Saturday, September 30, 2006

Datuk ZAM Accused HARRY LEE of Ulterior Motives in Marginalizing Remarks; RESPONSES from Malaysian Papers; Overseas Views on Ethnic Malaysian Politics

Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin: "I think he wanted to scare the Chinese, to make them feel that the wealth that they have amassed can never be safe in the region"

See Update below: Oct 1 06, From M’sia NEW SUNDAY Times

See Update below
: Sep 30 06, From S’pore Straits Times;

Non-bumi rights crop up once again

LKY Has Hidden Motives In Accusing M'sia Of Marginalising Chinese
September 29, 2006 15:42 PM
BEIJING, Sept 29 (Bernama) -- Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said today Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had ulterior motives in accusing Malaysia of marginalising the Chinese community when he himself had killed the Chinese culture in his own country.

"I think he wanted to scare the Chinese, to make them feel that the wealth that they have amassed can never be safe in the region," he said to newsmen here after visiting Xinhua news agency. He arrived here yesterday for a three-day working visit.

Zainuddin said Malaysia had never marginalised its Chinese community even when there was an opportunity to do so such as in the aftermath of the May 13 incident in 1969.

"The Prime Minister then, Tunku Abdul Rahman, rejected such a notion. We have also never confiscated any assets of the Chinese community. "Instead, we broadened their participation in the government by expanding the Alliance to form the Barisan Nasional.

"Today, Malaysia has more Chinese schools than Singapore and the newspaper with the biggest circulation in the country is a Chinese language newspaper. "Lee Kuan Yew, on the other hand, has systematically killed Chinese culture by disallowing many Chinese practices. He also closed down Nanyang University and Ngee Ann College," he added.

Zainuddin said Lee must be congratulated for changing the Chinese identity in the island state such that it had become unrecognisable. He called on Chinese newspapers in Malaysia not to be taken in by Lee's statement to the extent of playing up Chinese chauvinism and endangering Malaysia's racial harmony.

= = = = = = = = = ==

Friday, September 29, 2006 10:26 PM
Subject: STS: Lively debate in Malaysian press over MM Lee's remarks
MALAYSIA: Lively debate in Malaysian press over MM Lee's remarks. Malay press generally critical of Minister Mentor Lee, but Chinese press divided on Lee's opinions of Chinese Malaysians: By Carolyn Hong Straits Times; Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kuala Lumpur --- The comments of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Chinese Malaysians continue to draw heated reaction in the media.

The Utusan Malaysia and the Chinese press yesterday kept up the momentum, while the English press carried some letters from readers on the issue. The views expressed in the Malay press were generally critical of Mr Lee. The commentators felt that he was interfering in Malaysia's affairs, and that he was wrong.

However, the Chinese press is divided, and carried commentaries that lent some support to Mr Lee's opinion. At a dialogue for good governance in Singapore on Sept 15, Mr Lee said while answering a question that it was important for Singapore to have a government that was "really firm, stout-hearted, subtle and resolute." He noted that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards the Republic was shaped by the way they treated their own ethnic Chinese minorities.

Mr Lee said: "My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful, they're hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education."
The Utusan Malaysia quoted Johor Tionghua Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Soh Poh Sheng
as urging Malaysians not to be taken in by Mr Lee's omments.

He said Mr Lee enjoyed seeing Malaysians quarrelling among themselves. The newspaper also quoted South Johor Small and Medium Industries Association chairman Teh Kee Sin as saying that the episode could jeopardize bilateral relations.

"As businesspeople, we want to be friendly with neighbours," he said. Malaysian Youth Council president Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said Mr Lee should stop interfering in the affairs of other countries.

Berita Harian published the results of an SMS poll asking readers whether they thought Mr Lee should apologise for his remarks. Eighty-eight per cent said he should, while 12 per cent said he should not.
The Chinese press also kept up a lively debate. A commentary in the Nanyang Siang Pau yesterday said that the dispute should be explored using hard data.

It said there should be a close look at how national resources are being distributed, and how the various races have benefited. "The current war of words is like a quarrel between children. Nothing may come out of it or it may end in a fight," it said.

It also called on the government to resolve problems in education funding, inadequate vernacular schools and teachers, and unbalanced university admission criteria.

