Singapore redefines braggadocio

By Tunku Aziz

FOUR years ago, on 18 October 2006, I wrote an opinion piece from my 30th floor office in the UN Secretariat, New York, for the New Sunday Times. The title, Singapore is simply a neighbour too far, I thought fairly described my assessment of the state of our relations with neighbouring Singapore. It upset a great many Singaporeans; it also made many realise that “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

A Singaporean behaves too much like an insecure lover, forever seeking assurance that she is the fairest of them all and that she is much admired and loved. The insatiable craving for praise and adoration would, in normal circumstances, point to a serious flaw in the national character. This much I remember from the Child Psychology lectures I attended in college all those long years ago. How else can you explain their supercilious behaviour towards us, the Japanese and Indians, all falling into the category of “stupid?”
Singapore is not an unknown quantity to us in Malaysia. In a sense it is of us, but not part of us. Forget the so-called historical ties that are supposed to underpin our relations because they amount to nothing in practice.

To view them through rose-tinted spectacles as is our wont would distort even further a relationship that has never been known for its convergence of views on even the most pedestrian of issues. Rather, it has always had all the makings and attributes of a potentially protracted and acrimonious future.

Singapore has no time for sentiments; emotion is anathema to its national make-up. So, do not use that tack because it simply will not wash with it. Singapore is brutally clinical and rarely takes prisoners in any engagement with it.

Being small is not always easy, especially when you are trying to flex your muscles and punch above your weight. To be constantly reminded that you are nothing more than a little red dot on the face of the earth as President B.J. Habibi of Indonesia once did, somewhat insensitively, must touch some raw nerves, especially for a country that can justifiably claim a string of successes on so many fronts.

Now, even the Minister Mentor has doubts if his creation is really a country. For a “country” that has yet to establish an identity, Singapore is overbearingly obnoxious.
In our dealings with Singapore, we must never take it at face value. Let us disabuse ourselves quickly of the notion that sentiments and goodwill will cut any ice with it. We have to adopt an equally cold, clinical and legalistic approach, as it always does.

Think how often we have ended up drawing the proverbial short straw in our negotiations with Singapore? The most celebrated was undoubtedly the MSA (Malaysia-Singapore Airline) divorce from which we came away with barely the shirt on the back. Singapore has always made it clear that it has no time for the sort of sentimental nonsense we wallow in, and operates simply on the basis of exacting maximum advantage, the pound of flesh, it can wangle out of any deal, no matter what.

Based on past experience with it, and in order to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness, such as being accused of bullying a small neighbour and of other unfair and malevolent behaviour, we should, as far as possible, leave Singapore to revel alone in its glorious splendour. In short, it is a neighbour too far, with apologies to A Bridge Too Far.

It has become apparent that it is simply not worth the effort to cultivate this uncultivable bad mouthing neighbour of ours. You cannot ever be right with it because it is never wrong. Winning some and losing some is not a thing that sits well with it. Winners take all, much like Mahathir, is a strategy that appears to be well entrenched and suited to its national psyche.

Our relations with a neighbour such as Singapore, with its propensity for, and unseemly preoccupation with, scoring a debating point or two at every turn, must be circumscribed by the most formal and correct behaviour on our part.

While it is clear that we cannot avoid Singapore altogether as it is a neighbour after all, we should lead separate lives, taking nothing from it that is not ours, and, in turn, give it nothing such as the KTM land that is not its due.

With a neighbour that has developed bad mouthing into a fine art form, its Foreign Minister has the temerity to tell us not to take their condemnation of all things Malaysian out of context. Pray, what exactly is the context, Mr Yeoh?

Now that Najib the peddler of durian diplomacy knows what his admirers across the narrow sluggish waterway really think of him, a view no doubt shared by many in his own backyard, I wonder what other great plans he has in mind to develop with Singapore. They have even implied that he is connected with a deed most foul. And what is more, he is dim witted in their estimation. I do not necessarily disagree with them on this score. Who says there is no freedom of speech in Singapore?

