On Bumiputra Guanxi and being good neighbours - by Abdullah Ahmad

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Malaysians have shown particularly remarkable progress in all fields in the past 10 years. Our economic growth has surpassed that of some neighbours, and I believe with our faster growing work force (2 million guest workers, one million of whom are gate-crashers), our present success will breed greater success.

On our part, we have always strived hard to be friendly with our neighbour even if a neighbour from time to time has proven insensitive; insensitivity being the way of the nouveau riches and the presumptuous and arrogant. We have shown great patience, always trying to minimise areas of conflict and misunderstanding. We have shown restraint, never attempting to project power capability even if others did.

Although we are ever conscious of our interlocking economic and security interests and peace in the Asean region, friends should not mistake Malaysian patience and gentleness as a sign of weakness; that would be a misjudgment if I may add. We won't just swallow insults and callous remarks about our country or part of it. As President John Kennedy once said: "The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived, and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."

I do hope the hard political lesson is well-learnt, and self-serving remarks, not repeated.

Malaysians may seem to have over-reacted in their denunciation of Tuan Harry Lee Kuan Yew, but, after so many callous statements their spontaneous reaction and fulmination was long over due. It was remarkable for what it was.

Malaysia in 1977 is very different from Malaysia of 1964. Today's Malaysia is not Tuanku Abdul Rahman's country, it is Dr. Mahathir's. Again borrowing from President Kennedy I would like to say this: let the world go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that Dr. Mahathir is the revered leader of a new generation of Malaysians born after 1965; a totally different breed of Malaysians from their fathers.

I know fewer people believe and will listen to the nonsensical claims about Johor Baru. Each working day, at least 25,000 Singaporeans, and more during the weekends visit Johor. More are expected to do so, and they are welcome to do so, once the still unnamed second bridge across the Johore Straits is completed. I suggest it be called the Friendship Bridge to underscore a new era of relationship.

I urge my neighbours even if we could not be warm with each other let us - at least - be correct. We have been separated for 32 years now and during that period each has made dramatic progress. Remain separate but happy; each to his own.

Not too long ago, Malaysians, now seen as capable, were contemptuously regarded as a mediocre people led by low calibre leaders. Many thought Malaysia would stagnate, destined to remain a kampung! Under Dr. Mahathir who escalated Tun Razak's New Economic Policy, we became richer, stronger, more confident and better known. Malaysia is no longer a non-player in international relations particularly in Southeast Asia. Dr. Mahathir has creatively pushed Malaysia to a higher level of achievement, and I believe, the best is yet to come.