Sunday, August 11, 2013

Once brothers

I wonder whether my post title describing the former relationship between Malayan-Malaysians and Singaporeans might make Malaysians, especially those of the younger generations, realize the close ties (warts & all) we once had.

'Once' is undoubtedly the appropriate keyword, because on 07 August 1965 Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR), at the end of his patience with a politically abrasive Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), asked Parliament to decide on the expulsion of Singapore from the nascent state of Malaysia. Two days later, on 09 August 1965, Parliament, with Singaporean MPs absent, voted 126-0 for the expulsion.

Confronted with the reality of that parliamentary decision, LKY had no further choice but to accept the expulsion, which caused him to actually break down during a televised press conference as he stated emotionally:

"For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I ... I believed in Malaysian merger and unity of the two territories. You know that we, as a people are connected by geography, economics, by ties of kinship ... It broke everything we stood for ....... ".

But obviously many Malaysians, including Chinese Malaysians and especially the MCA, didn't share his belief.

As I had previously written, as an example, Penangites (then mostly Chinese) didn't take well to LKY.

In his 1964 general election campaign in Peninsula (much to the chagrin of TAR and MCA) he must have imagined he could win over the predominantly Chinese Island State but in many ways, he was a lot like Anwar Ibrahim, an interesting political curiosity but not well trusted. His PAP campaign turned out to be an abysmal flop in Penang.

In fact it was LKY the politician who was the very cause of his island's expulsion. There’s never any doubt LKY was super intelligent, a double starred first class honours from Cambridge, etc etc etc. But that was the precise problem for LKY vis-a-vis Malaysia and its mainly Malay leaders.

A non-Malay could only be too clever by half in a Malayan (Malay) environment because the style of, for example, LKY's assertive and aggressive politicking didn't go down well with Malay culture and its more genteel style of politics.

'... its more genteel style of politics.'

Thus I point out the core issue of dealing politically with Malays, particularly those patricians with royal or culturally high ranking pedigree like TAR, Ku Li, Tunku Aziz, Tunku Zain Al-'Abidin and especially some high ranking Javanese-Indonesian politicians and military generals.

It's not the done thing to utter or blab out blunt truths or facts to confront these people. The message has to conveyed across in a meandering shadow play of taichi, silat and wayang kulit movements.

Yes, it'll be tedious, time consuming and patience-taxing for those unused to Malay politics, especially those Western educated or Western exposed non-Malay Malaysian politicians. Ask former Australian PM Paul Keating, wakakaka.

Perhaps we may gain an idea of what this genteel style of politics is by reading what Thomas Koester of Ludwig-Maximilains Universitat Munchen had written about Javanese political culture (also applicable to earlier Malay political culture):

The Javanese elite or ruling class (priyayi) is dominated by the idea of being halus, that means “subtle, refined, sensitive, polite and civilized”. The term halus also consists of the idea of smoothness that is divided into smoothness of spirit (self- control), smoothness of appearance (beauty, elegance) and smoothness of behavior (politeness, sensitivity).

The opposite of being halus is being kasar that means to be “rough, crude, vulgar, coarse, insensitive, impolite and uncivilized”. Being kasar is the natural state of man where everyone’s thoughts and behaviors are uncontrolled.

“Halusness” on the other hand can only be achieved by constant effort to control human emotions and ambitiousness. Thus restraint of emotion is a common phenomenon in the Javanese ruling class.

According to Professor Dr. Masykuri Abdillah from the University of Jakarta, the term kasar describes the act to offend other people, commonly seen as an act of impoliteness. “Polite (halus) behavior manifests itself in two concepts which are linked to each other, namely ‘malu’ (discomfort or a feeling of being insulted) and ‘segan’ (a combination of discomfort and respect)”.

Therefore, according to the concept of being halus, it is of vital importance for a person to behave politely, even if he feels offended. This concept of being halus helps to explain “why the Javanese behave in a less transparent or open manner”.

Another concept well established in the behavior of the Javanese elite is the tradition of perintah halus. According to this tradition, the Javanese elite are obliged to give orders only using polite and indirect language. Perintah halus derives from the Javanese traditional thinking that a man of power does not need to raise his voice and to give order directly because “the halusness of his command is the external expression of his authority”. This is why the Javanese style of administration is “marked by the attempt, wherever possible, to give an impression of minimum effort”.

Mind you, ever since Dr Mahathir became PM, the Malay-Javanese genteel (halus) style of politics went out of the window because of the man's in-your-face personality and also, just kaytee's personal suspicion, his disdain for Malay nobility.

Nonetheless, I believe it was this genteel (halus) style of dialogue that might have been missing in Lim Guan Eng's and Zairil Khir's interactions with Tunku Aziz, though not of the same magnitude as that between TAR and LKY, and which ended in an acrimonious relationship between Tunku Aziz and his erstwhile party, DAP.

For more of above, please see my post DAP's comedy (or tragedy) of errors with Tunku Aziz, a post much to my surprise has scored the highest number of hits in my blog, perhaps because of the interests in DAP's 'errors' wakakaka, but which, wakakaka again, should be read together with my BolehTalk posts Tunku Aziz went beyond the pale and Noblesse oblige missing.

