S’pore Ambassador: M’sia on trajectory of tensions that may lead to violence
“Malaysia is on a political trajectory that has heightened racial and religious tensions and may well lead to violence,” Singapore Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan has reiterated.
He said this in a speech at Cambridge University last week. (Note: Kausikan is a very high-ranking roving ambassador. Singapore does not have an embassy in Malaysia; she maintains a High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.)
The senior diplomat’s Oct 31 speech on Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy was uploaded in Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook on Nov 2. The Singapore Prime Minister said in his FB, “I found it well worth reading, and hope you will too”.
Kausikan is a public intellectual and policy advisor to the Singapore government. His views are certainly worth pondering and that’s why he made the DAP and its delusional Chinese go all ape shit earlier last month.
Kausikan had opined that “violence at these demonstrations [Red Rally on Sept 16] was avoided by the strong police presence. But the demonstrations certainly raised the temperature of an already racially fraught atmosphere”.
In his Oct 6 Straits Times commentary above, Kausikan noted that the Low Yat mini riot was racial in nature and “exposed the tinderbox Malaysia had become”.
In his recent speech at Cambridge, Kausikan told the audience that Singapore leaders have learned to never “underestimate the lengths to which the Malay leadership in Malaysia would go to defend ‘Ketuanan Melayu’.”
He admitted with candour too that his country’s Chinese majority “live in a region where the Chinese are typically a minority and not a particularly welcome one”.
This candid theme about the Chinese being a less-than-welcome minority, repeated in the Cambridge speech, has been mentioned by Kausikan in his other speeches previously as well.
What he says is true. It is the Firster cult who are in denial but history may just decide to teach the lesson again in slow mo.
BELOW: Article in The Heat Online
“Too many people believe their own propaganda”
Excerpt from Bilahari Kausikan’s Oct 31 speech delivered in Cambridge:
(I’ve underlined the parts I believe readers of this blog should take note of)
“Big countries may delude themselves about being always in control of events. Small countries cannot afford such illusions. For small countries, foreign policy is usually a series of not always neat or consistent improvisations to a messy and unpredictable reality. The future can at best be only dimly glimpsed and in any case cares not a whit for your concerns. So you must pragmatically adapt yourself to it.
One must of course set goals. But having done so, more often than not the most one can do is keep a distant star in sight as one tacks hither and tither to avoid treacherous reefs or to scoop up opportunities that may drift within reach.
Successful navigation requires a clinical – indeed cold-blooded – appreciation of the world as it is and not as you may wish it to be. This is harder than you may think. Diplomacy is an area of human endeavour that is more than usually susceptible to self-deception and wishful thinking.
Mr Lee [Kuan Yew] and his comrades were not devoid of idealism. Singapore as it is today would not otherwise exist. They risked their lives to make it so.
But idealism must be rooted in a hard-headed understanding of the realities of human nature and power. Without power nothing can be achieved. And even with power not everything desirable will always be feasible. No matter how fervently one may wish that they may be liberated from the surly bonds of earth, pigs are never going to sprout wings and fly.
Understanding requires information. Mr Lee had intense intellectual curiosity. He sought information without regard for hierarchy. He was tolerant of alternate views or at any rate, he was tolerant of the young and brash desk officer as I then was who, too green to know that the tiger is dangerous, ventured on occasion to argue with him.
The tiger’s roar is fearsome and its fangs are sharp. Mr Lee sometimes tried to intimidate you into agreement. But if you stood your ground with reasoned arguments, he listened even if he did not agree. And I am here to tell the tale.
Mr Lee and his comrades were impatient of complexity for complexity’s sake; for the sake of showing off how clever one was. He did not suffer fools. If he sought a view, it was to be taken for granted you had something useful to say and would say it in the fewest possible words. And if you didn’t know, say so.
What Mr Lee and his comrades possessed to a greater degree than anyone else I have ever met, was an uncanny ability to zero into the core of even the most complicated problem or situation. They wielded Occam’s razor with great intellectual ruthlessness, slashing through the pious obfuscations which too often shroud international issues.
Margaret Thatcher once said of Mr Lee: ‘He was never wrong’. That is of course, not true. Nobody can be always right, particularly in international affairs where most of the time most of the factors are going to be unknown or only partially known and where even the effort to know may change what you are trying to know
But Mr Lee and his comrades were never shy about changing their minds. Again this is harder than you may think. Too often vested interests, stubbornness or just plain pride stands in the way. Too many people believe their own propaganda. Mr Lee and his comrades avoided this most common of pitfalls because their laser-like focus was always the national interest of Singapore. And they never confused ideology with interest.
Diplomacy is not all about being pleasant or making oneself agreeable. It is about defending and advancing the national interest, preferably by being pleasant and agreeable, but if necessary by any appropriate means. In this respect, having to stand your ground in the face of the tiger’s roar – and in the shadows of diplomatic politesse lurk many wild beasts – was another valuable lesson.
This is particularly so in Southeast Asia, where majority Chinese Singapore which organizes itself on the basis of multiracial meritocracy, is something of an anomaly. We live in a region where the Chinese are typically a minority and not a particularly welcome one, and where our neighbours organize themselves on the basis of very different principles.
Perhaps Mr Lee’s greatest mistake was, during the period when we were part of Malaysia, to underestimate the lengths to which the Malay leadership in Malaysia would go to defend ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ – Malay dominance. It was not a mistake that he or any of our leaders ever made again.”
The full text of Bilahari Kausikan’s speech can be read HERE.