"Solving these problems and letting Malaysians see the achievements is more effective than disputing the marginalisation issue," it said. A commentary in China Press said it was getting more difficult to hear true words from politicians because of the heavy price involved. It quoted Malaysian Chinese Association president Ong Ka Ting as saying that Chinese Malaysians were not a submissive lot.

He said they knew to speak up for their rights when the situation warranted it. The China Press also carried a report quoting the opposition Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng as challenging Gerakan president Lim Keng Yaik to a debate.

The two leaders have taken opposing stands, with Gerakan supporting the government and the DAP agreeing with Mr Lee's views. Sin Chew Daily, meanwhile, reported opposition leader Lim Kit Siang as saying that not only the Chinese were being marginalised, even Malays, Indians and the bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak were being marginalised.

He said the marginalised groups should step forward and fight for their rights.

and from Times of India; Malaysia's identity politics; Maznah Mohamad 29 Sep, 2006

Malaysian society is now gripped by a fundamental question: Is the country, which is more than half Muslim, an Islamic state? In practice, various religious and ethnic groups give Malaysia a distinctly multicultural character.

But the Malaysian constitution provides room for arguments on both sides of the question, and the relatively secular status quo faces serious challenge. Drafted by a group of experts in 1957, under the auspices of the country’s former British rulers, the constitution includes two seemingly contradictory clauses. On the one hand, Article 3 states that Islam is the religion of the federation, and that only Islam can be preached to Muslims.

On the other hand, Article 11 guarantees freedom of religion for all. As a result, Malaysia has developed both a general civil code, which is applied universally, and Islamic law, which is applied only to Muslims in personal and family matters. Recently, however, some Muslim groups have pressed the government to proclaim Malaysia an Islamic state, on the basis of Article 3 and the Muslim population's majority. Ultimately, they would like Malaysia to be governed by Islamic law.

For years, there was little need to resolve this constitutional issue. For example, if a Muslim decided to renounce his faith, the matter would be handled outside the legal system, or conversion records would be sealed. Today, however, every Malaysian must declare a religious affiliation, which is registered with the government, a requirement that has made it difficult for a Muslim to leave Islam without formalising the change of status through the legal process.

The country is now riveted on the fate of ordinary citizens like sales assistant Lina Joy and former religious teacher Kamariah Ali, who are trying to change their religious affiliation through the legal system. Muslim professional organisations and the Islamic opposition political party hold the view that renunciation of Islam is punishable by death. Likewise, the defence by Malaysian civil reform movements of individuals' freedom of conscience has been denounced by some religious leaders as an attack on Islam.

Currently, Malaysia has no law that would impose the death penalty on apostates. Yet, public movements have been formed to highlight this Islamic tenet. If it is not applied, the argument goes, there will be a massive exodus of Muslims to other faiths.
Concerned about sparking an ethnic clash, prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has proclaimed a ban on open discussion of these issues, threatening to arrest Internet news providers and activists if they continue to fan such debates.

Badawi is right to be worried. Since independence, national politics in Malaysia has reinforced group identity, especially among ethnic Malays, an exclusively Muslim community. Identity politics allowed ethnic Malays to assert their claims to control over land, language, and religion. All attempts to reduce Malay influence serve to mobilise this community in both ethnic and religious terms. Malay politicians have learned how to play this card very effectively.
Ethnic Malays' special status has long been codified in affirmative action policies giving them special economic benefits. However, as Malaysia engages with the global economy, these privileges may eventually be removed in order to heighten the country's competitiveness.

As a result, many Malay-Muslims increasingly worry about the loss of familiar economic and political safeguards. In particular, tensions have grown between the Malay majority and the country's large Chinese minority, which has been quicker to benefit from Malaysia's economic opening to the world.
Moreover, efforts to Islamicise the state comes at a time when conflict in the Middle East has further politicised Muslim movements in Malaysia. They view themselves as counter-forces to cultural domination by the West, asserting their religious identity in the face of what they regard as imperialising ideas like secularism and human rights.

Many Muslims are wary of this brand of identity politics. They recognize that the intolerance of Islamist groups can easily be turned against moderate Muslims. Defending a multicultural national identity in the face of religious intolerance is thus a great challenge facing Malaysia's state and society.
The writer is at the School of Social Sciences, Sains University, Malaysia.

