It is about justice, good governance

It is about justice, good governance
A supporter of pro-democracy group "Bersih" (Clean) leads a group of native people known as "orang asli", as they march to Dataran Merdeka in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
PHOTO: Reuters


Singapore Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan wrote in his analytical piece, referring to the overwhelming anti-establishment sentiment of the Chinese community and the turnout at the recent Bersih 4 rally, that:

"It is my impression that many young Malaysian Chinese have forgotten the lessons of May 13, 1969. They naively believe that the system built around the principle of Malay dominance can be changed. That may be why they abandoned Malaysian Chinese Association for the DAP. They are delusional. Malay dominance will be defended by any means."

In fact, he even warned that the likely outcome of the above will be "even less space for non-Muslims".

The top Singapore diplomat could not have got it more wrong.

Firstly, Bilahari needs to distinguish the principle of Malay "dominance", which is significantly different from Malay "supremacy" contested by most opposition voices. No one denies that Malays will dominate the sphere of politics and economy in Malaysia. They will generally dominate purely because they comprise the majority in the country.

Perhaps Bilahari can understand the distinction better in the context of Singapore, where the Chinese indisputably dominate the political, economic and social space. However, that does not translate into a Chinese-supremacist city state.

And perhaps Bilahari has overlooked that fact that even the DAP, whose leaders are undeniably comprised of a Chinese majority, fully support Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister candidate for Malaysia.

As far as we can tell, Anwar is and has always been a Malay and a Muslim.

Secondly and more crucially, Bilahari failed to recognise that the anti-establishment sentiment and the recent Bersih4 rally aren't at all about race.

No one went to the mega-rally holding placards or shouting slogans making racial demands. Those who attended the rally certainly did not see themselves present to represent their ethnic roots.

They took part in the rally because they aspire for a better country defined not by race or religion, but by the principles of justice, good governance and democratic ideals.

They were angry, frustrated and galvanised to act in the light of the tens of billions of ringgit embezzled and misappropriated by 1MDB, as well as the obscene RM2.6 billion (S$870 million) donation deposited into the prime minister's personal bank account.

Instead of seeing the uproar against 1MDB as a courageous fight against corruption, Bilahari chose to frame the 1MDB scandal as a political fight by juxtaposing Najib Razak and (former PM) Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He argued that:

"The 1MDB scandal is less about corruption than about a struggle for power within Umno. Dr Mahathir seems to have expected to exercise remote control even though he was no longer prime minister. Among his grievances with his successors were their warming of ties with Singapore, Najib's decision to settle the railway land issue, co-operation on Iskandar Malaysia (IM) and the refusal of both Abdullah Badawi and Najib to proceed with his pet white elephant - the 'crooked bridge'. Dr Mahathir wants to replace Najib with someone more pliable.

"Najib understands that Malaysia and Singapore need each other. So far and unusually, we have not figured very much in the controversies."

It is clear from the above that Bilahari wanted to persuade Singaporeans that despite the disgraceful multi-billion-ringgit corruption scandal Najib is entangled in and his less-than-legitimate election to office with funds sourced from dubious unknown sources, it is better the devil you can cut deals with.

While Singaporeans "have no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia", he emphasised that "some systems will be easier to work with than others".

Clearly, as the ambassador-at- large, Bilahari's views demonstrate how Singapore as a country, despite its enormous wealth and developed nation status, completely lacks a moral compass.

It is less important for him to support "what is right and just" as opposed to "what is in it for me" in Singapore's relations with its neighbours, regardless of how evil or corrupt a regime is.

This article was first published on October 9, 2015.
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