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Saturday, 18 December 2010 - 6:05 pm

    Thanks to Wikileaks. At last it exposed Singapore’s true colors in the latter’s dealing with its neighbors.

    With such a friend as Singapore, Malaysia does not need an enemy!

  2. #2 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 18 December 2010 - 8:18 pm

    Don’t worry We are pretty good at it at home!!!!

  3. #3 by Taxidriver on Saturday, 18 December 2010 - 10:17 pm

    Mahathir likes to bad-mouth Singapore. Now LKY is making it known what it feels like to be always at the receiving end. Tit for tat. Where is the wrong?. In fact, by discussing the Altantuuyaa murder case with foreign countries, Singapore is doing Malaysia a favour-promoting Bolehland. Now the whole world knows our PRIME MINISTER NAJEEEBB

  4. #4 by ChinNA on Saturday, 18 December 2010 - 10:33 pm

    Let us do an experiment.

    If what I have heard through my sources (these are guarded sources) about Mr Lim Kit Siang is true.It is said that he injured an innocent child, unprovoked.

    How many would believed this?

    I would not until it had been validated and evaluated. Remember, we should not assumed something to be true just because it is repeated.

    Can we assume that all of Wikileaks is totally accurate? I would not as there will be some info that are not correct. The problem is that we do not know which is correct and which is not.

    I read it that a lot of piece rests on the recent Wikileaks incident, which had still be objectively evaluated, something which is unlikely to happen.

    I respectfully disagree with Tunku’s analysis. If Malaysia had been disadvantage in anyway, it is not because Singapore lied but because Malaysia allowed it. Take this example: remember the recent case where Malaysia lost the island and among the provided supporting evidence is a ‘doctored’ picture. It is also due to preparedness of Singapore and the unpreparedness of Malaysia, that the case was won by Singapore.

    It was won by the strength of the submission and because of the attributed neighborliness of Singapore.

    Tunku mentioned that “With a neighbour that has developed bad mouthing into a fine art form, …”

    When did the Mr Yeoh bad-mouthed anyone? We must remember that Wikileaks attributed the comment to intelligence officers, not Mr Yeoh. Am I wrong or right?

    Let us also be honest and look at ourselves. Can it be said that Malaysians never badmouthed its neighbours or anyone?

    Worse still, senior national Malaysian leaders even badmouthed its own citizens (technically these people are still the citizen of Malaysia as they each have a blue IC).

    Malaysia can learn from Singapore and so can Singapore learn from Malaysia. The world is too small for members of ASEAN to be divisive. The challenges is without ASEAN, not within.

  5. #5 by ChinNA on Saturday, 18 December 2010 - 10:36 pm

    Opps typo.

    It should have been: It was won by the strength of the submission and _NOT_ because of the attributed neighborliness of Singapore.

  6. #6 by ChinNA on Saturday, 18 December 2010 - 10:42 pm

    Based on past experience with it, and in order to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness, such as being accused of bullying a small neighbour and of other unfair and malevolent behaviour, we should, as far as possible, leave Singapore to revel alone in its glorious splendour. — Tunku

    I agree that there are glorious splemdour in Singapore. Just a few days ago, a group of Malaysian friend compared the progress and environment in Singapore vs. Penang.

    Guess where everyone concluded to be the more progressive and advanced place? Penang? Singapore?

    One thing we all agree: Penang food is best. (that is because all of us are from Penang ?? ).

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 12:19 am

    No need 2 get upset cos many Malaysians also hv d same comments on NR n BN kakis

  8. #8 by HJ Angus on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 12:31 am

    My take is that many Singaporeans have a negative attitude towards Malaysia is that a large number of them are really ex-Malaysians who have moved there and now occupy various positions at all levels of government.
    As some left because of a bad experience in Malaysia’s system, you can expect unflattering comments.
    Anyway you don’t have to get leaks from Wikileaks for such comments – just visit the local coffeeshops and listen to what the folks are saying.

  9. #9 by raven77 on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 12:58 am

    It was a tiny backwater without drinking water chucked out by Tunku for being a trouble maker…then..

