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Playright criticizes K. Shanmugam for biasedly interpreting Mahathir’s poem: “What really is the point of riling up Singaporeans in this way?”

"And I also don’t think Shanmugam is being fair by taking out two lines from Mahathir’s poem to suggest that Mahathir thinks that Singapore’s Malay character is lost, probably due to the minority status of the Malays," said Alfian Sa’at

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K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, took to social media interpreting two lines of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s poem where he reveals the name of his new political party.

In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam wrote: “Two lines in the poem are interesting:

“Lihat Melayu negara jiran.

Melayu lagikah negara mereka?”

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Meaning:

“Look at the Malays of the neighbouring country.

Is their country still Malay?””

And he added, “Wonder which country Dr Mahathir is referring to”.

Local writer, poet and playwright Alfian Sa’at jumped in on his own Facebook page and wrote: “I am always on alert when politicians start quoting extracts from a poem, so I looked at the original work. In the interest of a proper discussion I have translated it”.

Putting things into context, he added: “To answer Shanmugam’s question, the country that Mahathir is referring to is Singapore. There can be no doubt about it. However, it is clear when we read the whole work that what is being referred to here is the history of *Singapore being sold to the East India Company*”.

Mr Sa’at gave some background information on the historical events that took place and noted: “I don’t think Mahathir is being fair in using Sultan Hussein as an example of Malays being seduced by money.

And I also don’t think Shanmugam is being fair by taking out two lines from Mahathir’s poem to suggest that Mahathir thinks that Singapore’s Malay character is lost, probably due to the minority status of the Malays. Singapore stopped being a Malay country in 1824, when its sovereignty under the Malay Johor-Riau-Lingga empire was transferred to the EIC. This has nothing to do with a Chinese majority and everything to do with colonialism”.

Referring to the situation as “putting words together to suggest something more nefarious than it is”, Mr Sa’at clarified that Dr Mahathir meant “Fighting against corruption and kleptocracy. Not against Singapore. What really is the point of riling up Singaporeans in this way?”

“One gets an F for literature, and another gets an F for history”, he concluded.

Dr Mahathir, 95, announced the formation of a new political party last week but did not reveal a name.

The new party – which will be led by his son Mukhriz Mahathir as president and himself as chairman – is not aligned with either Pakatan Harapan (PH) or Perikatan Nasional (PN). /TISG

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