The whole saga that has erupted over the meeting of Dr. Mahathir and a quartet of Singaporeans is really not as complicated as the Singaporean authorities are making it out to be. Essentially the facts are really simple. Four Singaporeans, in their personal capacities, met the Prime Minister of Malaysia. One of the four Singaporeans, historian PJ Thum called on Dr. M to provide leadership in South East Asia in the promotion of democracy.
Dr. M has just performed the incredible feat of becoming Prime Minister a second time at the grand old age of 92. In so doing, he deposed the ruling UMNO party. In many ways, this was a real victory for the average Malaysian on the street who had become disenfranchised with the spiraling costs of living, stagnant wages and flagrant corruption of the political establishment. Given the stellar achievement of Dr M and the harnessing of people power in Malaysia, it really isn’t surprising that activists would look to him as a beacon of hope and inspiration. In that vein, calling on him to take the lead in South East Asia is not really surprising or threatening. It is to be expected.
What muddied the waters and turned this incident into some sort of international scandal is the way members of the PAP government chose to interpret this meeting. Marine Parade MP Seah Kian Peng and Minister Shanmugam made public accusations at Thum implying that he is a traitor who invited a foreigner to meddle in the internal affairs of Singapore. Anyone who can read English will see that this interpretation takes huge liberties in creative license.
First and foremost, none of the four Singaporeans is a politician. They are there in their personal capacities with no locus standi to invite anyone to Singapore in any official capacity. Secondly, South East Asia is made up of many countries. There was no specific mention of Singapore. If I were to say that I look to Aung San Suu Kyi to provide leadership in democracy, will this be taken as me trying to invite foreigners to meddle in the affairs of Singapore? Somehow I doubt that this would generate the same ire from the PAP government.
Shanmugam has taken issue with the joint letter of complaint that Kirsten Han, PJ Thum and Jolovan Wham wrote to PM Lee. His press secretary has said that the purpose of the letter is to “divert attention from the conduct of the writers”. Pot calling kettle black I say! The whole overreaction from the Singaporean establishment is to divert public attention from the events of Malaysia.
There are similarities between the 2 countries albeit without the 1MDb scandal. Both countries have a shrinking middle class, stagnant wages and high costs of living. Singaporeans are increasingly disgruntled by the high salaries drawn by its ministers. It is my summation that the PAP rulers are more threatened by events in Malaysia than they let up. By bringing up the foreign intervention bogeyman, it is the government that is trying to divert attention from the real issues at hand. This entire “meeting” has been hijacked by the PAP government in a bid to ensure that Singaporeans become suspicious of their closest neighbour – that way, we can’t “do a Malaysia” come the next election.
Who is the one diverting attention? Not PJ, not Kirsten and not Jolovan I say!