Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vintage Kuan Yew

Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is in his element. He has written a long letter to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over his remarks about compliant Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Is he really sorry over the remarks that created a ruckus in Malaysia and Indonesia? The letter gives the impression of an apology at first glance. But an apology is probably far from his mind upon closer reading of the letter and his careful nuances.

To put it bluntly, Kuan Yew is merely saying that he was sorry that what he said created 'a great deal of discomfort' for Badawi. The bulk of the letter was a justification of his words.

Kuan Yew said he has not said anything more than what he has said many times before. In fact, he correctly pointed out that he has said less than what he had written in his memoirs, which was published in 1998.

As further justification, he pointed out that "on numerous occasions Umno leaders, including Dr Mahathir and many others, have publicly warned Malaysian Malays that if they ever lose power, they risk the same fate as Malays in Singapore, whom they allege are marginalised and discriminated against."

Kuan Yew even attached an annex to show the other occasions when Malaysian guys openly criticised the state of the Malay community in Singapore. Yet Singapore maintained its silence.

Surprisingly, Kuan Yew even took the opportunity to whack former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"I am sorry that what I said has caused you a great deal of discomfort. After a decade of troubled relations with your predecessor, it is the last thing I wanted," Kuan Yew wrote.

Badawi declined to say if he accepted the qualified apology. To his credit though, he stuck to his gun in his rather controlled reply to Kuan Yew's letter.

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (Reuters) - Malaysia's prime minister gave an icy response on Tuesday to an apology by former Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew, who had upset the country by criticising its race relations.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he had received Lee's written apology but declined to say whether he accepted it and instead repeated his objections to Lee's original comments.

"I have received the letter and I understand the contents," Abdullah told reporters at his office in the administrative capital of Putrajaya. "I have taken note of it.

"The statement by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore is uncalled for and not appreciated ... I certainly reject the premise upon which he made the statement in Singapore. I believe such a statement cannot contribute to good neighbourly relations."

"Such a statement can incite the feelings of Malaysians and I think it is important we have to ensure such a statement should not be made again," he added.

Well, what's next? We just have to wait for Dr M to open his mouth again, with guns blazing.