Sunday, May 20, 2007

When diplomat speaks like politician

By: A Kadir Jasin

I lOVE this man. He’s a hardworking diplomat. He can read human’s heart. He speaks highly of the country where he is based. And he sounds like a politician.

Though most of his statements are made in the Malaysian territory – Johor Baharu to be exact -- he was always full of praises for Singapore, the country where he’s based.

In his latest – quoted by Bernama – he described as baseless allegations that the formation of a joint Malaysia-Singapore (Ministerial) Committee to oversee the cooperation in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) would affect Malaysia's sovereignty.

I am talking about Malaysia’s envoy to Singapore Datuk N. Parameswaran. I know he’s a nice man. He’s even honest about what he’s saying and earnest about wanting to make IDR a success. I thank him for all that.

But he’s a career diplomat. He’s not a politician-turned-diplomat. As such his statements sound too political to my liking.

Or is he sounding like one because our politicians, especially those representing Umno, are not saying enough to comfort us that we are not selling out to Singapore?

Parameswaran said Singapore was not interested in meddling with Malaysia's internal affairs, more so dictating on how to manage the IDR, adding that the committee would only cooperate on technical matters.

"Singapore hasn't expressed any intention to give ideas on the IDR. But we're ready to share our expertise, for example, in river clean-up with Malaysia," he said. [This a direct quote from Bernama.]

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the formation of the committee after holding an informal meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, in Langkawi on Tuesday.

"If there're those who have that kind of thinking, it means that they don't know the truth. There's no reason why the committee should get involved in Malaysia's affairs. And they (the committee) don't intend to do that," Parameswaran told reporters after accompanying members of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce on a visit to the IDR.

In all fairness and openness, I must admit that I am one of those Malaysians who “don’t know the truth” and I harbour some measure of suspicion that Singapore is indeed meddling in Malaysia’s affairs.

I am saying this not because I hate Singapore. As I have said many times before, I even enjoyed my occasional visits to the island. I am saying this now because I believe in what our government has been telling us.

Dear Mr High Commissioner, did our government, our Prime Minister and our Cabinet not tell us that we could not proceed with the construction of the crooked bridge in our territory because Singapore objected to it?

If that’s not meddling, than what is it? Don’t tell me that it’s about the water mains, about the telephone cables and the way leave agreement?

If we can open our hearts and our territories to Singapore to site its reservoirs, to buy our raw water dirt cheap and now we are offering them a piece of prime real estate, why can’t they be more magnanimous towards us?

That, Mr High Commissioner, is because we a suckers for kind words, for friendly back patting and for praises. Singapore, from the diplomatic standpoint, is good at all that.

I have met and chatted with Singapore leaders. I even interviewed some of them including the Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, exclusively for the NSTP Group when he was Prime Minister. Yes, Mr Lee can be extremely charming if he wants to.

When my successor, Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad aka Kok Lanas, and his team of editors interviewed LKY 10 years later, Lee’s first statement was to recall the interview he had with me. That’s his way of dancing into your heart or putting you down.

So Mr High Commissioner, it would be wise, when dealing with Singapore, to temper our enthusiasm and our sense of trust a tiny weenie bit.

How sure can you be that Singapore will not use this open invitation to open another front to “impose” its will on the friendly, unsuspected Malaysians?

Anybody who is remotely familiar with the modern history of Singapore -- one that is lorded over by LKY as its supreme leader -- knows that Singapore survives and thrives by opening and closing fronts.

Mr High Commissioner, I don’t blame you for speaking favourably of Singapore. You’re based there and, as a diplomat, you don’t say nasty things about your host country.

Anyway, if I, in any way, offend you or misread you, feel free to respond. I still practice the right of reply. My plea to you, don’t use your vast influence to add to the chorus calling for the punishment and banishment of troublesome bloggers like me.

We are living in Malaysia where, despite our many races, religions, economic classes and myriad of problems, are much freer than in Singapore.

Just a thought Mr High Commissioner, we have 30 ministers. If they can’t help the PM to develop IDR, do you sincerely believe that one Singapore minister can?

Unless, of course, the Singapore minister is so good and so sincere that he could single-handedly bring droves of Singapore investors to buy up this prime corner of the old empire of Johor.

Unfortunately Mr High Commissioner, you didn’t sound so convincing when asked about the jambatan bengkok. You said: “Let both prime ministers talk to each other. And when they're more confident, they can discuss the difficult issues."

There we go again. No big “yes” from Singapore, no crooked bridge on our side of the land. And you say Singapore is not meddling?

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, speaking to the Press in Kuala Lumpur, said that there were no specific negotiations on outstanding bilateral issues at the Langkawi meeting.

I rest my case. Jakarta is waking up. And I have to make sense of blogging to a group of traditional media marketing people who are assembled here under the banner of the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) Malaysia.

Reproduced from

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