A nine-year-old speech by Malaysia’s new Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, in which he slammed Singapore as “Kiasuland”, has been going viral on social media here.
Contrary to speculation that the AG’s remarks comparing constitutional law between Singapore and Malaysia is recent, the AG’s sharp criticism was actually made on 9 Dec 2009 at a public forum in Petaling Jaya. The speech was actually made months after the Perak constitutional crisis, during which Perak’s one-year-old Pakatan Rakyat state government toppled.
Asserting that Malaysia was fortunate to be a member of the Commonwealth nations – since this means it could refer any constitutional disputes with fellow countries who share similar legal systems that originated from the “intellectual home” of Britain – the 66-year-old cited several examples of nations that he considers to have “constitutional courts of respect”.
Making the point that the then-opposition would have won its case had their legal challenge been heard in India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, Thomas then took a jibe at Singapore:
“Here I must say…the one place that Malaysian constitution lawyers never looked to is Singapore. Singapore doesn’t have a constitution, does not have a constitution court, does not have judges, does not have lawyers.
“I cannot read this speech in Singapore. So whenever we criticise Malaysia, we must say we are hundred times better than Kiasuland.”
According to Free Malaysia Today news, “kiasuland” is a derogatory term used by Malaysians to describe Singapore.
Several Singaporeans have been newly sharing Thomas’ remarks on social media, since he was named as Malaysia Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s pick as Attorney-General. Thomas was confirmed as AG by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong yesterday, following a short delay that gave rise to rumours that his appointment failed to achieve royal consent.
Curiously, some Singaporeans sharing Thomas’ remarks said that the AG is not to be blamed for making such a statement. Local human rights activist Jolovan Wham is one such voice who said that Malaysia’s judges were “more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implications.”
He added on Twitter: “Singapore’s AGC should initiate proceedings against Malaysia’s new AG for scandalising our judiciary, if it wants to prosecute me for criticising our judges.”
Wham, himself, made a similar statement to that of Thomas in a recent Facebook post. He was prosecuted for the statement and the Attorney-General’s Chambers here initiated contempt of court proceedings against Wham over the statement last month.
Another Singaporean, Sukhdev Singh Gill, also felt that Thomas was justified in making such a statement.
While noting that “many proud, loyal and patriotic Singaporeans would never be able to stomach such hard words against our beloved nation,” he added on Facebook, “The speaker, Mr Tommy Thomas should not be blamed as he made such a comparison of Singapore (even Zimbabwe) with England, India, Canada, Australia (even NZ), EC @ Strausbourg and South Africa, because frankly we cannot be compared to those countries mentioned.”