Protests over MM’s remarks continue

Former Envoy Urges Wisma Putra To Lodge Protest To Singapore Quickly
27 Sep 06

A former Malaysian ambassador has urged the Foreign Ministry to lodge a protest with the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur over the provocative remark by Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew regarding Malaysia’s Chinese minority.

Datuk Syed Hussein Al-Habshee, the former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, said the ministry should take a firmer stand and hand over a protest note to the Singapore High Commissioner quickly instead of waiting for weeks before doing it.

“Our delay (in handing over the protest note) is regrettable and shows we are not firm in the matter. If the same thing had happened to Singapore, we can guarantee that they will lodge a protest quickly,” he told Bernama Wednesday.

Lee had told a forum in Singapore recently that Malaysia and Indonesia were systematically marginalising their Chinese minorities because they were hard-working and successful.

MCA and Gerakan leaders lashed back at Lee, saying the former Singapore premier was wrong and should apologise.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said he would write to Lee to seek an explanation for the remark which insulted Malaysia.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Tuesday summoned the Singaporean ambassador in Jakarta to ask for a clarification and to deliver a letter of protest to the Singaporean government over Lee’s remark.

The ministry also instructed its officials at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore to meet high-ranking officials at Singapore’s Foreign Ministry to get further clarification.

Several Indonesian lawmakers expressed outrage over Lee’s remark and accused him of spreading lies and posing a danger to Indonesian and Asean unity.

Syed Hussein said he believed Lee made the remark as a calculative move to test the level of tolerance of Malaysia and Indonesia.

He said it was unbelievable that Lee did not know his remark was extremely sensitive to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

“He was aware and knew his remark was very sensitive but used it as a strategy to assess the level of tolerance of Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said.

Indonesia summons Singaporean ambassador over Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks

The Associated Press
27 Sep 06

Indonesia has asked Singapore’s ambassador to explain remarks by the city-state’s founding father that ethnic Chinese were “systematically marginalized” in the sprawling archipelago, an official said Wednesday.

Singapore elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew’s comments were “inaccurate” and required explanation, said Yuri Thamrin, director of the Indonesian foreign ministry’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs division.

“We have asked the Singaporean ambassador (Ashok Kumar Mirpuri) for clarification,” Thamrin said.

Lee told a forum in Singapore on Sept. 15 that the city-state’s neighboring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, “have problems with the Chinese. They are successful, they are hardworking, and therefore, they are systematically marginalized.”

He also said the two countries “want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese — compliant.”

Indonesia and Malaysia both have ethnic Chinese minorities, while Chinese make up the majority in much-smaller Singapore.

Several Indonesian lawmakers have protested Lee’s remarks, noting that Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese were a dominant force in Southeast Asia’s largest economy and held several key posts in the government despite representing just 3 percent of the 220 million population.

Singapore’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement Wednesday that, “at their request, our ambassador in Jakarta met DEPLU (foreign ministry) officials yesterday … We will reply to the Indonesians through appropriate channels in due course.”

Malaysia also has sought an explanation from Lee — who was Singapore’s prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and retains the title minister mentor — and warned that the comments could strain bilateral ties.

Thamrin said Mirpuri was summoned on Tuesday, but did not elaborate on the discussions or the ambassador’s response.