After our very own Sumpah-gate, “to apology or not to apology” has become a new thing in Malaysian politics after the incident in which Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail was reported utter racist comment toward the Chinese community in Malaysia. Demands of apology were called and then were followed by refusal from the chef. In addition, Penang UMNO backs Ahmad to question the citizenship of the Chinese, cited it is a Malay rights. The infamous former premier, Dr M., joined the line questioning the government “double standard” in the incident. He cited that “Islamic extremist, violent armed terrorists”, “ethnic cleansing” was used in Hindraf memorandum and when a Malaysian student, Wee Meng Chee, ridiculed of the national anthem, the Chinese community defended him.
Dr M. made his splashes in Malaysia and world politics in many ways. One of them is his anti-West rhetoric in which he foreseen that the East was (in early 1990s) overtaking the West and thus Asian Values triumphed. He locked horns with the Australian premier when he demanded an apology over an Australia media reference to Malaysia during his premiership. In September 2001, a Western journalist misquoted him. His office demanded an apology and they got one.
According to the newspapers, Dr M. used “Islamic extremist, violent armed terrorists” to refer to PAS in 2001 when Malaysia was under the pressure of PAS to declare Malaysia as an Islamic state. I wonder should Dr. M, now, make an apology to PAS? Just like what he argues in the Malay Dilemma (1970), Dr M has tried hard to elevate the Malays and to restructure the society. He shed tears and wrote poem in the 2003 UMNO general assembly citing that the Malays forget easily. Nevertheless, has the restructuring erases the courtesy and civility of the people? The Colony master might misinterpreted the politeness, but does rebuking such myth means to totally loose it all together? Or maybe to the former premier, apologizing is a Western culture too?
There are many things that Malaysia can do (boleh), but apologizing is certainly not one of them. In advertising, Malaysians are portrayed as having good behavior acceptable to local culture. According to the Advertising Code, commercials must cultivate “civic mindedness and desired behavioral attitudes in life, such as queuing up when boarding a bus etc. and keeping public places clean”. I wonder is apologizing part of the good behavior? If not then maybe the good behavior and social courtesy is from the West, and therefore should not be mixed with the local? May it be that we have sold that courtesy to the West just like we did with the petroleum? “Fortunately” to some, we can still import petrol and charge a higher price, yet we certainly cannot re-import the social courtesy we have lost after 1970s.
If citizenship of all the allegedly non-Malays or “pendatang” are to be questioned with “rights”, I wonder how many ministers, including past and present premiers, would have their citizenship revoked. The former premier has made many political diagnoses maybe it is time he question his citizenship before he apologizes