From Brunei Times’ 29-Sep-06

Can Asean stave off its ethnic card?

FOR believers of political stability, a series of controversies of late must make 2006 seem like a year of living dangerously for the Association of South-East Asian Nations, a regional grouping of ten nations comprising
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
At the helm of its stumbling block is the recent bloodless coup at
Thailand, which did not bode well with Asean leaders despite strong support from the Thai masses and its monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Continued military rule, said Asean Secretary-General Ong Keng Yang, is a setback for democracy in South-East Asia.

But beyond
Thailand, inklings of yet a more profound rumbling threatens to unsettle the very fabric of Asean's foundation. This time, bilateral relations between its pioneering members are fast deteriorating after Indonesian and Malaysian leaders took offence with Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who, in a recent dialogue on good governance held at the Republic, said: ``My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They're successful, they're hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education.''

``And they want
Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese, compliant.''
Mr Lee's rhetoric gave rise to high emotions from the Republic's Malay-majority neighbours. Angered Indonesian lawmakers are demanding a public apology from the senior statesman. The country has even summoned its
Singapore ambassador to explain Mr Lee's statement.

Amris Hasan of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle said Mr Lee's remarks has put
Indonesia's unity at risk, and also threatens the good relations that Asean member countries share.
In Malaysia, several Umno politicians have called on Prime Minister Abdullah to ensure that Singapore does not benefit from the South Johor Economic Region plan.

Mr Abdullah reacted by writing a letter to Mr Lee seeking explanations to his remarks.
In a strongly worded rejoinder,
Malaysia's fiery former PM Mahathir Mohamad told Mr Lee to guard his `rice bowl' and not interfere with other countries. He retorted that Malays in Singapore are equally marginalised.

Whether the situation will be a cause for concern remains to be seen. Much depends on whether leaders of countries affected can appeal to calm instead of playing on raw emotions. But far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, those vying for Asean
integration can perhaps reap much merit by reading this situation with an objective mind.
In an increasingly globalised world, it is logical to hypothesise that people living in a largely peaceful, multicultural environment where cross-cultural engagement has become a routine daily affair are unaffected by racial divisions.

Indeed, a survey conducted by the
Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank in Singapore, after its national election this year will affirm this line of thinking. It found that a candidate's qualities like honesty and commitment more than his or her race hold sway over voters' final decisions.
Does this then mean that Singaporeans, and other like-minded South-East Asians, are ready to accept a governing style that is not centred on race? Hope flickers but for a mere moment.

Results of a separate poll released in early March just across the
Lion City's borders are less encouraging. Malaysia's first ever survey of race relations reveal that racism still rears its ugly head despite 50 years of living together between ethnic communities.
It means that unflattering stereotypical mantras like ``the Malays are lazy, the Chinese are greedy and the Indians are cheats'' have become part of our cultural heritage. Over time, the latent drumming of such thinking into our minds may even become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the political front, perhaps the horrors of past atrocities like the 1964-65 racial riots in the early formative years of
Singapore and Malaysia, as well as the Jakarta riots of 1998 where ethnic Chinese were targeted still haunt the people.
= = = = = = = = =
Update below
: Sep 30 06, From S’pore Straits Times;

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Non-bumi rights crop up once again

Malaysians in heated debate over remarks made by MM Lee

By Reme Ahmad ; The Straits Times

THERE is a simple rule in Malaysian politics when it comes to Singapore. Anyone who attacks the Republic gains credibility as a stout defender of Malaysia.

Last week, Singapore was used as a whipping boy again. Politicians lined

up to take pot shots at Singapore after Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew commented on Malaysia and Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minorities. Yet, something unusual happened as well. Malaysians broke ranks, with many in the Chinese community agreeing with MM Lee's remarks. One reason was that the debate had widened to include the prickly question of the rights of non-bumiputeras in Malaysia, a country which has been independent for 49 years.

Non-bumiputeras refer to non-Malays in Malaysia such as the Chinese and Indians, while bumiputeras are the Malays and indigenous peoples. 'Bumiputera' in Malay means 'princes of the soil'.
The term has evolved into a code for the special privileges enjoyed by the Malays.

