Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Trading Insults

And so the saga continues.

About a week ago in The Age, a columnist in the Business section, Michael Backman, criticised the Malaysian government for its wasteful spending and lack of accountability.

It was phenomenal. The column became the most emailed item on The Age's website for six days straight and it was replicated in dozens of blogs worldwide. Including that of yours truly, of course. :)

Eventually someone in the infamous Malaysian government got to hear about it.

And so, Mr Backman received an 'unperturbed' response from Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz.

Says she: "What do we care? Obviously, this person doesn't know Malaysia."

Umm. I hate to break it to you, Rafidah, but he's been getting much more feedback about Malaysia from Malaysians than you probably have or ever will.

"I don't really care about what others say – as long as it is not a Malaysian saying it."

Actually Ms Minister, I think about 600 Malaysians just spoke for themselves, judging by the staggering number of emails they sent him. It's just that YOU didn't hear them say it.

If you cared more about what a critic like Backman (who has spent most of his adult life analysing and writing about Asia) said, you wouldn't be in this humiliating position.

Oh, and by the way, someone who calls himself 'Barau' - along with his bunch of friends apparently agree with Backman. Barau and his posse are not alone in their opinions.

Though it appears Backman may have actually started a stampede to immigration.

Davina says, "yea, if we're going to be treated like second class citizens in our own land of birth we might as well go elsewhere and be given better civil liberties EVEN as second class citizens of our new countries."

If the Malaysian government does not represent the people, it is worthless and redundant - simply a white elephant waiting its time out.

Its ridiculous spending habits are legendary - from sending a Malaysian into space, to building the longest undersea cable in the world. It, collectively, has NO clue.

Where would the money be better spent?

Says Backman:

Education is the obvious answer. But not on school buildings, for it matters less in what children are educated than how. And how children are educated in Malaysia is a national disaster.

Learning is largely by rote. In an email to me last week, one Malaysian recalled her schooling as being in a system all about spoon-feeding, memory work and regurgitation.

Students are not encouraged to think for themselves and they become adults who swallow everything they're told.

Which is basically why very few Malaysians question their leaders, criticise their government or start riots.

Those who do think contribute to blogs. :)

But does the Malaysian Government want creative, critical thinkers? Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said to the ruling party's recent general assembly Malaysia needed to make students creative. But that means they must be questioning and thus critical; what hope is there of that when one of Abdullah's own ministers tells Malaysians that they cannot say the things that I can and hundreds of them write to me to complain because they don't feel that they can complain to their own Government?

You tell 'em, Backman. You tell 'em.

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