September 24, 2014 - 6 minutes read

Former US ambassador John Malott has written a stinging critique of Malaysia yet again, this time in Wall Street Journal’s Asian opinion page, alleging that “racial and religious tensions are higher today than when Mr Najib took office in 2009” and mischievously characterising the tensions as “worse than at any time since 1969”. He also accused Malaysia’s leadership of “tolerating and, in some cases, provoking ethnic factionalism through words and actions.”

This is a lot of bull, of course. He does not live in Malaysia, having left this country 13 years ago. He is an armchair critic, analysing the situation in Malaysia and writing about events in this country thousands of miles away.

After having left his post in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, he left diplomatic service and went on to become a lobbyist in Washington. Obviously Anwar Ibrahim is a “client”. Malott’s wife is a Japanese and she used to head the Japanese chapter of the Free Anwar Campaign.

During his term as ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, which lasted only one-term (three years), Malott did not have many friends in Malaysia, although he would claim otherwise. He was not popular among colleagues in the diplomatic corps nor with the Press. Even some junior diplomats in the US Embassy working under him would quietly confide to members of the local Press about his aloofness and difficult personal style.

As the US Ambassador, he would have thought and expected`that he be given the No. 1 status and priority by the Malaysian government, above all the other ambassadors and high commissioners serving in Malaysia between 1995 and 1998. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister then Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not give a damn to Malott. In fact, in the course of steering the country’s economy out of the financial crisis affecting the country and the region in 1997-98, Tun Mahathir was giving more attention to the affairs of the country while hitting out at the perpetrators – the IMF, George Soros and the currency manipulators, and the Vice President Al Gore, for his diplomatic faux pas in calling for the reformasi movement while being a guest of the Malaysian government.

I suspect this could be one of the reasons for Malott’s malicious dislike of Malaysia and Malaysians – except Anwar Ibrahim, of course.

His latest 1,100-word missive had two obvious but odious slants:
– The so-called racial tensions he misdirected are perpetrated exclusively by the Malay leadership against what he deemed as helpless and hapless non- Malays, and A deep-seated revulsion for the Najib administration, matched only by his consistently unabashed PR pitch for Anwar, which makes his vitriol a siple sales promotion for Anwar.
– By cleverly deploying the noun, “tensions”, against the May 13, 1969 trajectory, he is implying that racial clashes are a regular feature in Malaysian race relations since 1969. The real question is, where are the worsening tensions that could trigger fatal racial clashes as terrible as those incited on may 13, 1969, as Malott slyly claims?

Malott asserted that the Malaysian leadership “is tolerating and provoking ethnic factionalism through words and actions”. He can’t be more flat on that. What he eperceived to be a malevolent circumstance can be seen in a more enlightened prism; it is Najib’s willingness to engaged all aggrieved parties – Malays, Chinese and Indians alike – by encouraging them to say their piece, even if it is unpleasant.

That’s several notches up for free speech when previous administrations had curtailed debate on race relations, restricting them only to Parliament and several special closed-door councils.Now, the debate is so open that websites, blogs and social media networks are abuzz with the freedom to discuss what had been a taboo topic.

The downside? You’d think Malaysia is reeling in a perfect storm of racism, given the rancidness of many comments from all sides. From Hindraf’s exaggerated claims of genocide to the Chinese community’s leverage of precious votes (some would call it blackmail) to get more Chinese schools to the Malays’ defensive posture against shrill demands that their special position is irrelevant and obscured by historical skewering, the multi-pronged debate is boisterous and healthy.

These are strong, passionate stances made possible by an administration that accepts such sentiments as a fact of life and does not fear them from surfacing aloud, only if it allows Najib to formulate pragmatic solutions which may or may not appease the aggrieved parties.

Malott doesn’t get this but, to be fair, he makes no mention of the word “racism” in his opinion piece but he, whether he likes it or not, is party to the loaded WSJ heading “The Price of Malaysia’s racism”, which implies that Malaysia is drowning in a toxic cesspool of racism.