Back to LKY - Tunku was aware of LKY's covert (though well-known) intention to replace MCA in the Perikatan (the BN’s predecessor coalition), and of course TAR being the loyal friend he was to MCA (and MIC), wouldn't have any of that, apart from his fears of LKY asking for more of the impossible vis-a-vis the latter's political policy of Malaysian Malaysia.

Then there was the MCA, fearing for its own political position should LKY's PAP succeed in replacing it within the Perikatan, working as the batu api to ensure UMNO would not accept the PAP.

Tan Siew Sin, then MCA president and Finance Minister, stated in no uncertain terms that any cooperation between the federal government and the Singapore Government was out of the question as long as LKY was PM of his island state.

Tan Siew Sin said in Parliament, paraphrasing the words of Jesus in Mathews 19:24: "It would be far easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the proverbial needle than for the Central Government to co-operate with the Government of Singapore."

Tan described LKY as the "greatest, disruptive force in the entire history of Malaysia and Malaya."

Like Anwar Ibrahim? wakakaka.

Meanwhile, the then Malay right wingers were getting so heated up with LKY that TAR thought a cooling period, via a ‘temporary’ expulsion of Singapore, would be good for everyone.

Yes, TAR had intended Singapore's expulsion to be of a temporary nature. He imagined that Singapore alone outside of Malaysia would be so helpless by itself that LKY would come crawling back, begging to be let in again, though this time on TAR’s terms. That was TAR's plan. But as we know, it didn't work out that way.

I suspect LKY, notwithstanding his personal and his Island State's successes, has never forgiven UMNO for the expulsion. Again I suspect this might have been due to his belief, that he being the super-intellectual, would have swarmed all over TAR and his UMNO-Perikatan cabinet ministers and dominated the government once his PAP got into TAR's coalition.

And each time LKY said something adverse or uncomplimentary about Malaysia, while there would be some truths in his words, I couldn't help but sense him getting some form of silly satisfaction through his talk-Malaysia-down comments, usually criticisms of UMNO's style of government.

You may wonder why with his outstanding personal success and undeniable global recognition, and his Island's 1st World status, he would indulge in, as I suspect, getting-his-own-back at Malaysia?

Well, I'm not Sigmund Freud but maybe we can just possibly detect something of that in his autobiography where he (embarrassingly, to me anyway) coo-ed over a British honours, The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, awarded by the Queen of Britain.

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George

I then wrote that my esteem of LKY immediately took a deep nosedive on learning this near superman could/would even be thrilled by a mere meaningless trinket handed down by the Great White Mother, a foreign monarch.

Thus in this, his egoistic conceit, I personally suspect LKY wants recognition no matter how meaningless a form that might be (at least to kaytee wakakaka), and perhaps the recognition he craves most of all would have been that of his scuttled dream (scuttled by UMNO) of leading and making a Malaysia inclusive of Singapore (with all Malaysia's rich natural resources) into one of the most powerful, rich and prosperous nation in Asia, even surpassing Japan.

Alas for him, that was not to be.

But of course today LKY wants the best Malaysian option for his Singapore's relationship with Malaysia, and thus his cruel criticism of Pakatan has been, as I suspect, an indication of his preference for the devil he knows (namely UMNO) than one he doesn't. Mind, there's some truth in his comment against Pakatan.

Harry pordah, the sunset awaits you

But since his criticism of Pakatan, the hot words coming out from DAP to blast LKY into the fading sunset wakakaka should be ample proof that any suspected link between LKY's PAP and a Malaysian political party would be that with UMNO (via Najib and KJ) rather than a DAP he has recently disparaged, wakakaka.


  1. Don't get too dewy-eyed about the "Once Brothers".

    I deal with Singaporeans on a regular basis - and many of them, even those with close relatives across the Causeway, hold Malaysia and Malaysians with a superiority complex tantamount to contempt.

    I was on work assignment in Singapore during the final few weeks before GE13 - and, I agree with you, the Singapore official establishment clearly prefers Barisan Nasional to remain in power indefinitely.

    Politically, PAP has ruled Singapore much like BN/UMNO - with an iron fist against any perceived political competition.
    A succesful change of government in Malaysia, especially if it is managed without leading to instability and chaos, would have terrifying implications to Singapore's PAP.

    The major difference in history is that PAP has delivered in terms of economic performance and government efficiency, while BN/UMNO has failed dismally.

  2. kaytee,
    It's strange for a Grand old man of DAP calling another real Grand Old Man to ride into the sunset. Wouldn't it be the same applying to Karpal Singh as well?
    Aiyaa, LKY is employing the notion of dealing with those who are in power? Since you have much misgiving towards Anwar Ibrahim credibility & leadership & Pakatan is way off the track of ruling Malaysia, wouldn't it be natural LKY to prefer Najib? LKY just as many chinamen in the past being pragmatic & a realist la
    Wouldn't it be surprising that those who supporting Anwar are from DAP themselves including Karpal Singh? LKY bragging about UK link? How about Tunku being extremely pro british?
    Tan Siew Sin has misgivings towards LKY & PAP because Siew Sin knew that PAP can decimate MCA in a not distant future. MCA did sink after DAP whack MCA what. Sometimes, I am not sure who is being disruptive. Siew Sin or his cousin brother Keng Swee. Goh Keng Swee signed the seperation letter without any hesitation
    Halus or no halus, LKY has been right. It's always been melayu world after all. The seed of destruction has been planted when Siew Sin accepted less than 1/3 seats. Do you know why penangites not supportive LKY? Haven't you forgotten that Penang got one formidable opposition leader by the named of Lim Chong Eu?