The race-rights debate, always simmering beneath the surface, has supplanted the Mahathir-Abdullah rift as the most important issue in the Malay and Chinese vernacular newspapers, not to mention Internet news portals and blogs.

What were the remarks that got Malaysians hot under the collar?
At a dialogue for good governance in
Singapore on Sept 15, MM Lee had remarked that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards the Republic was shaped by the way they treated their ethnic Chinese minorities.

He said: 'My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful, they are hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalised, even in education. 'And they want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese, compliant.'

The reaction in Malaysia was almost instantaneous. Politicians linked to the ruling Barisan Nasional coaltion government demanded an apology from MM Lee and that he stay out of Malaysian affairs.

Johor politicians wanted pro-Singapore projects spiked.
Singapore's envoys in Malaysia and Indonesia were summoned by the respective governments and asked for an explanation.

The two main government-linked Chinese political parties, the Malaysian

Chinese Association (MCA) and Penang-based Parti Gerakan, took the line that MM Lee should not interfere in Malaysia's affairs, arguing that the ethnic Chinese were not marginalised.

But Chinese educationists, a powerful political lobby that mirrors Chinese feelings on the ground, agreed with MM Lee's remarks. So too did the opposition Democratic Action Party, which draws its main support from Chinese voters.

Together, they widened the debate into an examination of the political failure of the non-Malay parties within Barisan Nasional to stand up for Chinese and Indian rights. Opinions in letters and comments in the mainstream media and on Internet websites were split - mostly along racial lines.

Malay newspapers had politicians and opinion leaders pooh-poohing the suggestion that the Chinese were sidelined. They chided MM Lee for interfering in a neighbouring country's affairs.

The Chinese-language newspapers and politicians were of two minds.

One side said there was no marginalisation while the other said that Malaysia's 35-year-old pro-Malay programme to help bumiputeras made non-Malays feel like second-class citizens.

The mainstream pro-government English-language papers - the New Straits Times and The Star - remained comparatively muted in their coverage. They reported the news and did not editorialise. Not so the alternative media - on Internet news portals such as Malaysiakini, chatrooms and blogs.

The views came thick, fast and unvarnished. The Malay argument on these unfettered channels of communication ran largely along the lines of one opinion logged into an Internet forum:

'If the Chinese here are marginalised, please explain why the Chinese community forms the bulk of the rich? Not only that, no less than 40 per cent of the wealth in this country is owned by them.'

An editorial in the Utusan Malaysia daily which is owned by Umno, the predominant party within the Barisan Nasional coalition, said: 'Since the country achieved independence, the Malaysian economy has been controlled by the Chinese.

'The Malaysian government is happy to follow the concept of powersharing with each ethnic group having a representative in government so that they are not marginalised.'

Those who support this argue that the Malaysian Chinese are well represented in Parliament and the Cabinet. Malays cite the Forbes 2006 list of the 10 richest Malaysians as proof of Chinese well-being.

Only one Malay - port owner and industrialist Syed Mokhtar Albukhary - is on the list.

The non-Malays disagree. 'I totally agree with Lee Kuan Yew's comment. The smartest and brightest Malaysian Chinese are overseas because they don't have equal opportunities for them in Malaysia,' said a comment on a blog.

Most Malaysians, whether they agree with MM Lee's remarks or not, would agree that the trigger point on the nation's debate about race-rights can be traced to a pro-Malay policy aimed at helping bumiputeras draw level economically with the more advanced Chinese. Called the New Economic Policy (NEP), it was launched two years after the country's worst race riots on May 13, 1969 in which the victims were largely Chinese.

While the NEP was designed to eradicate poverty and end the identification of economic function with ethnicity, it evolved almost immediately into a policy favouring Malays in education, the civil service and government-linked businesses.

Largely because of the policy, the Malay professional class has swelled, thanks to help from public funds. More than a third of the country's doctors and lawyers are ethnic Malays today, compared to only a handful 35 years ago.

Malays also comprise 20 per cent of all accountants and nearly half of the engineers and surveyors, according to the government's five-year blueprint, the Ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010).

But the policy's excesses which overwhelmingly resulted in ethnic favouritism gradually drew loud complaints from the Chinese and Indians, many of whom felt they needed as much help as they were not well-off. Because of the policy, they complained, children of rich Malays received free school textbooks.
Developers give bumiputeras discounts of 5 to 10 per cent to buy million-dollar bungalows.

