginalised.

The truth is that in Malaysia, the Chinese dominate everything. The Malaysian Chinese are not interested in participating in government because they are successful in the private sector.

[Half true or half-truths. The Malays in M'sia (or rather the connected Malays in M'sia) are successful in business. The Chinese can be more successful if they can be as connected. If Chinese are not interested in politics and government why are there so many (MCA, DAP, Gerakan, etc) Chinese-based political parties in M'sia?]

If we read the Temasek Review, we will find that Singapore is not what we think it is, or what the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and other opposition parties in Malaysia assume it is.

[Then don't read the Temasek Review. Or at least don't believe everything you read. Just as you shouldn't believe everything you read in the Straits Times either. Or the Utusan Malaysia. Or if you believe everything you read, you could have a very distorted view of the world.]

There is opposition towards the PAP Government, especially over its fondness for playing with Chinese sentiment and racism.

Reading Mr Lee's interview with The New York Times, we are not sure what his motives are by talking about his sadness over the separation of Malaysia and Singapore.

Everyone knows he is a great strategist. The question is, does he harbour ambitions of seeing Malaysia and Singapore reunited? This is not impossible. If the DAP and its allies gain control of Malaysia, the two countries could re-merge.

[Not freaking likely in the foreseeable future, and probably not for at least 100 or even 200 years. He is 87 years old. His ambition at this time is to see 88, and that his wife is comfortable. Not the fevered fantasy of unrealistic political pundits. At this point in time, Malaysia politically is a mess. Economically, it may have some viability. But there is no direction. For Singapore to re-merge with Malaysia, would be like marrying a sick person with a demented violent in-law. Not bloody fun.]

Then, Singapore will become Singapore Raya (Greater Singapore).

[No thank you, we'd rather remain the Little Red Dot.]

This article appeared in the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia on Wednesday. Translated by Hazlin Hassan.

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