2 Sides of the Same Coin

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Lee Kuan Yew and Pope Benedict XVI – ‘2 Sides of the Same Coin’

Thu | Oct 05, 06 | 02:21:42 PM
Oleh Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad, PAS Research Centre

Two major recent events, seemingly quite unrelated in many ways, strikingly bore peculiar similarities in International Diplomacy i.e that of the Pontiff of the Vatican and Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (LKY).

What do the now infamous statements of Pope Benedict XVI and Minister Mentor LKY have in common? Hardly any commonality by way of subject matter, but both equally emotive and divisive, as to be capable of inciting tragic human fallout.

While that may be saying the obvious, another peculiar similarity needs particular attention and emphasis.

Both promptly followed up by offering their open apology and regretted the consequences sparked by their unsolicited remarks.

Equally strikingly similar, both did not actually retract their disparaging remarks. They were only sorry for its consequences but remain stoutly remorseless for saying it.

These are surely amusing phenomena in current International Diplomacy. Being a novice that discipline, I am quite encouraged to naively conclude that it is always a lot easier to just simply blurt out your piece at your target and later apologise, pretentiously regretting of how much your words have caused much discomfort or outrage to those on the receiving end.

Better still if you could deflect actual blame or appease them, by saying that you ‘were just quoting or citing an old text’ or ‘you have not said anything more than what you have said many times before’ or ‘what you have written in your memoir’, which presumably were more venomous, but have failed to elicit similar response.

Having apologized, you finally rest your case to the international community to judge your position. Best if you could finally invoke God – ‘to err is human and to forgive Divine’.

Be that as it may, quite frankly, I don’t think we should go to ‘war’ by statements of this nature. I would even be more daring to say that now that such unsolicited critique have been unfortunately made, this should provide for a real platform for a healthy intellectual discourse or debate to follow suit, so as to critically analyse the proposition or treatise made.

Perchance, by the grace of the Almighty, the outcome of the discourse may be better than its alleged original sinister motive.

The Pontiff provides the platform for international Islamic scholars to engage with the Vatican on any issues pertaining to mutual inter-religious understanding.

To the least, LKY provides me the opportunity to say my piece now and here. As he is entitled to say his without constraint, I should also be allowed to exercise mine without duress. As usual, I will say it without fear or favour.

For both LKY and the leaders of this nation, I would have thought that, within reasonable bound ie barring preemptive attack or regime change, the sooner we debunk the idea of a ‘non-interventionist policy’ or meddling with other nation’s affairs policy, the better it is for all. I may sound simplistic but it is already in vogue globally. Why?

For better or for worse, given the pervasive globalization powered by the menacing ICT, the impact on the global community has not only been on the domain on economy, commercial or cultural but more importantly political.

With democratization happening on a global scale, no nation-states could persist in perpetuating violation of human rights either on her people, let alone on others, without being sanctioned by international or regional bodies.

It goes without saying though, that there exists still one solitary exception. Its usage of both fire-power and overt political intrusion is beyond description.

By the same token, albeit on a lower scale, you simply could not be cobbling your wife or husband or children to death in a domestic violence, yet insisting your neighbour to just mind their own business.

It is no longer tenable. It wasn’t possible before, much less now! It is a social or moral obligation to intervene. With us in PAS, it is first a religious obligation, mandatory by God – enjoining virtues and forbidding vices!.

Having premised my thought, let us critically analyse LKY’s remarks. There are arguably many facets to this discussion. I must be selective. The selection is purely mine and surely in keeping with my intention.

Now that the letter of LKY is out in the mainstream media, it is for everyone to examine. The context and audience of his speech has also been explained.

In all fairness, the context of the speech was indeed to convince the audience ie former US Secretary of Treasury and foreign delegates in the IMF/WB meeting, of why Singapore needs a strong government.

Admittedly, despite my respect for his intellectual eloquence and statesmanship, with a few bizarre exceptions, I found that LKY’s argument to be rather incoherent insofar as the need to have a strong government ie so as not to be compliant as the compliant-Chinese in both their countries.

What is most perplexing is his need to resort to the notion of the marginalization of the Chinese, presumably both in Indonesia and Malaysia, “caused by them being successful, hardworking and therefore they are systematically marginalized, even in education”.

I thought that was shrewdly insinuative and ‘mischievous’ as its causal relation is even more precarious to be established or verified.

It would have made more political sense for LKY to remain focus on his difficult bilateral relationship all these years, be it with the present Premier or his predecessor, in his free-flowing dialogue.

Criticisms across the Causeway, have been exchanged both ways, at times more intense and blistering.

However, it would have been more enlightening to have heard from a Senior Minister about the need and how governments of the South East Asian nations could be equally economically strong and viable, morally credible and free from corrupt and crony practices while remaining socially friendly.

It would surely have served the geo-political and geo-strategic interest of the region better. Who am I to be telling him what to say?

Perhaps it would be necessary to remind LKY that in Malaysia, marginalization cuts across ethnic, culture and religion.

A thorough scrutiny of the Geni-Coefficient of both inter and intra-race will give us a clearer scenario.

The Malays suffer the worst inter and intra-ethnic disparity. That’s a matter of fact.

However, I hasten to add that Positive or Affirmative action should be justly based on needs and merits rather than race or ethnic. Ethnic-based policies are both flawed and are susceptible to gross abuses.

It feeds on narrow partisan interest of the well-connected-politically, be they Malay, Chinese or Indian. I do not need to enumerate their names. It is quite a long list of Malays, Chinese and Indians.

It would be unnecessary to remind LKY that marginalization happens to all ethnic groupings to varying degree. It’s the anti-thesis of Justice and Good Governance. It is powered by corrupt practices, crony capitalism and nepotism.

The fact that the Mentor Minister chose to invoke the much abhorred racial overtone, didn’t augur well with many, unless he is a great believer of John Naisbitt’s Global Paradox of the Chinese Commonwealth. That will both presumptuous and unnecessary on my part to presume.

Would it be asking too much from leaders of international standing to wisely use their grey matters in between their ears, before they say their piece please?

The Pope’s remarks and LKY’s insinuation is now an epitome of sort in current International Diplomacy- a kind of “2 sides of the same coin” or should it be the “Same Side of 2 Coins”?

It would do a lot more good for the Mentor Minister to think outside the racial paradigm and begin to advocate a new polity of Justice and timeless Principles – both Universal and Religious. That will surely change the political landscape of the Asian region, nay the entire world.

Will that not be befitting of a statesman? – mr

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