Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks – A painful truth?

Looks like MM Lee has shot his mouth off again. Some years ago in 1997, he mentioned in an affidavit (against opposition politician Tang Liang Hong) that Johor had a high crime rate. Just recently, he was quoted at an IMF/WB sidelines forum that Malaysia and Indonesia had marginalized their Chinese populations, drawing reactions, including from PM Abdullah and DPM Najib (discussed in Jeff Ooi’s Screenshots).

Media reports suggest that Malaysia is likely to send a formal protest note, possibly seeking an apology or explanation. Should Lee apologize? An elder statesman such as he should know better. No doubt about it, Lee should apologize for making statements which are:

Undiplomatic? Perhaps.

Insensitive? Probably.

Honest? Definitely.

Let’s face it. Lee’s remarks/observations are not a secret to anyone living in this part of the world. Any honest commentator on socio-politics in Malaysia or Indonesia would have said the same. But that’s a long story for another day.

In 1997, after his Johor crime remarks were publicized, Lee made a public apology (and explaining that the remarks in the affidavit were not intended for the public).

Yet now – almost ten years later – if the reports in recent years of snatch robberies and car thefts in Johor are anything to go by, Lee’s comment “that place is notorious for shootings, muggings and carjackings” does not seem so libelous after all. To the residents and visitors of Johor, the apology is of little value.

What is important here is that we Malaysians must prove Lee is wrong this time. Apology or no apology, let’s not kid ourselves. Failure to redress our discriminatory policies will have an even greater impact on our future than the crime situation in Johor.

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