KUALA LUMPUR - Two Malaysian opposition politicians have hit out at Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan for an opinion piece published in The Straits Times on Tuesday, in which he argued that Malaysia is undergoing systemic change and Singaporeans should take note of the developments across the Causeway.
Mr Tony Pua, Democratic Action Party (DAP) national publicity secretary and Petaling Jaya Utara MP, slammed Mr Kausikan for his "unapologetically selfish and arrogant views" that he said only cemented the perception of Singapore as the "contemptible Shylock of South-east Asia".
In his article titled Singapore Is Not An Island, Mr Kausikan referred to the recent demonstrations by anti-government and pro-government groups, saying they "raised the temperature of an already racially fraught atmosphere". He described the anti-government Bersih rallies in late August as "predominantly Chinese affairs".
In a statement, Mr Pua dismissed Mr Kausikan's contention, saying he failed to recognise that the anti-establishment sentiment and the Bersih rallies were not about race.
He said: "Those who attended the rally did not see themselves present to represent their ethnic roots. They took part in the rally because they aspire for a better country defined... 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 (1Malaysia Development Berhad), as well as the obscene RM2.6 billion (S$869 million) donation deposited into the Prime Minister's personal bank account."
Mr Pua also criticised Mr Kausikan for saying the financial scandal involving debt-ridden state fund 1MDB was "less about corruption than about a struggle for power within Umno". "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 (PM) Najib Razak and (former premier) Dr Mahathir Mohamad," he said.
Mr Pua said Mr Kausikan had also failed to distinguish Malay "dominance" which, according to the DAP lawmaker, is significantly different from Malay "supremacy" contested by most opposition voices. He said the ambassador's views demonstrate how Singapore as a country lacked 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," Mr Pua said.
The other MP, Dr Ong Kian Ming, said the ambassador was mistaken in interpreting the current political struggle in Malaysia as one that pitted Muslims against non-Muslims and Malays against the non-Malays, specifically the Chinese.
"I was surprised by his choice to interpret the political events in Malaysia through a narrow lens, especially given his diplomatic experience.
He should examine the political forces in Malaysia as part of a larger global trend where regimes that were once seen as impregnable were brought down through peaceful electoral routes. And it is this route which the opposition forces in Malaysia are committed to," Dr Ong said.
The Serdang MP added that the opposition wants to build a broad-based coalition.
Mr Kausikan yesterday responded to the MPs' comments.
He said: "I can understand their hopes, but hopes are not reality. The emotions on display prove my point and serve as a useful reminder to Singaporeans that the social cohesion that we currently enjoy is not to be taken for granted. I wish all the peoples of Malaysia well, but my concern is Singapore."
This article was first published on October 9, 2015.
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