There Once Was a Dream Called Malaysia: Now, a gap between image and reality

It is not at all unusual in the US for former government officials to write or comment on their areas of expertise. When you watch CNN today, there are plenty of former US Ambassadors and State Department officials talking about the situation in Egypt, for example. There is no ulterior motive. They just want to help people to be better informed.

Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Former U.S. ambassador John Malott created a major stink here with a recent opinion-editorial entitled The price of Malaysia’s racism published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.

Not only did Malaysia’s famous cyber community come out in full force to either praise or criticise his article, but the BN government and its support groups also rushed in to counter what they called his “spin”.

No less than Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin ran him down, as did Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali. The government-controlled mainstream press did what they could to damage-control and the New Straits Times even ran an op-ed of its own hotly, refuting Malott’s views and accusing him of being a stooge for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysia Chronicle decided to seek some answers and sent off several questions to him, which he has kindly taken the trouble to reply to. The Q&A is published below without editing changes to any of his answers.

In his reply, Malott reveals that he had offered to write an exclusive op-ed for NST to explain his stand. He suggested the title “There Once Was a Dream Called Malaysia” but does not think the paper will accept his offer.

The former ambassador sees the Pakatan Rakyat as a credible opposition but declines to predict who will win the next General Election. He also believes Malaysians are a “patient lot” and this is why a Tunisian or Egyptian scenario is unlikely to play out here.

Very tellingly, he complains that Malaysia is now overly about image these days and what you see may not be what you get. He counter-accuses the Najib administration of “spinning”, “condoning and even provoking” racial and religious tensions.

“If anyone is spinning today, it is the Malaysian Government. There are few foreign experts on Malaysia, and it is rare for the foreign press to report on Malaysian developments. I thought it was important for people outside Malaysia to know that there is a real gap between the image they are trying to convey overseas and the reality on the ground.”

“There are religious and racial tensions in every country, but I wanted people to know that in the case of Malaysia, the Government itself is condoning and even provoking those tensions.”

Appended below is the full text of the Q&A conducted through email: