Saturday, 22 December 2007

The Japan Times Editorial

I'm honoured (and very surprised) that Malaysia (puny little country that it is) and its political situation became the topic of discussion of the mighty Japanese.

Frankly, it's very similar to what the Wall Street Journal said in response to the disastrous op-ed claimed to be written by Abdullah Badawi, but it's straight to the point.

Do check it out.

Strains in Malaysia

The arrest of leaders of an ethnic Indian rights group shines a spotlight on rising tensions in Malaysia. The government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appears unnerved by growing protests; its resort to the Internal Security Act (ISA) is a troubling sign. The focus of complaint is charges of discrimination against Indians, a minority in Malaysia. This sensitive and politically charged issue has to be addressed with subtlety and tact; mere repression will only make things worse.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in recent weeks in Malaysia. Opposition leaders first led marches demanding electoral reform. They were followed a couple of weeks later by ethnic Indians protesting government policies that institutionalize discrimination in the form of preferences for native Malays. Indians, who make up about 8 percent of the population, have long complained that they miss political, economic and education opportunities.

The government denies charges of discrimination. There are assertions that some Indian protest leaders are linked to terrorist groups. The call by one of the ethnic Indian leaders for India to halt trade with Malaysia opens the door to sedition charges. As the situation intensifies — the government used tear gas and water cannons against marchers last month — five leaders were arrested under the ISA, which allows confinement without trial for up to two years. Other demonstrators have been arrested under less draconian measures.

The ISA has not been used against political opposition since 2001. Mr. Badawi is unapologetic, saying the government must be accountable to the whole. Protest leaders are equally unyielding; they warn that the protest movement has depth and there are ample replacements for any who are locked up.

The unrest is a warning to the Malaysian government that change is a must. While preferences that benefit Malays make some political sense, the program has been exploited; corruption has become endemic and a wide swath of citizens wants accountability. Silencing critics will not solve this problem.

So even the Japanese have some semblance of democracy. For some reason I confused them with our neighbours down south, who are the only nation that could possibly rival our oppressive government (with the exception of the African governments, of course).

The Singaporean government, however, has been responsible for propelling the nation into the world's eye, something the Malaysian government could never take credit for.

1 comment:

20 Cent said...

Another nice piece, Crankshaft. Say, I've not been online for to longest time, so it's nice to see you keeping up with your blogging.

Say, in case I'm out of commission until the end of the year, please let me wish you 'Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha', 'Merry Christmas' and 'Happy New Year!'

Kudos to you and everyone else online!