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  • Staff Member 01

Kausikan Article on Malaysia

Whilst I was away in Jakarta, I missed the storm in the teacup caused the Bilahari Kausikan article on Malaysia entitled “Singapore is not an Island”. I am writing about this now because I will be meeting some Singaporeans tomorrow, and I suspect that inevitably this subject will crop up. So I thought I best prepare myself.

Firstly, let’s put the article in proper context. It is targeted not at a Malaysian audience but is written as a sort of “morality tale” targeted at Singaporeans. The central message seems to be, don’t play-play, Malaysia’s problems can also hurt Singaporeans.

The analysis is “fresh”, in the sense that it dares to talk openly about religion and race in Malaysia. In Malaysia, most of us will avoid providing any analysis of these sensitive subjects for fear of sedition charges.

I must say I do not agree with some perspectives but the fact that such viewpoints are now expressed by the Singapore government, is in itself, astounding.

Most of us believe that the Singapore government has been very kind to Najib for the longest time. As early as 2009, the late Lee Kuan Yew paid a visit to Rosmah and the Malayan railway land issue was kowtim a year later in 2010. As far as the Singapore government is concerned, Najib is their man for settling deals unlike the combative Dr. Mahathir. So this Bilahari article, seems to be a major departure of Singapore from a very pro-Najib position. Maybe the Singapore government now feels it is a good time to distance themselves from a political lame duck.

As for Bilahari’s analysis of 1MDB, that 1MDB is not much of a financial scandal story but a manifestation of a jealous intra UMNO fight, is very laughable. I know where Bilahari is coming from with such a preposterous idea. He is trying to downplay the 1MDB scandal because a substantial portion of the 1MDB money is parked in Singapore. Singapore being a financial centre has a reputation to protect and I don’t think talking aloud about 1MDB as a “financial scandal” will help Singapore. Kudos to Singapore, for it has achieved a lot to become the premium financial centre in a region full of corrupt leaders.

The Bilahari article is spot on in expressing a concern about “religious politics” in Malaysia and argues that the two is best kept apart. However his bleak analysis of PKR without Anwar and writing off Pakatan Harapan even before it has a chance to mobilise, is an over indulgence of political crystal ball gazing. Only time will tell, and I do admit that it is going to be tough going without Anwar. But we Malaysian opposition politicians are a much tougher lot than Singaporean politicians. We are willing to face all hardships and even jail, to fight authoritarianism. Perhaps Bilahari, being a senior Singaporean diplomat serving an all powerful one party state, ultimately lacks faith in transformative politics.

Bilahari’s scary warnings on May 13 and his analysis of the delusional Malaysian Chinese is interesting. It is interesting because I am a Malaysian Chinese, but do not think I am particularly delusional. But then, I realised that all these warnings are probably written to scare Singaporean Chinese, reminding them to continue to vote for PAP. This becomes clearer in the closing paragraphs where Bilahari warns the smarty pants intelligentsia of Singapore not to downplay these threats. And that the intelligentsia was naughty to express these downplayed views during the recent Singapore General Election.

Overall, Bilahari’s article made me think and reconsider Malaysia from a different, albeit Singaporean perspective. As such, it should be read and his analysis respected. He also has a nice writing style. We can disagree, but any article that makes you think or re-think is fine by me.


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