Yusmadi Yusoff, a Member of Dewan Negara (Upper House) of Malaysian Parliament, commented on former diplomat Bilahari Kausikan’s statement that the current political instability amongst the members of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, as well as the coalition’s lack of success in getting support from Malays, are making relations between Malaysia and Singapore worse.
Writing in the Malay Mail on February 23, a few days after Mr Kausikan made these remarks at a public lecture at the National University of Singapore entitled ‘Singapore’s relations with Indonesia and Malaysia,’ Mr Yusmadi called them part of a “campaign against the Pakatan Harapan government.”
With a sarcastic tone, Mr Yusmadi wrote “Mr Bilahari Kausikan, in his infinite wisdom described the Pakatan Harapan government as ‘incoherent’, ‘unstable’ and ‘falling apart’. Very astute observations for a man who was once the Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry.”
Mr Yusmadi then proceeded to debunk Mr Kausikan’s arguments.
First of all, he notes that the former diplomat is speaking “without any understanding of a nation coming out of 61 years of rule by an all-powerful regime.” He says that Mr Kausikan has never experienced this kind of democratic change of government.
He then lists the problems that “New Malaysia” faces in its infancy: “Wastage and missing funds, broken systems, previous scandals being discovered almost weekly, and a civil service that has for the first time experienced a change in upper management.”
His country, he says, is finding its way through these challenges.
In his speech, Mr Kausikan said, in its efforts to obtain more support, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is making Singapore as a “bogeyman” or “whipping boy.”
“Using Singapore as a bogeyman or whipping boy to rally the Malay ground is a time-tested tactic. Dr Mahathir used it when he led Umno, he uses it now that he is head of Bersatu. This is not just a matter of personality or historical baggage,” said the former diplomat.
However, the Malaysian MP says that Malaysia is too busy with nation-building “to need or use” Singapore or any country, for that matter, as a bogeyman.
He writes, “After all, we are not the ones waging: ‘a show of might is crucial in dealings with close neighbours’ tightly bound by history, economics, culture, and kinship.”
Furthermore, Mr Kausikan had also said that the leadership of Singapore should keep on “establish(ing) red lines” in order to let Putrajaya know that if force is needed, it’s at the ready.
In answer to this, Mr Yusmadi said that they are not the ones who are talking of “red lines” or the need for force in diplomacy. He volleys back, “These are akin to cries of desperate opportunists seeking to rally consensus for war against a bogeyman.”
The Malaysian MP also calls Mr Kausikan’s analysis that Singapore’s performance is better than Malaysia’s as not only “highly irresponsible” but also “an insult” to the progress the two nations have made in finding resolutions to bilateral issues.
The point Mr Yusmadi makes is this: as ‘New Malaysia’ is still young, changing corrupt systems will take time. “After 61 years, change will not happen overnight.”
To end his answer to the Singaporean ex-diplomat, he offers Mr Kausikan a faux ‘apology’ on behalf of the ruling PH coalition for not being as accommodating as the Barisan Nacional (BN) government had been.
He then suggests to Mr Kausikan that he should perhaps refrain from weighing in on bilateral issues, to just “enjoy his retirement” as this may “have the effect of frustrating the noble efforts of both nations’ diplomatic corps.”
“We who are in active service know what is happening on the ground, and on the negotiation table. This is not the first time that Mr Kausikan has attacked Malaysia and its politics based on fake news, and an experienced diplomat such as himself should know the diplomatic repercussions of making brash and irresponsible statements based on misinformation from questionable sources.
As both nation’s leaders have said time and again, Malaysia and Singapore are like twins. There will always be issues, there will always be competition. But there will also always be dialogue, rule of law, and peace. And this will bring quicker progress to both nations.
Both nations have a lot we can learn from each other. Arrogance and fear-mongering are not the ASEAN way.”
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