    They were not supposed to survive nor thrive…hence their obsession to always prove a point to Malaysia and the world….

    Thier strength is their well oiled machine to make loads of money even if it means indulging in un-Christian activities such as gambling…..

    Singapore is best left to its means and obsessions….but please dont let our KTM land go…that is dear and part of Malaysia…for this act alone Najib should be crucified…

  10. #10 by tak tahan on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 6:11 am

    The ruling elites are declining further into unethical principle and recent most obviously onto lawless kangaroos.What good compliment do we expect from singapore,need not to say from the whole world.Chia sai lah!Melayu cakap “jangan meludah ke atas langit mah”

  11. #11 by johnnypok on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 6:12 am

    Johor will be sold to Singapore for a song, after Malaysia becomes bankrupt in 2019

  12. #12 by logicalmal on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 8:47 am

    I used to think that Tunku Aziz is a rationale man until this piece of article from him. It seems to me that Tunku Aziz is not happy with Singapore and it stems from “comments by Singapore” released in Wikileaks. Maybe it is because one of the Wikileaks disclosures has an unfavourable comment on Anwar. My view is that DAP should be charting its political direction independent of Anwar as the politics Anwar is playing seems to be for a personal cause.
    There are many lessons DAP and Penang can learn from Singapore – never entertain gossips as there is no end to gossips. Relationships between two countries (or political parties) must be based on win-win approach legalised and enforceable.
    On the KTM land, I wonder how much Tunku Aziz is familiar with the legal aspects of it to opine that we should “give it nothing such as the KTM land that is not its due” ?
    It is my hope that DAP can be more rational in its politics and not be influenced by Anwar and all his politicking.

  13. #13 by tunglang on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 9:57 am

    IN the art of politics, diplomatic or war, a nation should preferably be helmed by a worthy, ‘clean’ and courageous leader who is not by any means held to ransom, hand-twisted or blackmailed into submission or concession of national interests by an enemy/challenging nation.

    Any hidden ‘black mark’ on a leader becomes a powerful bargaining chip for the other all-knowing party/nation to threaten damaging consequences for his position thus overwhelming the weakened nation in any negotiating table.

    Recent generous negotiations with our all-knowing Little Red Dot neighbour to their apparent overwhelming advantages seem to point in that direction to a vulnerable and submissive leadership in our once tough-bargainer nation.

    What future strategic concessions are we likely to give away behind closed doors? Or are we prepared to turn the tide?

  14. #14 by Cinapek on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 10:24 am

    “..How else can you explain their supercilious behaviour towards us, the Japanese and Indians, all falling into the category of “stupid?”

    They did not label us stupid. They labelled our “leaders” (aka BN) stupid.

    -Are our leaders not stupid if they are tainted by sexcapades caught on video for the world to see?

    -Are our leaders not stupid if they are tainted by suspicion of being involved in murder?

    -Are our leaders not stupid if one former PM can accuse a sitting minister of being involved in car import permits corruption?

    -Are our leaders not stupid if the cronies of a former finance minister are involved in the biggest losses of MAS ever and is now the subject of MACC investgations?

    -Are our leaders not stupid if a former minister is now charged in court over the PKFZ scandal? And another is under public suspicion of having also being involved?

    – Are our leaders not stupid if a former MB owns a house that is clearly beyond his means and now is being charged for the minor offence of land fraud?

    The list is endless. Can we blame others for our own sins and faults?

  15. #15 by k1980 on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 11:00 am

    Will the UN offer jib a lucrative retirement package in an overseas haven if he stood down as pm?

  16. #16 by sotong on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 12:32 pm

    If we are truly friends, we don’t go legal to win a small piece of KTM land!!

    We have our great and unique values and also weaknesses….we don,t want to be like the little red dot.

  17. #17 by hvpl on Sunday, 19 December 2010 - 1:45 pm

    Let’s be fair. Confidential diplomatic chatter is simply that. Opinions change as new information is received. How do we know that what was leaked is the final opinions? No dates of the cables are revealed in the many media reports.

