Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mustapa misses the point

VARIOUS phrases, taken at random, from the Tourism Malaysia site make attractive reading. The words "free to practice his own faith, Islam in Malaysia is tolerant, gentle mannerism of the Malays, diligent Chinese, fearsome Ibans" complement what we see in everyday life.

Left to our own devices, all the races do get on. That is until politicians obstruct us and scupper all the goodwill and harmony created, by making various issues political.

When International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed asked Malaysian restaurateurs in Holland to improve Malaysia's image, he should have directed that request to his Cabinet colleagues. It might also be judicious to extend that charge to all politicians in Malaysia.

Suspicious deaths of people in custody, caning of women, ban on the word 'Allah', torched churches, boars heads in mosques, journalists desecrating the Catholic church, Penan rapes, trumped up charges of opposition politicians, are some of the more serious issues.

And quite rightly, the Dutch government was alarmed, as in all of these, justice was denied.

In truly democratic societies, people are allowed to openly discuss issues that concern them. But Malaysians do not have the luxury of freedom of expression or intelligent discourse.

mustapa-mohd-restaurantAfter 52 years of independence, we have achieved much, when we compare ourselves to other nations of a similar age. We have made our mark on the world in various fields. However, we did not achieve all this by mistake or by luck.

We accomplished this through hard work and the collective determination and commitment of our citizens, to make what we can proudly call brand "Malaysia". We had hiccups and a few tragedies during the journey, but we hoped to learn from our mistakes.

All these shaped us, as individuals, and the country, as one nation. We learnt to lean on each other and in turn, we were generous enough to share our skills with lesser developed countries.

Mustapa is correct when he describes Malaysia as peaceful. But he is wrong and naïve to ask the restaurateurs to inform customers that the local media was wrong in its reporting. People can obtain up to the minute information from friends and colleagues in Malaysia. Best of all, the net can beam into every Dutch sitting-room, a blow-by-blow account of torching of churches, or of barricades set up by protesting Penans.

He has every right to be concerned that our current troubles will ultimately influence investors from the Netherlands. And his Dutch counterparts have been very diplomatic to express satisfaction with the explanation provided.

But Mustapa should not be content with that. He and his colleagues should not be like the proverbial ostrich and bury their heads in the sand. The problems we currently experience will not go away. Politicians need to open their eyes, listen hard and take stock of their surroundings before things worsen. It is time they were in tune with the population, engaged with them and worked towards a resolution that will benefit all Malaysians.

courtesy of Malaysian Mirror

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