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Bilahari Kausikan’s call to use military force against Malaysia in bilateral spats “akin to cries of desperate opportunists”: Malaysian senator Yusmadi Yusoff

The recent comments made by Singapore’s former Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan regarding deploying military force in bilateral conflicts between the Republic and its northern neighbour Malaysia are “akin to cries of desperate opportunists seeking to rally consensus for war against a bogeyman”, opined a Malaysian senator.

In an op-ed article published by Malay Mail on Saturday (23 Feb), Member of Dewan Negara (Upper House) of Malaysian Parliament and founder of independent think tank RIGHTS Foundation (RIGHTS) Yusmadi Yusoff wrote: “We are not the ones speaking of “red lines” and sending any message that we are “equipped and ready to use our military might”.

“We are not the ones suggesting that the use of force is as much part of diplomacy as negotiations. These are akin to cries of desperate opportunists seeking to rally consensus for war against a bogeyman,” he added.

Dubbing Mr Kausikan’s analysis of Singapore as a “multiracial, meritocratic small city state that performs better” than Malaysia does as a “laughable and arrogant” one, Senator Yusmadi wrote that “it is highly irresponsible for someone of Mr Kausikan’s stature” for the latter to make such reactionary statements, and “an insult to the progress both governments have made in resolving our neighbourly issues calmly and constructively, while preserving our overall relations”.

“As an “expert” on Malaysia, Mr Kausikan should know that the New Malaysia experience is still under way: We still have contested elections, with more and more by elections being ordered by our courts.

“The rooting out of corruption continues and is an ongoing process. After 61 years, change will not happen overnight,” stressed Senator Yusmadi.

Malaysia, added Senator Yusmadi, is “too preoccupied with nation-building” to paint Singapore as a bogeyman, contrary to what Mr Kausikan has previously stated.

“Wastage and missing funds, broken systems, previous scandals being discovered almost weekly, and a civil service that has for the first time experienced a change in upper management” are bound to take a toll on any new government, Senator Yusmadi argued.

“Mr Kausikan speaks without any understanding of a nation coming out of 61 years of rule by an all-powerful regime. A democratic change of government that Mr Kausikan cannot claim to have ever experienced, despite his chutzpah.

“Maybe one day you too may experience a Singapore Baharu, but these are New Malaysia’s teething issues, and we are finding our way,” assured Senator Yusmadi.

“Thus on behalf of Pakatan Harapan, I would like to apologise to Mr Kausikan for not being as accommodating as the BN government,” he wrote, adding: “While it is true that certain issues have resurfaced since May 9, 2018, perhaps this is because certain issues of national interests were swept under the rug while BN’s bilateral relations with Singapore over the last decade were focused on 1MDB.”

Senator Yusmadi noted that Mr Kausikan’s most recent statements are not a one-off incident, and that the latter “has attacked Malaysia and its politics based on fake news” several times previously.

He argued that “an experienced diplomat” such as Mr Kausikan “should know the diplomatic repercussions of making brash and irresponsible statements based on misinformation from questionable sources”.

“I would like to suggest for Mr Kausikan to enjoy his retirement, and spare us his two-cents on Malaysia-Singapore bilateral relations which could, God forbid, have the effect of frustrating the noble efforts of both nations’ diplomatic corps.

“We who are in active service know what is happening on the ground, and on the negotiation table,” stressed Senator Yusmadi.

“As both nation’s leaders have said time and again, Malaysia and Singapore are like twins. There will always be issues, there will always be competition. But there will also always be dialogue, rule of law, and peace. And this will bring quicker progress to both nations.

“Both nations have a lot we can learn from each other. Arrogance and fear mongering are not the Asean way,” concluded Senator Yusmadi.