Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Singapore is not an island

Malaysia is undergoing a systemic change that has profound consequences for Singapore
By Bilahari Kausikan, Published The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2015

What do most Singaporeans make of recent events in Malaysia? Bersih. Pesaka. 1MDB. A deputy prime minister sacked. Protests and counter-protests.

Are we so inured to commotions across the Causeway that they seem no more than the faint tolling of distant bells, evoking only bemusement and schadenfreude? Our system works, so shrug and tend our own garden.

If this is the attitude, it is mistaken. We are indeed different. But I believe Malaysia may be on the cusp of a systemic change that could have profound implications for us.

Since 1957, first Malaya then Malaysia, was premised on a political and social compact that had Malay dominance as its cardinal principle. So long as this was not challenged, other races could have their own space. In political terms, this compact was reflected in a system structured around an alliance of race-based political parties with the dominant Malay party - United Malays National Organisation or Umno - at its centre.

The Chinese were represented by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), later joined by Gerakan; the Indians by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). Two opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS ), were in principle multiracial, but in practice largely Chinese and Malay and in any case were peripheral.

It was our refusal to accept the system's cardinal principle that led to Separation from Malaysia in 1965. But it was a system that had its own coherence and until relatively recently, it did not serve Malaysia badly. And despite the complexities of bilateral relations and occasional periods of tension, over the last 50 years, it was a system we learnt to work with, while going our own way.

That familiar system is now under immense stress. It is not certain that it can hold together.

PRESSURE POINT

The pressure point is religion. Arab influences from the Middle East have for several decades steadily eroded the Malay variant of Islam in which adat or traditional practices coexisted with the Quran in a syncretic, tolerant synthesis, replacing it with a more austere and exclusive interpretation of Islam. This is one aspect of a broader process of globalisation which is a sociocultural and not just an economic phenomenon. It has changed the texture of Malaysian society, I think irreversibly.

It is impossible for any country to insulate itself from globalisation. Religion in Singapore is not immune from globalisation's consequences, and not just in our Muslim community. Evangelical Christianity is one example. But Singapore is organised on the principle of multiracial meritocracy. So long as this is accepted by all races and religions as the foundation of our identity, the most corrosive political effects are mitigated. In the Singapore system, God - every God - and Caesar are separate and so all Gods must perforce co-exist, with the state playing the role of neutral arbiter.

Not so in Malaysia.

The cardinal principle of Malay dominance is enshrined in the Constitution, which also places Islam as the first component in the definition of a Malay. This makes the mixture of religion and politics well-nigh inevitable. Umno politicians have been unable to resist the temptation to use religion for electoral advantage. They are responding to the logic of the system as it has evolved.

In 2001, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad made a fundamental political error when he tried to undercut PAS by declaring that Malaysia was already an Islamic state. A constitutional controversy ensued. But the most damaging consequences were political not legal. Tun Dr Mahathir's incautious declaration gave a sharper political focus to the changes in the interpretation of Islam that were under way and catalysed a competitive dynamic in which those inclined to religious moderation were inevitably outbid and overwhelmed.

The result has been an increasingly pronounced emphasis on religion in Umno's political identity and a significant and continuing narrowing of the political and social space for non-Muslims.

Surveys show that Malaysian Malays privilege Islamic credentials over other qualities they look for in their leaders. A Merdeka Centre survey this year revealed that 60 per cent of Malaysian Malays polled identified themselves as Muslims first rather than Malaysians or even Malays. Demography accentuates the political impact of these attitudes. In 1957 the Chinese constituted 45 per cent of Malaya (West Malaysia). In 2010, they constituted only 24.6 per cent of Malaysia including East Malaysia. Malay fertility rates are significantly higher than both Chinese and Indians.

In the 2013 Malaysian General Election, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition got only 13 per cent of the Chinese vote. Two days after the election, Utusan Malaysia, an Umno mouthpiece, pointedly asked "Apa Lagi Cina Mau?" (What more do the Chinese want?)

The question was provocatively phrased, but not entirely unreasonable. Prime Minister Najib Razak tried hard to win back Chinese votes but got almost nothing for his efforts. MCA won only seven seats. Gerakan was wiped out.

The DAP won 38 seats, the largest number in the opposition coalition.

A NEW SYSTEM IN THE MAKING?

