Oct 3, 2006

"I've Taken Note Of Kuan Yew's Letter", Says Abdullah

Extracted from BERNAMA
"I've Taken Note Of Kuan Yew's Letter", Says Abdullah

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 3 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Tuesday he has taken note of Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's letter apologising for the discomfort caused by Lee's remarks over the systematic marginalisation of the Chinese in Malaysia.

The prime minister nevertheless drove home the point that Lee's Sept 15 remarks were uncalled for, and expressed the hope that they would not be repeated.

"I've received his letter and I understand the content of the letter and I've taken note of it. But I feel...let me say this, that the statement that Lee Kuan Yew made in Singapore was uncalled for and not appreciated.

"I certainly don't agree, I certainly reject the premise upon which he made the statement," Abdullah told a news conference after chairing a meeting of ulama on current issues at his office here.

When pressed whether he accepted the apology, he said: "I've taken note of what he (Lee) has said in his letter, everything that he has said."

Abdullah believed that Lee's remarks about how Malaysia treated its Chinese community could not contribute to good neighbourly relations.

"It is important to remember that," he said when commenting on the letter delivered to his office, Monday.

The letter was in response to the one Abdullah wrote to Lee on Sept 25 seeking clarification over his controversial remarks that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards the republic was shaped by the way they treated their Chinese communities.

Lee, 83, had told a forum on good governance in Singapore that "My neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful, they're hardworking and, therefore, they are systematically marginalised, even in education.

"And they want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese -- compliant."

The comments drew protests in Malaysia and Indonesia. The foreign ministries of both countries had also summoned the Singapore envoys to explain Lee's remarks.

In his letter of reply, Lee said that he had no intention to meddle in Malaysia's politics and that he did not have the power to influence it or to incite the feelings of the Chinese in Malaysia.

But Abdullah offered another perspective on the matter.

"Irrespective of whatever reasons he may have said, such a statement (Lee's Sept 15 remarks) can incite the feelings of Malaysians.

"So I think it is important that he has to ensure that such a statement should not be made again," he said.

Asked to elaborate, Abdullah said: "It could well incite the people, and the reaction may not be something that is good."

He refused to answer further questions on Lee's letter, saying: "I don't want to have a debate on it."

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