    Thus, are the opinions current or past?

    Also, are the opinions really wrong or simply too true? So true that the persons mentioned are embarrassed and are outraged because now the world is able to read it, instead of whispers on coffee shop tables.

    If the writer is so incensed, perhaps he can offer the REAL truth. As commentators above, listed a selection of ‘stupid’ things our leaders do or say. Dispute it with facts if his assertion is false.

    I agree with Cinapek’s assertions.

  18. #18 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Monday, 20 December 2010 - 12:09 am

    /// While it is clear that we cannot avoid Singapore altogether as it is a neighbour after all, we should lead separate lives, taking nothing from it that is not ours, and, in turn, give it nothing such as the KTM land that is not its due. ///

    And it is clear that you are not clear-headed and are prejudiced. That KTM has never been Malaysia’s. It belonged to Singapore and still belongs to Singapore. It was leased by the British to KTM for 999 years for the expressed purpose of running the train service. The minute the train servcies are terminated, the land reverts to Singapore ownership.

    Get your facts right. The land is not KTM’s due nor Malaysia’s due. The fact that Singapore is willing to give Malaysia billions of dollars for nothing is worth noting.

    The alternative? Malaysia continues to bleed millions of ringgits each year in running loss making train services.

  19. #19 by monsterball on Monday, 20 December 2010 - 2:33 am

    The blunt fact is that …most Malaysian Chinese have relatives Singaporeans.
    Politics have separated it to two countries….with the agreement from Malaysian too…to have peace and harmony…and not war where innocents suffered most.
    There are plenty of Malays with relatives there too.
    I can assure you….Malaysians Chinese are smart people and are loyal to Malaysia…when relatives discuss or argue..which country is better.this and that…especially during Chinese New Year for one time a year… Reunion Dinner….and no one is offended……losers or winners…and each is loyal t their countries…for all will not spit on the food they are provided by their said countries
    Chinese are brought up to be loyal and peaceful citizens… to wherever they have migrated to….and that’s why…so many Govt. allow “China Town” built up….all over the world.
    The ONLY feelings they have dearly in their hearts is he roots of their race….China.
    But ask any one who are they….all will say….Australian First ..Chinese second…or Canadian First..Chinese second.. ..American First…Chinese second…..including Malaysian First…Chinese second.
    Ask any UMNO B ministers…what are they.
    If they say Malay first..Malaysian second…then they are the real traitors in this country…and it will be interesting to find our where is their Malay root country….which is a list of so many..and not from one at all.

  20. #20 by monsterball on Monday, 20 December 2010 - 2:43 am

    Somehow the WikiLeaks on Anwar from Lee Kuan Yew..have sparked up a blow in into bigger one or put it out with water.
    I say put it out ..ignore and Tunku Aziz will be wise…not to bring out this and that…which are not important.
    We can ague.debate..and discuss with long comments…..but where are we heading to …if we win or loose ?…no where good to vote for change…so why waste precious energy to talk unimportant issues….Tunku?

  21. #21 by Loh on Monday, 20 December 2010 - 11:26 pm

    The population in Malaya in 1953 was 2.5 million Malays, 2.5 million Chinese and 700 thousand Indians. There were one million Chinese in Singapore and maybe 200 thousand Malays and Indians. If MCA did not work with UMNO then, the British colony including Singapore would have 3.5 million Chinese, 2.7 million Malays and 750,000 Indians. An independent MalSinga would not have any official religion, and national coffers would not be spent for religious buildings. Without the excuse of being weak for a certain community, MalSinga would have been the most progressive country in Asia when the people would not be fooled by opportunists.

    Singapore has shown that without natural resources and without corruption sensible government is able to achieve what Singapore has done. MalSinga would have been more developed with the bountiful of natural resources.

    Singapore government has to be calculating and cold because she is responsible to her citizens. Malaysians leaders work only for their family. They do not have to be bothered with dealings which demands brain power and hardwork. They are too lazy and that is why racism in Malaysia is getting from strength to strength.

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