The Chinese parties in BN had clearly lost the trust of Chinese voters. Can MCA win back Chinese votes? Doubtful. MCA is obviously powerless to stem the narrowing political and social space for non-Muslims; the fecklessness of its leaders exposed by constant scandals and internal bickering.

In 2013, BN lost the popular vote but retained its parliamentary majority because of the 47 seats it won in East Malaysia. Native East Malaysians are not ethnically Malay but are classified as bumiputera. Some in Umno began to question whether it was really necessary to work with the Chinese at all. The declining numbers of Chinese in the Malaysian population will sooner or later make them electorally irrelevant to Umno and BN had already retained power without their votes.

Nor can the opposition coalition of the DAP, PAS and Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat - Pakatan Rakyat (PR) - form a new multiracial system. PR was always a motley crew. Although its component parties are in theory multiracial, they have nothing in common except the ambition to displace BN. Only Anwar's charismatic personality and political skills held them uneasily together.

Anwar is now in jail and PR has fallen apart. PAS has left. Without Anwar, Keadilan's future is bleak. The DAP is subject to the demo- graphic constraints of a falling Chinese population and is unlikely to make substantial electoral advances beyond its present strength, although it will probably retain what it now holds. PR's successor - Pakatan Harapan - a coalition of the DAP, Keadilan and a minor breakaway faction from PAS, is a forlorn hope (pun intended).

PAS has purged its moderate leadership and is now led by the ulama. Umno is increasingly relying on religion to legitimise itself. Umno and PAS may eventually form some sort of de facto if not de jure alliance that could be the core of a new ruling system. There may be token ornaments of other races, but the Malaysian system will then comprise an overwhelmingly dominant Malay government with a DAP-led Chinese opposition. This will be potentially explosive.

I do not know if such a system will really replace the current system, but it certainly seems possible, even probable. It will not happen overnight. But the controversy over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) could well hasten its emergence. The recent demonstrations seem to foreshadow such a development.

STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN UMNO

The anti-government Bersih demonstrations held in late August this year were, despite a sprinkling of other races, predominantly Chinese affairs. PAS, which had joined previous Bersih demonstrations, stayed away. The organisers claimed the demonstrations were apolitical, but the DAP with Keadilan clearly played significant roles.

Last month, a pro-government counter-demonstration was organised by Pesaka - a right-wing Malay group ostensibly devoted to silat, the Malay martial art. The demonstration was almost entirely Malay, positioned as defending Malay rights and marked by fierce racial rhetoric. Before the demonstration, posters were displayed, captioned "Cina turun Bersih, sedialah bermandi darah" (Chinese who attend Bersih, be ready to be bathed in blood) which depicted a Bersih supporter being slashed with a parang. A flier with a similar slogan was found at DAP headquarters.

Umno denied organising the demonstration. Datuk Seri Najib did not attend but said he had no objections to Umno members doing so. The president of Pesaka is an Umno leader. Another Umno politician, who was one of the driving forces of the Pesaka demonstration, proudly admitted he was racist because it was under the Constitution.

Thankfully, violence at these demonstrations was avoided by the strong police presence. But the demonstrations certainly raised the temperature of an already racially fraught atmosphere.

Although the authorities denied it, the affray that broke out in July at Low Yat Plaza, a mainly Chinese shopping area in Kuala Lumpur, after a Malay youth was accused of stealing a mobile phone, was certainly racial. It exposed the tinderbox Malaysia had become.

Shortly after news broke about US$700 million (S$1 billion) believed to be from 1MBD being traced to what was alleged to be Mr Najib's personal account, a Putrajaya spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has not taken any funds for personal use."

Umno has always operated through a system of patronage. If this is what the spokesman was hinting at, then Dr Mahathir's accusations against Mr Najib ring hollow. Did he not preside over the same system and for far longer than any other Malaysian prime minister?

This system also means that Mr Najib is in no imminent danger of being forced from office so long as he holds the majority of Umno divisions and retains Malay support. Frustration may account for Dr Mahathir's attendance at the Bersih demonstration which I do not think has raised the good doctor's standing with the Malay ground.

The 1MDB scandal is less about corruption than about a struggle for power within Umno.

Dr Mahathir seems to have expected to exercise remote control even though he was no longer prime minister. Among his grievances with his successors were their warming of ties with Singapore, Mr Najib's decision to settle the railway land issue, cooperation on Iskandar Malaysia (IM) and the refusal of both Tun Abdullah Badawi and Mr Najib to proceed with his pet white elephant: the "crooked bridge". Dr Mahathir wants to replace Mr Najib with someone more pliable.

