Kuan Yew Replies To Abdullah's Letter Over "Marginalised Chinese"
Singapore's founding father and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has written to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over his recent remarks about the Chinese being marginalised in Malaysia.
His press secretary, YY Yeong said the letter was now with the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, according to a report by The Straits Times.
"(It) is ready to be personally conveyed to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi," she said.
Abdullah wrote to Lee this week seeking clarification over the controversial remarks.
Lee, 83, told a forum on good governance here on Sept 15 that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards the republic was shaped by the way they treated their Chinese communities.
"My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are 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," Lee had said.
The remarks drew protests from in Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore's closest neighbours. The foreign ministries of both countries had also summoned the Singapore envoys to explain Lee's remarks.
Non-bumi rights crop up once again
Malaysians in heated debate over remarks made by MM Lee. 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.
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 power sharing 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 conroversy - and race-based angst - will go on.
With or without MM Lee's contribution.
Meanwhile,Reuter reported that Singapore's Malay party on Friday demand an apology from former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew for comments he made about the treatment of ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia.
"The statement made by Minister Mentor Lee is a provocation and not a reflection of our multiracial society," said Rahmat Bin Haji Ahmad, political secretary of the tiny opposition Singapore Malay National Organisation, which is usually known by its Malay acronym, PKMS.
"The PKMS strongly demands that Minister Mentor Lee withdraw his statements, if possible immediately," he said at a news conference late on Friday. "If he doesn't apologise, we demand him to resign immediately."
The group said Prime Minister Lee, eldest son of the 83-year-old patriarch, should "be more transparent and show the Malays what the intentions of Minister Mentor Lee are."
Singapore bans Far Eastern Economic Review
Singapore has banned the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine after it failed to comply with regulations on foreign publications sold in the city-state, the government said.
It said the monthly magazine's sale and distribution rights had been revoked immediately for failing to abide by an earlier deadline to appoint someone authorized to accept any legal notices on the magazine's behalf.
In its press release, the government added that it was now also an offense to import or possess copies of the Hong Kong-based magazine, known by its initials FEER, for sale or distribution in the city-state.
The government said it took the action after the magazine failed to comply with conditions under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.
On August 3 the ministry had announced it was re-instating conditions imposed on the Review and some other foreign publications.
It notified the Review that, effective September 11, it would have to appoint a person "within Singapore authorized to accept service of any notice or legal process on behalf of the publication."
It was also required to submit a security deposit of 200,000 Singapore dollars (125,000 US).
"FEER had not complied by the 11 September 2006 deadline, nor has it complied till today, despite a reminder sent to FEER on 14 September 2006," the government said.
The provisions, re-implemented because of what the information and communication ministry said was a changing media landscape, had also applied to Newsweek, Time, the Financial Times, and the International Herald Tribune.
They took effect after FEER, a Dow Jones publication, ran an interview with local pro-democracy activist Chee Soon Juan, who is secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.
The article entitled "Singapore's 'Martyr,' Chee Soon Juan," describes Chee's battle against the ruling People's Action Party and its leaders. It also touched on Singapore officials' success in libel suits against critics.
Two weeks ago, Singapore court officials and the magazine's editor revealed that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, had filed defamation suits against FEER over the Chee article.
The Lees filed the lawsuits in August against editor Hugo Restall and Hong Kong-based Review Publishing, alleging they were defamed.
The Lees alleged in the writ seen by AFP that the article "contained sensational remarks and/or allegations" which had "gravely injured" their characters and reputations.
The FEER magazine has had skirmishes with Singapore's ruling party since 1987 when it was gazetted as a foreign newspaper, thereby restricting its circulation, after the government deemed an article as interfering in domestic politics.
Singapore leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages as a result of defamation suits against critics and foreign publications, which they say is necessary to protect their reputations from unfounded attacks.
International rights groups, however, argue the use of lawsuits is intended to suppress freedom of expression and silence opposition parties.
Roby Alampay, executive director of the Bangkok-based media freedom watchdog Southeast Asian Press Alliance, said the FEER ban came as no surprise following recent moves by Singapore against Internet bloggers and other foreign media.
"Singapore has always been notorious if not in fact quite proud of its tradition of stifling foreign media," Alampay said.
"This new chapter of reasserting their control on the foreign press however really makes an abhorrent situation all the more troubling," he added.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) last year ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its annual press freedom index, alongside the likes of Egypt and Syria.
Lee Kuan Yew said in April he would not allow foreign journalists to tell his country what to do on domestic issues.
" Anwar adds voice to judicial crisis review calls"
Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has joined the chorus demanding a review to the 1988 judicial crisis which resulted in the sacking of the country’s top judges.
“I fully support the demand by former Lord President Salleh Abas and the Bar Council for the establishment of an independent commission to look into the causes of the 1988 judicial crisis,” said Anwar in a statement today.
In 1988, then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad had Salleh tried by a special tribunal on charges of misconduct for questioning constitutional amendments that seriously eroded the powers of the judiciary.
Later, two of five supreme court judges - George Seah and Wan Sulaiman Pawanteh - who had ruled that the special tribunal was convened unconstitutionally were also sacked.
Some have described the dismissal of the three top judges from the Supreme Court - then the country's highest court, now renamed as Federal Court - as Malaysia’s darkest hours in its judicial history.
Anwar, who is now opposition PKR advisor, said that the country’s judiciary was once “well-regarded around the world for its independence and integrity”.
“However, since the 1988 judicial crisis, episodes such as the Ayer Molek case, the resignation of High Court judge Syed Ahmad Idid Abdullah as well as my own sham trial have tarnished the image of our judiciary,” said Anwar, who himself was sacked by Mahathir eight years ago.
Anwar, 58, was then jailed after convictions for sodomy and corruption involving the misuse of power.
He was released in September 2004 when his sodomy conviction was overturned. Anwar has adamantly claimed that the charges were trumped up as part of a political conspiracy against him, an allegation which Mahathir had denied.
Show real leadership
“The government's refusal to review the 1988 crisis reflects the superficial commitments it has made towards integrity and reform. It is time for the government to move beyond its pious platitudes and demonstrate real leadership,” said Anwar.
“An honest and independent review is imperative to redeem the dignity and the reputation of those wronged since the 1988 judicial crisis, and to restore the faith of Malaysians in their judicial system.”
He said the “perpetrators” of the incident must be held to account for their actions.
“Furthermore an impartial review must lead to substantive reforms in the judicial appointment process in order to protect the sanctity of the judiciary against future exploitation.”
According to Salleh, he was told by Mahathir to either “resign or be sacked” at a meeting before he was hauled in front of the special tribunal.
A month ago, Salleh broke his 18-year silence and supported the Bar Council’s call to review the judicial crisis.
On Sept 13, government backbencher Zaid Ibrahim, in a passionate speech in Parliament, also called for a review of the issue.
Zaid, who is also a lawyer, said that Salleh “was not sacked because he wrote a letter to the King or because of his speech delivered in Universiti Malaya. It was because he wanted a nine-judge panel to hear the Umno case.”
Malaysia Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Mid East Bush America muslim Islam Anwar MM LKYSingapore