And there are disputes on whether the government's aim to make bumiputeras own a 30 per cent equity stake in the economy has been achieved.
While the government says the bumiputera equity stake is now around 18.9 per cent, non-Malay leaders say the figure is 45 per cent. This would mean that the NEP has to be abandoned because its target has been surpassed.

That is unlikely to happen any time soon, and the controversy - and race-based angst - will go on with or without MM Lee's contribution.

= = = = = = =

Update below: Oct 1 06, From M’sia NEW SUNDAY Times

.. Extracts from

Sunday Column: Growing legion of the unfooled;
01 Oct 2006 Kalimullah Hassan

….On a subsequent night, at another buka puasa, someone asked why Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew had haughtily commented about the Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Lee, who ruled Singapore with an iron fist when he was Prime Minister of the island republic for more than two decades, has maintained his influence by remaining in the Cabinet first as senior minister and now, in the uniquely Singapore-created position of Minister Mentor.

Lee claimed that the Chinese in
Malaysia are marginalised and compliant and that Malaysia and Indonesia wanted Singapore to "be like their Chinese — compliant".
We should not be surprised that Lee made that statement. It is not alien for him to get on the high moral ground and make derogatory comments on the affairs of other countries.
There were many theories on why Lee would have wanted to make such profoundly inaccurate observation about
Malaysia, especially when relations between Singapore and both Malaysia and Indonesia had taken on a better turn in the last few years.

"Wag the dog" — that was the common consensus at our table of Chinese, Indians and Malays.

So what better way to divert the attention of fellow Singaporeans and seek the sympathy of the international audience by reverting to the age- old and tested formula of the "big brothers" from Indonesia and Malaysia trying to bully "poor, little Singapore"?

Only, this time, Malaysia reacted in proper and civil fashion — seeking an explanation from Lee on what certainly was an ill-thought, inconsiderate and provocative statement.
Malaysia reacted in any other way, it would have only lent credence to Lee’s assertions of a "bullying big brother".

Lee may not have changed but
Malaysia has changed a lot from the days when he was engaged in building up his island state in a period of great recrimination between both countries.
Today, both countries’ leaders often speak about the need to leave past emotional baggage behind and work towards a new era of friendship and co-operation as two sovereign nations should. But, it appears, Lee’s baggage is still in tow.

The facts, Lee, are different. Yes, there are continued grumblings about the abuses in the New Economic Policy’s aims of restructuring society but not one Malaysian who has studied the country’s history and grew up in pre-May 13 Malaysia will dispute that it is the Tun Abdul Razak-initiated NEP which provided the stability and peace for Malaysia to become what it is today.
Take the top 20 richest Malaysians and more than half are Chinese. There are also Bumiputeras and Indians on that list now, a sure sign that no one is targeted for marginalisation.

Malaysia has Tamil- and Chinese-language schools. How many does Singapore have for its own multi- racial population?
The Malaysian Cabinet is made up of all the country’s races. How well are the minorities reflected in the
Singapore government?
Malaysia is not perfect. There are many weaknesses. But we could also use statistics in Singapore and portray a picture of prejudice and marginalistion.

Talk about compliant people. Lim Kit Siang is not compliant; Karpal Singh is not compliant; Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Hadi Awang are not compliant; many NGOs are not compliant; the MCA is often not compliant as is the Chinese-based Gerakan; and most of all, many politicians in Umno are not compliant, leading to fractious battles every few years or so.
But they get their say and today, in the changing
Malaysia, they have never had as much freedom to be "not compliant" as they have now.

Now let’s look at Chee Soon Juan and J.B. Jeyaratnam or a host of others who were not compliant in
We should all read To Catch a Tartar by Francis Seow and James Minchin’s No Man Is An Island. Malaysia doesn’t look so bad, does it?
Maybe my Australian dinner companion was right. It is just a game. Like some Malaysian politicians think it’s a game to make unfounded allegations and tell lies to achieve their objectives
But as we grow up, the legion of the unfooled is also expanding. And the legion of the unfooled in
Singapore, too, has substantially outgrown the Cold War mentality of aging politicians.

see also new posting, Oct 03 06 on


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