Sunday, October 01, 2006

Wag the dog

Kalimullah Hassan, former editor-in-chief of New Straits Times in Malaysia, has come up with a new theory in his column on why Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew made the remarks about Chinese in Singapore's neighbours.

According to Lord Kali (Dr Mahathir's nickname for Kalimullah), Kuan Yew made those remarks to help divert attention from the bad press on Singapore. The tactic is widely known as Wag the dog -- popularised by the movie in which a spin doctor creates a situation to distract the public from the President's scandalous affairs.

But are political analysts reading too much into Kuan Yew's intention in those remarks?

Whatever Kuan Yew's real intention was, it is obvious that both sides have not been able to discard their historical baggage -- the need to paint their respective political and social systems as superior ever since they split in 1965.

See also Rocky's Bru and Paddie Bowie's take on the latest Kuan Yew issue.

Extract of Lord Kali's column: There were many theories on why Lee would have wanted to make such profoundly inaccurate observation about Malaysia, especially when relations between Singapore and both Malaysia and Indonesia had taken on a better turn in the last few years. "Wag the dog" — that was the common consensus at our table of Chinese, Indians and Malays.

Here was Singapore being criticised for reneging on a promise to allow non-governmental organisation protesters at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Singapore and foreign officials wondering aloud whether it would be in the greater interests of freedom not to have such high-level conferences in the island republic in future.

In Thailand, a coup was fermenting against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which centred around the sale of his telecommunictions company to Singapore’s Temasek which is run by Lee’s daughter- in-law, Ho Ching.

The unbridled Thai Press has been at it for months, questioning Temasek’s purchase, and alleging and alluding all kinds of opaqueness in the deal. Temasek has, of course, denied the charges.

So what better way to divert the attention of fellow Singaporeans and seek the sympathy of the international audience by reverting to the age-old and tested formula of the "big brothers" from Indonesia and Malaysia trying to bully "poor, little Singapore"?

Today, both countries’ leaders often speak about the need to leave past emotional baggage behind and work towards a new era of friendship and co-operation as two sovereign nations should. But, it appears, Lee’s baggage is still in tow.


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