The intra-Umno power struggle is not over. Mr Najib retains his office but has been politically damaged. Dr Mahathir's reputation may have been dented, but he still has a following within Umno and the Malay public.

Mr Najib cannot allow himself to be outflanked on the right. Two days after the September demonstration, he attended a Pesaka gathering. He praised Pesaka members as being "willing to die" for the government and said "Malay people can also show that we are still able to rise when our dignity is challenged, when our leaders are insulted, criticised, shamed", adding, "We respect other races. But don't forget: Malays also have their feelings. Malays also have their limits."

WHAT NEXT?

A former minister, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, has said that "if Najib succeeds in uniting Umno and PAS, then I am confident the Malays will forgive his grave mistakes", adding that "after fulfilling this large and sincere task" he should step down and hand power to former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

I do not know if Mr Najib feels he has committed "grave mistakes". But he certainly will not hand over power to a man he unceremoniously sacked. Still, Mr Zainuddin is probably not wrong about anyone who brings Umno and PAS together becoming a Malay hero. It may not be Mr Najib, but the trajectory of political developments in Malaysia already seems to point in that direction.

Malaysia and Singapore are each other's second-largest trading partner. Malaysia is Singapore's sixth-largest investment destination and we are the top investor in IM. Every day tens of thousands of Malaysians commute across the Causeway to work in Singapore. It is in our interest to see Malaysia stable with a healthy economy.

Mr Najib understands that Malaysia and Singapore need each other. So far and unusually we have not figured very much in the controversies. Dr Mahathir did trot out his tired line about Singapore Malays being marginalised. But it did not catch fire. Did the government dampen the spark? No way of knowing for sure but if it did, it is one more black mark against Mr Najib in the old man's book.

We, of course, have no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia. But some systems will be easier to work with than others. And the current heightened state of racial tensions suggests that we should not assume that the transition from one system to another will necessarily be peaceful.

It is my impression that many young Malaysian Chinese have forgotten the lessons of May 13, 1969. They naively believe that the system built around the principle of Malay dominance can be changed. That may be why they abandoned MCA for the DAP. They are delusional. Malay dominance will be defended by any means.

Any new system will still be built around this principle, and if it has some form of Umno-PAS collaboration at its centre, enforcement of this principle will be even more rigorous with even less space for non-Muslims.

The respected Malay poet and writer Pak Samad recently warned "the way race issues are played up… it is not impossible that things will peak into a state of emergency".

Pak Samad is a member of the DAP and he was appealing to the government to take a more equitable attitude towards all races. But his views and those of some idealistic young urban Malays are exceptional and, during an intra-Umno power struggle when the banner of Malay dominance is raised particularly high, utterly irrelevant.

Singaporeans should also note that no country's domestic politics exists in a geopolitical vacuum.

CHINESE AMBASSADOR'S REMARKS

In the midst of these unfolding developments, China's ambassador to Malaysia made his way to Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown. Close to where only a few days previously the police had to use water cannons to disperse a potentially violent anti-Chinese Pesaka-led demonstration, the ambassador read out a statement that among other things pronounced the Chinese government's opposition to terrorism, any form of racial discrimination and extremism, adding for good measure that it would be a shame if the peace of Petaling Street was disrupted by the ill-intentioned and that Beijing would not stand idly by if anything threatened the interests of its citizens and Malaysia-China relations.

Under other circumstances these sentiments would perhaps have passed notice. But the timing and context laid the ambassador's words and actions open to disquieting interpretations.

Was it just bad judgment? What was he trying to do? If the ambassador was trying to help the Malaysian Chinese, then he failed miserably. He probably made things worse for them by confirming the worst suspicions of the Malay right wing.

But were the interests of Malaysian Chinese even a consideration? Was the intention to highlight a rising China's clout? The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the ambassador's visit to Petaling Street as "normal" and emphasised China's adherence to the principle of non-interference. But this was of course what she would have said irrespective of China's intentions.

More telling perhaps was the apparent confusion over whether or not the Chinese ambassador should be summoned to explain himself. This should have been obvious. A retired Malaysian diplomat who used to deal with China pointed out the dangerous precedent that would be set if no action was taken. But different Malaysian ministers contradicted each other, with a clearly frustrated Foreign Minister Anifah Aman finally telling them all to leave it to Wisma Putra.

