The sorry state of apologies in Malaysia

Contrary to popular perception, it appears that ‘apologies’ are not in short supply these days, particularly in the wake of the controversy that revolves around Bukit Bendera UMNO division head Ahmad Ismail.

In the news today, ‘apologies’ have been demanded by various individuals and groups across the country, including Ahmad Ismail himself. And there are, of course, the counter-demand that no ‘apologies’ be offered to anyone.

Let’s begin with Ahmad Ismail. He now demanded that Gerakan acting president Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and other leaders of the Chinese community should instead apologise to him for having unnecessarily ‘inflamed’ the issue. This was in response to the demands made by Koh and also others such as MCA and DAP leaders that Ismail apologise for the hurt that he had caused to the community concerned.

Ahmad also insisted an apology from the reporter of a Chinese newspaper, i.e. Sin Chew Daily, because of the alleged misquoting of his statement made at a Permatang Pauh by-election ceramah that had sparked the outrage of the Chinese community and others in the country.

But Sin Chew stood its ground and backed the reporter concerned. If I may wonder aloud at this juncture: is this Sin Chew‘s action very much inspired by the recent exhortation of PM Abdullah Badawi that Malaysia’s mainstream media should not be afraid to uphold truth?

Of course, before this UMNO deputy president Najib Razak had already offered an apology on behalf of Ahmad Ismail ‘if it has incurred the insensitivities or unhappiness over the statement’. He added, ‘We apologise, Umno apologises although it is not our statement but it is a statement made by one of our division leaders. It is totally unwarranted and does not reflect the position and the attitude of Umno or the leadership of Umno. We regret it very much.’

To be sure, it was this very statement of apology that provoked ex-premier and ex-UMNO member Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to respond. He questioned why Malay leaders had to be apologetic over a remark deemed as racist by an UMNO leader. As an apparent justification for his comment, he claimed that non-Malay leaders never apologised when similar racist remarks were made by members of their community.

Now, assuming that it was true to some extent that certain non-Malay leaders never apologised, is he suggesting that two wrongs make a right, two wrongs that are equally divisive and destructive? When will all these racist remarks end, and when can the ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ that he proposed be a reality?

Can we all, by the way, grow up (after 51 years of ‘independence’) and move on with our nation-building efforts that are more inclusive?

Apologies should be offered by anyone (especially from both sides of the country’s political divide) after a deep introspection, soul searching, remorse and after the realisation that one has indeed made a mortal mistake. (Or are we asking too much here in a world of power-craze and material intoxication?)

There is obviously value in apology, and thus it must not be bastardised for political expediency because apology, as we know it, can go a long way towards cementing human relationships and, in a larger Malaysian context, fostering interethnic, intercultural and inter-religious understanding, respect, tolerance and harmony.


14 Responses to “The sorry state of apologies in Malaysia”

  1. 1 Patek1472 6 September 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Anwarwood Productions – The Biggest Blockbuster Show on Earth!
    (Anwarwood Produksi – Tayangan Paling Besar dan Hebat di Dunia!)

    Beware! Politics is a game not for the faint hearted in Malaysia. Malaysians will have heart attacks when you see the end. Even if you don’t, you will suffer a mild stroke or high blood pressure. Why? The Titanic 2 show this time directed and scriptwritten by Anwarwood Productions will continue with the following scenes:

    1. Little Napoleons will continue with the phrase “The End Justifies The Means” in protecting their interests.
    2. Some passengers will lose all sense of conscience and humanity when the ship is finally sinking.
    3. Everyone in the ship will rush to get on the lifeboats.
    4. Money is used to buy anything to save oneself from impending doom.
    5. The Best Actor and Supporting Casts together with Trojan Horses are finally shown at the end of the show.

    Whatever the emotions left at the end of the show, please remember that it was just a show, just like what politics is all about. The reality of living together continues in this land.

    (Versi Bahasa Melayu)

    Awas! Politik bukan permainan untuk mereka yang berlemah hati di Malaysia. Rakyat Malaysia akan sakit jantung apabila melihat kesudahannya. Jika pun tidak, anda akan terkena strok atau darah tinggi. Kenapa? Tayangan Titanic 2 kali ini yang diarah dan diskripkan oleh Anwarwood Produksi akan bersambung dengan adegan-adegan berikut:

    1. Little Napoleon akan meneruskan dengan ungkapan “Matalamat Menghalalkan Cara-Caranya” dalam mempertahankan kepentingan-kepentingan mereka.
    2. Sebilangan penumpang-penumpang akan kehilangan kewarasan dan kemanusiaan apabila kapal sedang tenggelam.
    3. Semua orang akan merebut-rebut naik bot-bot penyelamat.
    4. Wang digunakan untuk membeli apa sahaja untuk menyelematkan diri daripada kehampaan yang akan menimpa.
    5. Pelakon dan Pembantu-pembantu Seniman dan Seniwati Terbaik serta Kuda-kuda Trojan akhirnya dipertontonkan pada kesudahan tayangannya.

    Jika adapun emosi yang tinggal pada akhir tayangan tersebut, harus ingat bahawa ia cuma sebuah tayangan sama seperti gelagat-gelagat politik. Realiti kehidupan bersama masih berterusan di tanah air ini.

