Hsien Loong’s Misdemaenour
Abdullah Does The Cleaning?
I had posed a very straight forward and simple question is my recent posting - was it true that Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, had said in Langkawi last week, that the Malaysia-Singapore joint committee on Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in southern Johore, was consultative in nature?
I had written a lengthy article about this - There Was A Media Conspiracy On The Slip Of The Tongue Issue? – in www.roncyberprince.blogspot.com
Sunday, May 20, 2007.
I wrote the article after I spotted irregularities in two Bernama reports on May 15, 2007, about the joint committee for IDR.
Here is the Bernama report on May 15, 2007, posted at 14:38 pm:
Malaysia-S'pore Agree On Committees To Oversee Joint Cooperation In IDR
By Noor Hayati Muda and Massita Ahmad
LANGKAWI, May 15 (Bernama) -- Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to set up a ministerial-level committee on each side to oversee joint cooperation in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in southern Johor.
There will be consultative committees to work on areas such as easy access for investment, tourism and environment cooperation in IDR.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, said this in a joint news conference after a delegation meeting here today.
And, this is the Bernama report, on the same subject matter, on May 15, 2007, but posted at 19:47 pm:
Malaysia-Singapore Agree On Joint Committee To Oversee Cooperation In IDR
LANGKAWI, May 15 (Bernama) -- Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to set up a ministerial-level joint committee to oversee some areas of cooperation between the two countries in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in southern Johor.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today the joint committee would be represented by a minister from each side.
"They will be supported by officials, and at any time that they feel that someone has to be invited to discuss, they can," he told reporters at the conclusion of a two-day unofficial meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, here.
Earlier, during a joint news conference, Abdullah and Lee announced the establishment of the committee which would be tasked to further discuss some of the decisions agreed upon by both leaders concerning cooperation in the IDR.
Without any explanation whatsoever, the Bernama report on May 15, 2007, 19:47 pm, had deleted this paragraph - There will be consultative committees to work on areas such as easy access for investment, tourism and environment cooperation in IDR. – which appeared in its earlier report at 14:38 pm.
The Bernama report posted at 19:47 pm had motivated me to find out the reason(s) behind the deletion of the words “consultative committee”. It was a futile effort. I could not get any answers from anywhere or anybody, except from one report from the NST.
Here is the report by the NST May 16, 2007:
Fruitful talks: Special panel to boost investments in Iskandar
By Wan Hamidi Hamid
LANGKAWI: A special ministerial committee will be formed by Malaysia and Singapore to focus solely on bringing in investments and facilitating business and tourism in southern Johor’s Iskandar Development Region.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the committee would comprise a minister from each country and other ministers will be invited to join in when related issues involving specific projects and programmes were involved.He said it would be a general committee and not a consultative committee.
A consultative committee could imply the need to refer to each government in making decisions, which would be unfair to Malaysia, as Iskandar is a Malaysian project, and not a joint venture with another country.
The above report prompted me to ask these questions: Why the two paragraphs in italic are not found in reports on the similar topic by Bernama, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and The Star? Who said those words then? The NST or Abdullah? If NST, why? If Abdullah, why the other papers and Bernama blacked out these important paragraphs?
I found replies to some of the above questions from Wan Hamidi’s column in the NST May 17, 2007.
Here is the report:
Rising to a new level of understanding
by Wan Hamidi Hamid.
…… Even Tuesday’s discussion in Langkawi created a small furore when Lee used the term "consultative committee" to describe a special ministerial committee between Malaysia and Singapore to help boost the IDR’s growth.
Abdullah cleared the air when he explained that the word "consultative" did not arise at all and it was just a joint committee for both sides of the Johor Strait to ensure the success of IDR.
To some people, "consultative" would mean the committee being answerable to both governments. This is ridiculous because IDR is Malaysian in its entirety and has nothing to do with Singapore. Having to consult Singapore would mean relinquishing sovereignty. This is not the case, of course. That’s why Lee was quick to explain that it was never meant to be a consultative committee and the Singapore media delegation had been informed of the little slip of the tongue.http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Thursday/Columns/20070517075244/Article/index_html
Wan Hamidi’s column verifies that the words “consultative committee” were actually said by Lee Hsien Loong. But, they were later deleted. Why? Because it gave negative implications. Why? Because it definitely made people like me to question the integrity of IDR and IRDA. Why, because it implied that Malaysia surrendered its sovereignty to Singapore.
So, to borrow Wan Hamidi’s words, if “to some people, "consultative" would mean the committee being answerable to both governments,” and “having to consult Singapore would mean relinquishing sovereignty” of Malaysia, why did Lee Hsien Loong, as being reported by the NST “was quick to explain that it was never meant to be a consultative committee” only informed “ the Singapore media delegation” about “ the little slip of the tongue.”?
If Wan Hamidi knew and wrote in his column two days after the event about the so-called “little slip of the tongue”, why other Malaysian newspapers were silent about it? Why Wan Hamidi’s take about the matter was not reported by Bernama and other Malaysia press? Why Lee Hsien Loong only corrected himself through the Singapore press team in his delegation? Why Lee Hsien Loong did not issue official correction about “the little slip of the tongue” made by him in Langkawi to all newspapers?
In addition, why even the NST’s take that “Abdullah cleared the air when he explained that the word "consultative" did not arise at all and it was just a joint committee for both sides of the Johor Strait to ensure the success of IDR” is also not being reported by other Malaysian press?
I have to again raise the above questions because until today Lee Hsien Loong still keeps quiet about his “little slip of the tongue” incidence. Ironically, it is Abdullah who is now being questioned by the Press even while he is in Tokyo.
Here is an example of Abdullah’s statement while in Tokyo:
PM: No Meddling By Singapore
By Saodah Elias
TOKYO: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has brushed aside fears expressed by some quarters of Singapore meddling in the development of the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).
He said the fears arose after Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong inadvertently used the word consultative committee at a press conference in Langkawi last week.
Abdullah and Lee had agreed to set up a special ministerial committee to discuss areas of co-operation including the usage of smartcard for easier travel between IDR and Singapore and the promotion of tourism. A minister will be appointed from each country to sit on the committee.
“That (Lee’s announcement) was a mistake, a slip of the tongue. I have clarified the matter,” he said in reply to a question by a Singapore journalist who had asked him to comment on reports that Johoreans were fearful of Singapore’s involvement in the project during the 13th Nikkei Conference here yesterday.
After that announcement, Abdullah said, the people of Johor were worried that it would mean that any decision that needed to be made with regards to the IDR would have to be referred to Singapore for approval.
“But that is not correct. That will never happen,” he added.http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/5/25/nation/17834259&sec=nation
I really sympathize Abdullah. It was Lee Hsien Loong who made the boo-boo in Langkawi. But, why is it Abdullah to be the one who has to clear the air? Is this a typical Singapore diplomacy? Or, is it a new Malaysian diplomacy in the context of IDR? Does Malaysia has to stoop this low to please Singapore – the little red dot in the Equator – just because of IDR?
What has Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to say about this? Doesn’t the Wisma Putra think Lee Hsien Loong has to issue an official explanation about his “little slip of the tongue” issue to relief the burden of explanation from Abdullah? – Ruhanie Ahmad