Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysia Chronicle
The Wikileaks revelations in which Singaporean officials gave damning descriptions on Malaysian prime ministers and the part they played in the ‘decline of Malaysia’ make grim reading but are nothing new. Incompetence, racial conflict and high-profile murder already feature as daily fodder in our Malaysian newspapers.
In spite of how we feel about Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, whose publications have kept governments on tenterhooks in the past few months, the nature of the content of the documents, cannot be ignored.
Among the most serious and politically charged is when the republic’s senior government officials reportedly said “Malaysia’s decline” was fuelled by incompetent politicians. Naturally, this threatens to destroy the semblance of cordiality that has been achieved by the leaders of the two countries.
Last May, Prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and his Singaporean counterpart met at the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat to reaffirm their commitment towards further strengthening bilateral relations and collaborate in various initiatives.
Today, Wikileaks managed to burst that little bubble of cooperation between the two. Najib is described as “an opportunist”.
Ouch! That hurts.
But most Malaysians have long known that fact. It only hurts because a foreign despatch confirmed it and it is now bandied about around the world.
One wonders what remedial measures APCO will take to limit the damage done to Najib’s image and how much extra it will cost the taxpayer?
Those in Umno who disapprove of Najib’s cosiness with Singapore will probably be saying “I told you so.” They have always believed their neighbours to be ‘calculative and condescending’.
These revelations are like ammunition to the dissenters in the party and will reinforce their views that Najib was seduced by Lee Hsien Loong to set up a joint-venture company to develop land parcels swapped for the prized railway land that cuts through the island state. Many were not satisfied with the outcome of that deal.
Doubtless, the Singaporean officials will be having protracted meetings in damage limitation control, to reduce any fall-out between the two.
Wikileaks disclosed discussions between senior US officials and their Singapore counterparts Peter Ho, Bilahari Kausikan and Tommy Koh which allegedly took place in 2008 and 2009.
Peter Ho told the Americans: “The political knives will be out for Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi’s) son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, whom nobody likes because he got where he is through family ties...”
Malaysians are aware that this is a common phenomenon in Malaysian politics. Family connections, money politics, secret deals are all part and parcel of most of the Malaysian political dynasties’ modus operandi.
In September 2008, Kausikan, a senior foreign affairs official, described how the “situation in neighbouring Malaysia is confused and dangerous”, fuelled by “a distinct possibility of racial conflict” that could see ethnic Chinese “flee” Malaysia and “overwhelm” Singapore.
Again, these are all true to a certain extent.
However, there is no need for Chinese to “flee” to Singapore. The Singaporeans accepted them with open arms and in all probability enticed them with study loans or jobs because our Malaysian government did not take the initiative to fund their studies or we restricted opportunities at home by placing limits on jobs.
The Singaporeans could have refused our Malaysian Chinese to stop from being “overwhelmed”.
Aren’t the Singaporeans also taking advantage of the situation? All countries in the world suffer when their best talent goes elsewhere. Singapore just plugged the gaps caused by their own people emigrating and filled all those vacancies with our people.
Wikileaks revelation about racial issues in Malaysia is old news. Singapores’s Lee Kuan Yew even talked about this in his interview with the New York Times last September.
“A lack of competent leadership is a real problem for Malaysia,” said Kausikan.
We all knew that.
He followed this with, “Najib has his neck on the line in connection with a high-profile murder case.”
Malaysians have long been aware of that, too.
If Wikileaks could produce an incriminating photo or even give a “whodunit”, now that would be a different matter.