Tit for tat and sparring between Singapore and Malaysia is not new.
If anything the global pandemic should have shown is that we all need to work together, across borders and divides, but alas, this is not to be. As tensions between China and the US builds, the last thing we need is a fight with our closest neigbours but it would seem that the allure of sniping is too tempting to resist by the powers be.
It would appear that Minister for Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam, has taken umbrage with ex Malaysian Prime Minister’s reference to a poem in the unveiling of his new party’s name. So much so that Shanmugam has posted about it on social media:
This in turn created a firestorm of controversy among Singaporeans as they debated on Mahathir’s supposed intentions. Was it really necessary for Shanmugam, a sitting minister to fan the flames of Malaysian hatred among Singaporeans? Do we not already have enough on our plate ranging from COVID-19 to the dismal economic outlook to deal with rather than to be distracted by speculating on what a poem posted by Mahathir really means?
Was Mahathir talking about Singapore? Most likely. But, does it matter even if he was? For Shanmugam to direct attention to it is making a mountain out of a mole hill. At the end of the day, the poem was much longer than the two lines Shanmugam zeroed in on and the best part is – it was not even written by Mahathir!
Local playwright Alfian Sa’at dissected the poem and came to the conclusion that Shanmugam had quoted the poem out of context as the entirety of the poem was more about the sale of Singapore to the East India Company than any policies of modern day Singapore. This in turn led to a whole slew of online vitriol directed at Sa’at. One Facebook user by the name of Wei Hong went to town on Sa’at implying that Sa’at’s interpretation was a “fantasy… conjured out of thin air” and stating that Sa’at and his ilk have no other purpose other than to criticise the Government and that they should do something useful.
Therein lies the problem when people use character assassination to debunk an argument. Everyone has a right to disagree with anyone’s interpretation of anything. But to make it personal, that’s a whole other level. But let’s go back to how this whole thing started in the first place. It started with Shanmugam’s post. Why did he see the need to post this in the first place?
Mahathir is no longer the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Who cares what he thinks really? As a cabinet minister, why is Shanmugam wasting his time with the musings of a 95 year old man? Mahathir’s opinions, as an ex Prime Minister carries no official power. Shanmugam’s opinions, as a sitting minister however, does. Why potentially attract the ire of our neighbours across the causeway over the musings of an ex Prime Minister who is in all likelihood never going to be Prime Minister again?
Wei Hong has asked Sa’at and his ilk to do something useful with their time. Perhaps he should also be asking Shanmugam to do something more useful with his time rather than inviting useless speculation on what a 95 year old man may or may not mean. As a country going through the twin ills of economic downturn and COVID-19, don’t we have bigger fish to fry?