Monday, October 02, 2006

Lee Kuan Yew and the Malaysians

Lee Kuan Yew has been widely reported today as having apologised, after inciting an incendiary reaction from the Malaysians after his comment that the Malaysian Chinese are 'systematically marginalised.' But after this whole brouhaha, what really is the state of affairs?

For Singaporeans, Lee Kuan Yew's comment has really been an embarrassment. The elder statesman has done no favours to the country's international relations with his provocative statements about inter-racial relations in the neighbouring countries. And even though there are inequalities, LKY should know better than to make such sensitive remarks, especially when his government seems paranoid about racial harmony in his own backyard.

As for the Malaysians, LKY's comment has probably incited feelings about racial quotas and positive discrimination in favour of the native Malays, and should fuel discussion amongst the Chinese community. It also highlights to the Chinese the kind of environment they live in and how perhaps Singapore might be a nice place in Southeast Asia to be.

Even though LKY is apologised, both sides have lost out, Singapore because of the ill feelings the comment has engendered, and Malaysia because of the racial tensions the comment has stirred. Indeed, the comment was 'uncalled for,' and LKY should seriously think about his words before rattling off such comments mindlessly. In his twilight years, it would be better to finish the race on a positive note, rather than be remembered for such clumsy commentary.

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