    1. In 1964 Lim CE's United Democratic Party was not (and never was) a power house.

      It was only in 1969 when Lim CE and his UDP joined up with a group of intellectuals which included Professor Syed Hussain Alatas of Sing Uni, Dr Tan Chee Khoon, MP for Batu and former leader of the Labour Party, Dr JBA. Peter, President of the Malaysian Medical Association, Professor Wang Gungwu of MU, and V Veerapan, legal practitioner and former leader of the Labour Party, that we could say he became a strong opposition leader

  3. Is LKY a Muslim too? If he his, welcome to the Muslim brotherhood.

    “We introduced monogamy. It seems so manifestly correct. The West was successful, superior. Why? Because they are monogamous.

    It was wrong. It was stupid.”

    LKY being educated at Cambridge I always think that he is English in taste, in opinion, in morals, and in intellect. Nay, I was wrong indeed.

    Or is it just a put-up job? My mind wonders…


    1. wakakaka, but does Sing Law allow polygamy? Kalau tidak, then he was another case of cakap ta'serupa bikin

  4. LKY has not been consistent in many things. One of the best things he did was to persuade Singaporeans that they were all equal citizens of the island State (or red dot, if you prefer).That was a powerful statement of equality where race became secondary. Then as he got older, he began to regret the Singaporean Chinese leaving behind their 'chineseness'. He reminded them to speak Chinese (Mandarin, etc, basically denying his own legacy to the state so much so that the PAP theoretician (and former Foreign Minister), Mr Raja Ratnam, shook his head in disbelief. So I really do not how much credibility one should give to his latest musings. Maybe he is just too old and is getting senile. I hope not, given his contribution to his country.

    1. 'Then as he got older, he began to regret the Singaporean Chinese leaving behind their 'chineseness'. He reminded them to speak Chinese..' ????

      Do u know what u r talking? Bull&/or cock?

      All the while LKY is a realist, to the core. It's just so happened that towards his later life, he sees China's rapid rise to become a global & influential world power, both in economic & politics. Thus the re-emphasizing of the Mandarin. Remember, too that he is a still a die-hard opponent to the re-introducing of various Chinese dialects back to circulation!

      LKY is not infallible. His eugenic remark about graduate parents produce better off-spring is RUBBISH, in the sum totality of child development.

      But, no one could find fault with his geopolitical views about the current world affairs. He is one GIANT, whom everyone of significant in politics, would seriously look upon for opinion.

  5. After 48 years apart, Singapore and Malaysia are as different as chalk and cheese.

    Some young Singaporeans don't even realise the two countries share a common history. I'm sure its somewhere in their history books, but maybe these youngsters weren't paying attention.

    About LKY treasuring his Order of St Michael and St George, its not surprising. LKY was, and is an Anglophile at heart.
    PAP emphasising "Chinese" language and culture was just politics, to gain support from the Chinese-educated working class. Later, the emphasis on Mandarin was on a view to tap what he wisely foresaw as China's rise, and also a practical way to maintain Singapore's identity , avoiding a nation of Westernised Bananas without any unique identity.

  6. When brothers quarrel, the spite can cut deeper and last much longer than any other simple discord between unrelated people.

    Such is the nastiness between Malaysia and Singapore.

  7. "He is one GIANT, whom everyone of significant in politics, would seriously look upon for opinion."

    Anon 10:28 have so rightly put in one simple terse statement to describe this man who have changed the destinies, for the better, of at least a few million souls. Btw, better to be loud than the airy-fairy farty "halus" as the alternative is, as the man himself have honestly mentioned, to be imprisoned for life and Singapore as we know it could very easily turn into another Sabah or Sarawak, albeit a blue dotted one.


    Another piece of contention brewing between Malaysia and Singapore.
    Singaporean Buddhist group staying in a Johor resort was looking for a space to do chanting. They were given the use of the Surau by the Resort manager (Singaporean Malay Muslim). He has since been arrested and denied bail (sounds familiar ?)

    Malasian Malays seem to be easily offended these days.

    This coming on top of the wave of violent crime sweeping Malaysia - 260,000 hard core criminals on the loose, according to the Home Affairs Minister.
    No wonder the Malasian police have stopped arresting these bad hats - there aren't enough lock-ups in the country to accommodate them.

    Be careful. Don't visit Malaysia unless absolutely unavoidable.

  9. In today's Utusan, Ridhuan Tee says that were he the PM of Malaysia, he would have waged war with Singapore instead of going to ICJ over the disputed islands.

    Maybe he did consider that Singapore's defences would be a formidable force een without the help of her allies.