Malaysiakini NEWS

‘Dr M living in shadow of Lee Kuan Yew’? Give M’sia a break

Rais Hussin  |  Published:

COMMENT | If geography is destiny, all small countries connected to bigger hinterlands must know how to conduct their diplomacy with bigger neighbours with poise, tactfulness and sheer gentleness.

By the above token, after the end of Konfrontasi in 1965 with Indonesia, both countries have learned to make peace. But Malaysia has always learned the importance - not to appease Jakarta at every turn - but to harbour total good will and intention towards Indonesia at every opportunity, including a maritime dispute in the Sea of Ambalat.

Malaysia knows it cannot challenge Indonesia, lock, stock and barrel. It would be nothing short of a collective suicide. But Malaysia's behaviour is not unlike that of Finland towards Russia too.

Although Russia outsizes Finland to the tune of more than a thousand times, Moscow has never had any serious problems with Helsinki. Why is this the case?

The reason is simple. Instead of poking a stick into the eye of the Russian bear, Finland has always encouraged the whole of Europe to consult with Russia time and again.

The Conference of Security and Cooperation (CSCE), also known as the Helsinki Process in the mid 1970s, culminated in a better relationship with Russia that even survived the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1990.

CSCE is now the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose primary goal is to encourage the reduction in any arms races, or, activities that can lead to the such.

The article by Nikkei Asian Review titled "Mahathir Still Living In the Shadow of Lee Kuan Yew," is not only condescending to a statesman in South-East Asia but misleading in the logic of its analysis.

The ostensible evidence offered by the writer, Nikkei Asia editor Toru Takahashi, seems to revolve on the recent dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over the waters in the Straits of Johor. 

But both sides have agreed to find a negotiated solution to the whole issue.

How can Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad be said to be living under the shadow of former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, when the latter statesman passed on in February 2015?

If anything, many Malaysians including Mahathir, have had a healthy respect for the late Kuan Yew.

During Mahathir’s first tenure as the fourth prime minister of Malaysia, Singapore was the destination of his maiden trip as premier.

There was no fear of any loss of face. As the leader of a bigger country, in terms of size at least, Mahathir knew then, as he knows now, that he had to set the tenor of the bilateral relationship on behalf of the cabinet members of both countries.

In fact, it would appear that current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching understood the delicacy of the bilateral diplomacy just as much.

When Mahathir became the seventh prime minister of Malaysia, the first couple from Singapore paid an early visit to Putrajaya to meet with Mahathir and his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.

It bewilders the mind that Kuan Yew has to be resurrected in the article, when Mahathir has long moved on, as he once affirmed, "it is impolite talk about the dead."

And the truth is, Kuan Yew was once in awe of Mahathir's tenacity to campaign well into his late 80s.

The facts show that both leaders have always respected each other’s iron will and steely determination both in and out of Malayan Parliament, extending into the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965.


RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member of Bersatu. He also heads its policy and strategy bureau.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini

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