Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Dr M

History has a sense of repeating itself as does Dr Mahathir Mohamad.  Lee Kuan Yew writes something and Dr M attacks it.

A couple of recent items in the Malaysia online journals confirmed that there has been yet another "episode of the antiquated drama in the battle of the octogenarians”.

The good doctor has apparently accused MM of being an  iron-clad ruler.  A bit rich I would have thought from someone with a man who himself has been accused of being a despot and using national security as a veil to jail dissidents, under the law which provides for detention without trial.

As I have stated in the past one can only judge both men on what they have achieved.  When Singapore and Malaysia split the value of their currency was at par.  Now it takes 2.4 Malaysian Ringgit to  purchase 1 Singapore dollar so it is easy to see which economy is stronger; despite the fact that Singapore has none of the natural resources that are so abundant in Malaysia.

The Mamak of Kerala (as Dr Mahathir Mohamad is known in some circles) nearly brought Bolehland to its knees in the late 1990's when large sums of investment failed to bring tangible results.

The term 'Bolehland' is one used by Malays to describe this period. Boleh means “able” or “can do” in Malay. The “Malaysia Boleh” campaign was launched to bolster national self-esteem.

Minister Mentor
It  has its parallels in the government run campaigns that Singapore such as the "National Courtesy Campaign", but the Malaysian versions have thus far failed to spark the same results.  This is a great pity as I am fond of Malaysia and Malaysians but I am no fan of Malaysian-style politics.

Dr. M also refutes any suggestion that Singapore has anything to fear from Malaysia: "Lee Kuan Yew’s fear of Singapore being invaded by Malaysia is completely unfounded”.

That may be the case now but the Little Red Dot's envious neighbours has harboured such thoughts in the past.

Singapore spends five to six per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) on defence each year and to my eyes this seems like a very prudent investment.

Meanwhile some in the US are questioning the close education alliances between their universities and Singapore.  The tertiary tie-up between Duke and NUS is well known and has brought tangible benefits to both.

Critics within another ivy league university, Yale, are orchestrating a campaign to keep it out of Singapore.

Citing a  lack of human rights "the best American traditions of free speech", they claim that the name of Yale will be sullied by an association with a country that does not have the same degree of press freedom and open debate.

I don't believe that Duke has suffered from its Singaporean venture and I cannot see how Yale will.  As to the article's direct assertion that Singapore has a "jailhouse torture" perhaps they should look at punishment metered out in US prisons?

There is a death penalty in Singapore and it curbs the spread of drugs most effectively.  While homosexuality is officially banned, there would appear to be more tolerance that the Yale article tries to make out.  I suspect that the writer has never lived in Singapore?

As a former Yale Alumnus and Singaporean wrote in response: "Singapore and Singaporeans emphasize different values, and that this whole Yale-NUS proposal has shown up the gulf that exists between our conceptions of the good".

This is the crux of the argument.  How can you judge a country if you have never visited it or better still, lived in it?

I have visited the States several time and lived in Singapore.  For my money Singapore has a definite edge, both in terms of affluence and a more integrated society.  It may not be perfect but what place is? 

At least in Singapore I did not come across war veterans eating out of rubbish bins as I did in the streets of San Francisco.
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