  2. 2 queequeg 6 September 2008 at 2:46 pm

    An arrogant person rarely apologizes. Ahmad Ismail is an arrogant person. The way he conducted himself during the press conference speaks volumes of an UMNO stalwart high in “Ketuanan Melayu” drug. Why would the DPM apologise on his behalf? Is it to pacify increasing anger and rage over his boss’ reluctance to take stern action against Ahmad Ismail?
    If Mahathir were still in charge, would Ahmad Ismail be brave enough to defy him?
    I don’t think so. That arrogant person knew he wouldn’t be punished for saying inflammatory words because Pak Lah is a weak leader. Now, Ahmad Ismail is on the offensive. But the more he opens his mouth, the weaker UMNO will be in contrast to even more support for Pakatan Rakyat. Let him rant & rave all he wants. He probably is in denial – like a Muslim guy who’s longing for his ex-wife after divorcing her with Talak 3. In short – Gila Talak!

  3. 3 wandererAUS 6 September 2008 at 5:05 pm

    The bottom line is, if one has made an offensive remark to a minority
    comunity,citizens of the country, one should be man enough to offer an apology.
    This Ahmad Ismail is banging on his chest and used ‘samseng’ tactics
    to clear his guilt. Obviously, this Bolehland has a lot of growing up still.
    MCA and Gerakan, you need not have to stoop so low, to be even insulted by an ikan bilis of UMNO. You have an option, a catalyst
    is glaring at your face to bail out of BN. Act or forever be cursed.

  4. 4 visi 2020 6 September 2008 at 5:52 pm

    that is the trend of UNMO… when they are in trouble, they will start pointing fingers here n there INSTEAD of themselves… that is why, they can never improve… cause to them, they are alwz perfect… if they are so brave to talk so loud, why are they so sissy not to admit their mistake… as they are heading for dead end, our racist ahmad started to blame the media for manipulating… is this a big joke?? this shows how irresponsible n arrogant our present leaders are… at the end of the day, i bet he will alwz be released off the hook by the double standards which exist in bolehland…

    despite racist remarks n threats like “non-Malays to be extra careful with their deeds and words” plus “Malays can retaliate very aggressively” being hurled so gracefully by them, we do not hear any news from the Home Ministry on this…. However, the Home Ministry acted so fast and aggressively on the Hindraf n our friend RPK….

    guess what?? Syed Hamid: ISA can be used on Raja Petra.
    Meanwhile racist ahmad who stokes racial sentiments and being defiant towards PM n DPM are not being ISA-ed…. another double standards of BN in bolehland…

  5. 5 tan, tanjong bungah 6 September 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Don’t rebutt racialism with more racialism, lest we fall into the trap of low-class politicians playing the racial card! As far as this Ahmad fellow is concerned, the rakyat must demand the Police and BPR do the necessary.

    As far as open defiance of his party’s No. 1 and No. 2 is concerned, let us wait and see what the UMNO Supreme Council, especially its No. 1 and No. 2, is going to do. Though don’t hold your breath! Let us also wait and see what the other leaders of the other BN component parties are going to do about it.

    Remember the CM of Malacca asked PPP to get out of BN, and see where is PPP now? I commented on the threat then that today PPP, tomorrow MCA, … . Now, we have an even lower politician asking Gerakan to leave BN. What has the spineless Gerakan leaders got to say?

  6. 6 Mag M 6 September 2008 at 6:02 pm

    It takes a braver person to apologise and admit his mistakes. Can we really achieve Bangsa Malaysia with so many UMNO racists still around? For this to happen, our leaders must work hard to let everyone understand that racism has no place in this world now and it only hurts the rakyat and nation.

    Revamping our education system is one of them and it has to take a great leader to dare to do this. Read more here :

  7. 7 6 September 2008 at 6:18 pm

    A very dangerous line is being drawn by Ahmad Ismail and his gang pitting the malays against non-malays.

  8. 8 Antares 6 September 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Apparently this Ahmad Ismail from Umno Bukit Bendera is a big beneficiary of the NEP. In fact, he’s Abdullah’s business partner by way of their link-ups on the now-abandoned PORR project.
    Looking at Ahmad’s body language, it’s no surprise Koh Tsu Koon turned into such a worm. He had this Umno gorilla twisting his arm all the way!

  9. 9 A true Malaysian 6 September 2008 at 9:13 pm

    After more than 50 years of nation building, we Malaysia still circling around with this kind of unproductive issues. Very sad.

    Hope 916 becomes a reality and start from fresh again.

  10. 10 R.SUBRAMANIAM 7 September 2008 at 9:12 am

    It is sad indeed that dis is being blown out of proportion. It is much more worrying 2 note Tun M coming out with such statement. Well d gud Tun seemed 2 hve not grown out of his Malay Dilemma days. All the blah blah of BN racial co-operation is in tatters. All d players hve been bluffing demselves & nation all these while. God what a fool dis nation had been 4 d past several years, especially under Tun M.
    It will take an honest & bold Malay leader 2 bring us out of dis mess. A balanced Leader shud keep d buffons of all races in check, not only the Malays. If Malaysia does not find one soon, well doom is d next word coming 2 mind. God hve mercy on us!

  11. 11 Sitesurfer 7 September 2008 at 12:02 pm

    So now Najib is apologizing because he did not understand that Ahmad Ismail is merely making a historical statement?

    Go figure

  12. 12 JImbeam 7 September 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Why doesn’t Syed Hamid the Home minister invoke the Seditious Act on Ahmad Ismail for inciting racial hatred?

  13. 13 malaysiaboleh 10 September 2008 at 10:34 am

    is there a need for ahmad to apologise? what done is done and it’s now wise for all malaysia to figure what they want for their next generations.

  1. 1 The thousand demand of apologies in Malaysia « Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living Trackback on 6 September 2008 at 8:22 pm

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