Was this the consequence of China's influence? Possibly. In the end, some sort of meeting with Wisma Putra seems to have occurred. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi subsequently announced that the Malaysian Cabinet decided to "call in" the Chinese ambassador (he was careful to make clear the ambassador was not being "summoned").

LESSON FOR SINGAPORE

We cannot solve other people's problems. Malaysians must work out their own destiny and we will have to live with their choices.

Are we completely immune to contagion from Malaysia? After 50 years, does our collective Singapore identity now trump racial identities? Maybe under some circumstances. Optimistically, perhaps even most circumstances. But under all circumstances?

I doubt it. Let us wish Malaysia well and hope that the worst does not occur.

But it would be prudent to take no chances and prepare ourselves as if it might. The first step is for all Singaporeans to understand what is happening in our neighbourhood and realistically appreciate our own circumstances.

Deterrence and diplomacy are necessary to reduce the temptation that some in Malaysia may have to externalise their problems and minimise the bilateral friction that will sometimes be unavoidable. Strong deterrence and agile diplomacy must be underpinned by national cohesion which in turn rests on a foundation of common understandings.

Of late it seems to have become fashionable for some sections of our intelligentsia to downplay or even dismiss our vulnerabilities. Some political parties tried variants of this line during our recent General Election. Are they blind and deaf to what is happening around us? Is their desire for notoriety or political advantage so overwhelming as to make them indifferent to the consequences? Malaysia is not the only concern. The haze is a daily reminder that all is not well down south too.

This is not the most salubrious of neighbourhoods.

The writer, a former permanent secretary for foreign affairs, is now ambassador-at-large.





2 DAP MPs hit out at Singapore article
Ambassador slammed for framing Malaysian people's struggle in racial, political contexts
The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2015

KUALA LUMPUR • Two Malaysian opposition politicians have hit out at Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan for an opinion piece published in The Straits Times on Tuesday, in which he argued that Malaysia is undergoing systemic change and Singaporeans should take note of the developments across the Causeway.

Mr Tony Pua, Democratic Action Party (DAP) national publicity secretary and Petaling Jaya Utara MP, slammed Mr Kausikan for his "unapologetically selfish and arrogant views" that he said only cemented the perception of Singapore as the "contemptible Shylock of South-east Asia".

In his article titled Singapore Is Not An Island, Mr Kausikan referred to the recent demonstrations by anti-government and pro-government groups, saying they "raised the temperature of an already racially fraught atmosphere". He described the anti-government Bersih rallies in late August as "predominantly Chinese affairs".

Mr Tony Pua and Dr Ong Kian Ming, members of Malaysian opposition Democratic Action Party, have hit out at Singapore's...
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, October 8, 2015

In a statement, Mr Pua dismissed Mr Kausikan's contention, saying he failed to recognise that the anti-establishment sentiment and the Bersih rallies were not about race.

He said: "Those who attended the rally did not see themselves present to represent their ethnic roots. They took part in the rally because they aspire for a better country defined... by the principles of justice, good governance and democratic ideals.

"They were angry, frustrated and galvanised to act in the light of the tens of billions of ringgit embezzled and misappropriated by 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad), as well as the obscene RM2.6 billion (S$869 million) donation deposited into the Prime Minister's personal bank account."

Mr Pua also criticised Mr Kausikan for saying the financial scandal involving debt-ridden state fund 1MDB was "less about corruption than about a struggle for power within Umno". "Instead of seeing the uproar against 1MDB as a courageous fight against corruption, Bilahari chose to frame the 1MDB scandal as a political fight by juxtaposing (PM) Najib Razak and (former premier) Dr Mahathir Mohamad," he said.

Mr Pua said Mr Kausikan had also failed to distinguish Malay "dominance" which, according to the DAP lawmaker, is significantly different from Malay "supremacy" contested by most opposition voices. He said the ambassador's views demonstrate how Singapore as a country lacked a moral compass.

"It is less important for him to support 'what is right and just', as opposed to 'what is in it for me' in Singapore's relations with its neighbours, regardless of how evil or corrupt a regime is," Mr Pua said.

The other MP, Dr Ong Kian Ming, said the ambassador was mistaken in interpreting the current political struggle in Malaysia as one that pitted Muslims against non-Muslims and Malays against the non-Malays, specifically the Chinese.

