Malaysiakini Letter

Washington is not rural Malaysia

TK Chua  |  Published:  |  Modified:

There are enough jokes, parodies and satires being made about the prime minister’s visit to the US already.

In addition to those we joked about, I am sure there are other “serious issues” discussed between Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and US President Donald Trump which we ordinary citizens may not know of.

I think the whole problem boils down to discretion and advice the prime minister received from those accompanying him.

Jokes and parodies could have been avoided if the prime minister had chosen the right issues to emphasise during the brief “press opportunity” at the White House’s cabinet room. He could have said things in more generic and “national” terms knowing that these are for public consumption.

Why tell the US president and his cabinet in minute detail that Malaysia is buying 25 Boeing 737 jets and eight 787 Dreamliners, with another possible 25 more Boeing 737s to come in the near future? 

Has he just announced MAS’ business plan for the next five to 10 years to its competitors and the world? It sounds so desperate on our part when in actual fact Boeing and GE should be the ones running after us to get the deal.

A smart friend of mine told me this, and I simply love it: “In business, if I want to buy one Toyota (car), I go to the showroom. If I want to buy 10, the agent will come running to my house! So, why need to fly to the US desperately begging to buy commercial planes from them?”

I think the advisers accompanying the prime minister are not doing their job. Even if they want to make the US president happy and “make America great again”, they should find a more appropriate and subtle way to do so. Washington is not interior Sarawak, if they know what I mean.

As for the Employees Provident Fund (EPF)’s and Khazanah Nasional’s potential investment in the US, again there was no necessity to go into the specifics.

Subtlety is key when handling market-sensitive information, more so when Malaysia has just announced massive foreign loans to finance its own infrastructure projects.     

True enough, EPF and Khazanah may need regional or international portfolio diversifications, but there is no need to mention them specifically and also the amount involved. To do so only implies our subservient and “unworthy” status.     

The prime minister could have conveyed many things crouched in “public interests” and generality.  He could have said the visit, at the invitation of the president, was to explore mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities and to seek better cooperation on security matters.   

Surely there are reciprocities in trade, investment and security issues that our prime minister could have emphasised. I am sure highlighting them would have been good for public perception.

Right now, I think our prime minister and his delegation are at the receiving end simply because they are handling the international audience the same way they handle the rural people in Peninsular Malaysia and the interior of Sarawak and Sabah. 

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