Getting our history right

By Terence Fernandez, The Sun

SO HISTORY is current again. This time, the barrage of criticism comes from respected historians and authors who gave a first-hand account on how the content of history textbooks are skewed.

Is it for the government to grab the bull by its horns and deal with the criticism or is it going to dismiss Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi and Ng How Kuen as “disgruntled” academicians who did not get their way?

The allegation that the teaching of skewed history is politically motivated has grounds for truth as the announcement that it will be made a compulsory pass subject for SPM in 2013 was made by the education minister and deputy prime minister in his capacity as Umno deputy president – not at a ministerial function or at least the Barisan Nasional (BN) Convention.

The government can expect protests by parents, students and teachers alike if questionable facts and twisted figures are shoved down our throats, with a threat that if we don’t buy a certain version of history, it would result in flopping a major government examination that is the stepping stone to tertiary education.

The panel of historians and educators appointed to determine content of our history textbooks must be allowed to do its work without any nudging from parties with vested interests.

History must be told in its entirety, without sugar coating, peppering or editing. It’s just too bad if some can’t handle the truth. The nation cannot lie about its past for the convenience and political expediency of a minority.


HAVE you ever thought of how people – especially those close to you – really felt about you? Well, thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know what goes through the minds of our southern neighbours. Should this affect the way we deal with each other?

The remarks about the prime minister and his predecessors, as well as the opposition leader do make one wonder if we can trust Singapore as a bilateral partner. If they feel that leaders are weak, untrustworthy and compromised, it should affect the way they deal with us, as well as shed light as to why certain discussions concluded the way they did.

Should we lose sleep over the release of these cables? Well, no. As far as bilateral relations go, it’s a matter of convenience. If on the surface both nations benefit from a partnership, it doesn’t matter what is said in private.

As long as the figures are attractive, we can just about mutter anything under our breath about each other and it should not affect ties.

At the end of the day, they will be dismissed as personal views and the officials who uttered the disparaging remarks will probably be taken out of the frontline when dealing with Malaysia.

Malaysia and Singapore have had a tumultuous relationship and it is doubtful that idle gossip is going to affect bilateral ties either negatively or positively.

However, we should thank WikiLeaks for the expose of the cables as we can now be more guarded when dealing with Singaporean officials. And by knowing exactly how they view us, we could also look within ourselves to see if there is any truth to Singapore’s assessment of us.

We can brush it off as our politicians tend to do when faced with criticism or we can try to improve our image in the eyes of the world.

If some of our politicians and officials are deemed as “stupid” or “corrupt” then we can take the first steps to correcting this perception. How this is done is up to us.

We should perhaps also let it slide and tell the Singaporeans: “That’s OK. You should hear what we say about you!” And that is diplomacy.