"I was surprised by his choice to interpret the political events in Malaysia through a narrow lens, especially given his diplomatic experience. He should examine the political forces in Malaysia as part of a larger global trend where regimes that were once seen as impregnable were brought down through peaceful electoral routes. And it is this route which the opposition forces in Malaysia are committed to," Dr Ong said.

The Serdang MP added that the opposition wants to build a broad-based coalition.

Mr Kausikan yesterday responded to the MPs' comments.

He said: "I can understand their hopes, but hopes are not reality. The emotions on display prove my point and serve as a useful reminder to Singaporeans that the social cohesion that we currently enjoy is not to be taken for granted. I wish all the peoples of Malaysia well, but my concern is Singapore."






Bersih 4 about corruption, not race
The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2015

Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan's commentary 'Singapore is not an island', published on Tuesday, has drawn responses from across the Causeway. The piece discussed the systemic change Malaysia is on the cusp of and the possibility of an overwhelmingly Malay-dominant government and a Chinese opposition led by the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and the consequences for Singapore. Below are excerpts of two Malaysian opposition lawmakers' statements on the commentary and Mr Kausikan's brief response.



MALAY VOTES VITAL FOR MAJORITY WIN
ONG KIAN MING
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY
MP FOR SERDANG

In his op-ed titled "Singapore is not an island", Bilahari Kausikan, Singapore's Ambassador-at-large and S R Nathan fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was quick to interpret the current political struggle in Malaysia as one that pitted the Muslims against the non-Muslims and the Malays against the non-Malays, specifically the Chinese.

I was surprised by his choice to interpret the political events in Malaysia through this narrow lens, especially given his diplomatic experience, rather than to examine the political forces in Malaysia as part of a larger global trend, where regimes that were once seen as impregnable were brought down through a peaceful electoral route. And it is this route which the opposition forces in Malaysia are committed to.

Malaysia's Barisan Nasional coalition is currently the longest- ruling government via popular elections in contemporary political history. But it is not the longest. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, ruled Mexico unchallenged from 1929 to 2000 with regular elections. But in the 2000 presidential elections, the PRI candidate, Francisco Labastida Ochoa, lost to PAN's Vicente Fox Quesada, a former Coca-Cola executive and governor of Guanajuato, in a three-horse race.

In 2000, the uninterrupted rule of the Kuomintang party in Taiwan was also ended with the victory of the Democratic Progressive Party's Chen Shui-bian, also in a three-horse race.

More recently, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, which had dominated post-war politics in Japan for more than half a century, lost the 2009 general election to the Democratic Party of Japan.

What did these regimes have in common? Many years of political dominance had led to ever- increasing amounts of unchecked corruption. Inter-elite splits within the ruling coalition had slowly weakened them over time. And the opposition had consolidated and/or strengthened over time in order to pool their forces to defeat the long-ruling regime.

This is the context in which Malaysia is finding itself today. Given Malaysia's electoral system, that is, a parliamentary rather than a presidential system, the opposition cannot count on winning power via elite splits in a presidential race. Furthermore, in a grossly malapportioned electoral system, the only way in which the opposition can win a majority of seats is by winning at least some of the semi-urban and rural seats on top of the urban seats it overwhelmingly won in the 2013 general election. And given that these semi-urban and rural seats are predominantly Malay or Bumiputera (in Sabah and Sarawak), this would mean that the opposition would have to win a larger percentage of the Malay and Bumiputera vote. No one in the opposition is deluded in thinking that we can win a majority of seats just by winning an overwhelming majority of non-Malay, and especially Chinese, votes. Nor are we deluding our supporters into thinking this.

Indeed, Ambassador Kausikan should be reminded that 40 Bumiputera (39 Malays and one Kadazan) opposition Members of Parliament were voted into office in the 2013 general election, compared with just 32 Malay MPs in the 1999 general election, which saw PAS emerging as the largest opposition party.

What we want to do, in fact, what we have to do, is to build a broad-based coalition which can win at last 60 per cent of the popular vote (which would mean winning a significant percentage of the Malay and Bumiputera vote). We can do this not just by highlighting the excesses in terms of corruption and abuse of power by the ruling coalition, the rise in the cost of living due to the ham-fisted implementation of the goods and services tax and the pathetic attempt by the ruling coalition to raise inter-ethnic tensions, but also by presenting a set of clear policy alternatives on how a new opposition coalition can govern better, compared with the ruling regime.

Ambassador Kausikan is right to say that Singapore has "no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia". But one cannot help but wonder if his fears about a possible transition in power in Malaysia, especially one that is peaceful and well-ordered, is driven more by his fears of such a possibility in Singapore in the distant but foreseeable future than by his concern of what might happen in Malaysia.




IT IS ABOUT JUSTICE, GOOD GOVERNANCE
TONY PUA
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY
MP FOR PETALING JAYA UTARA

Singapore Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan wrote in his analytical piece, referring to the overwhelming anti-establishment sentiment of the Chinese community and the turnout at the recent Bersih 4 rally, that:

"It is my impression that many young Malaysian Chinese have forgotten the lessons of May 13, 1969. They naively believe that the system built around the principle of Malay dominance can be changed. That may be why they abandoned Malaysian Chinese Association for the DAP. They are delusional. Malay dominance will be defended by any means."

In fact, he even warned that the likely outcome of the above will be "even less space for non-Muslims".

The top Singapore diplomat could not have got it more wrong.

Firstly, Bilahari needs to distinguish the principle of Malay "dominance", which is significantly different from Malay "supremacy" contested by most opposition voices. No one denies that Malays will dominate the sphere of politics and economy in Malaysia. They will generally dominate purely because they comprise the majority in the country.

Perhaps Bilahari can understand the distinction better in the context of Singapore, where the Chinese indisputably dominate the political, economic and social space. However, that does not translate into a Chinese-supremacist city state.

And perhaps Bilahari has overlooked that fact that even the DAP, whose leaders are undeniably comprised of a Chinese majority, fully support Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister candidate for Malaysia.

As far as we can tell, Anwar is and has always been a Malay and a Muslim.

Ah well! What else is the DAP going to say? He is writing for his ground. If calling me and Singapore names makes him feel better, I fully understand. But it is not going to change reality.
Posted by Bilahari Khpsk on Friday, October 9, 2015

Secondly and more crucially, Bilahari failed to recognise that the anti-establishment sentiment and the recent Bersih4 rally aren't at all about race.

No one went to the mega-rally holding placards or shouting slogans making racial demands. Those who attended the rally certainly did not see themselves present to represent their ethnic roots.

They took part in the rally because they aspire for a better country defined not by race or religion, but by the principles of justice, good governance and democratic ideals.

They were angry, frustrated and galvanised to act in the light of the tens of billions of ringgit embezzled and misappropriated by 1MDB, as well as the obscene RM2.6 billion (S$870 million) donation deposited into the prime minister's personal bank account.

Instead of seeing the uproar against 1MDB as a courageous fight against corruption, Bilahari chose to frame the 1MDB scandal as a political fight by juxtaposing Najib Razak and (former PM) Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He argued that:

"The 1MDB scandal is less about corruption than about a struggle for power within Umno. Dr Mahathir seems to have expected to exercise remote control even though he was no longer prime minister. Among his grievances with his successors were their warming of ties with Singapore, Najib's decision to settle the railway land issue, cooperation on Iskandar Malaysia (IM) and the refusal of both Abdullah Badawi and Najib to proceed with his pet white elephant - the 'crooked bridge'. Dr Mahathir wants to replace Najib with someone more pliable.

"Najib understands that Malaysia and Singapore need each other. So far and unusually, we have not figured very much in the controversies."

It is clear from the above that Bilahari wanted to persuade Singaporeans that despite the disgraceful multi-billion-ringgit corruption scandal Najib is entangled in and his less-than-legitimate election to office with funds sourced from dubious unknown sources, it is better the devil you can cut deals with.

While Singaporeans "have no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia", he emphasised that "some systems will be easier to work with than others".

Clearly, as the ambassador-at- large, Bilahari's views demonstrate how Singapore as a country, despite its enormous wealth and developed nation status, completely lacks a moral compass.

It is less important for him to support "what is right and just" as opposed to "what is in it for me" in Singapore's relations with its neighbours, regardless of how evil or corrupt a regime is.




RESPONSE TO DAP MPS' STATEMENTS
BILAHARI KAUSIKAN

I can understand their hopes, but hopes are not reality.

The emotions on display prove my point and serve as a useful reminder to Singaporeans that the social cohesion that we currently enjoy is not to be taken for granted. I wish all the peoples of Malaysia well, but my concern is Singapore.


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