... everyone a happy International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples! http://www.un.org/events/indigenous/2007/index.shtml
... Hidayah a happy belated birthday!
Yes, it was my birthday 12 days ago... and some Lehigh friends from 3 continents surprised me with a cosy celebration at Ali's above-Subway apartment. My ADK sisters & friends from overseas sent their birthday greetings too! Thanks for remembering! :)
For the past 2 weeks, I have been bonding with fellow Singaporean and Malaysian friends of various races at the UN. A Singaporean friend mentioned how she was very close to the Malaysians during her mission overseas; telling them how they were all part of the Malayan Federation (what Singapore & Malaysia were known before our separation). I smiled and reflected on this political love-hate sibling rivalry between Singapore & Malaysia. A recent incident confirmed this 'fear and suspicion' … One of the bloggers posted on the Angkasawan blog - “I hear Singapore will set up a space tourism centre that will include parabolic flights to civilians. With our program sending people to the space station we shd be the one doing those program. Govt shd take heed and not let this program go to waste. Let's not get beaten by Spore on this one.”
Being the civic-minded person, I felt the need to reply. The gist of my follow-up comments (which had recently mysteriously disappeared) was “I read with interest NH Chan's comments when he said "Let's not get beaten by S'pore on this one". Let's not make this an inter-country competition. Every country has it own strengths and weaknesses. The most important thing is to strive to achieve what we set out to do in the best way we can. Singapore may be first in most things but Malaysia is able to garner every citizen's support in projects such as sending its first Everest team etc. I remember when I stopped by a petrol station in Kuala Lumpur, the guy who worked there smiled and shouted "Malaysia Boleh!" Malaysia has something that Singapore lacks - national spirit."
I didn't think my remarks were insulting to either country. I see them as words of encouragement; we should learn from each other’s strengths. It would indeed be disappointing if my comments are removed for fear of igniting political sentiments. The blog entries did not indicate any form of aggressive follow-up to my remarks. In fact, NH Chan later commented "Hidayah Amin, I am humbled."
Initially, I was upset when I found out that my comments have been deleted. I hurled “My goodness! What happened to freedom of speech!" at my laptop screen. But I decided to stay cool. Perhaps the best way is to constantly remind family and friends whether Singaporeans or Malaysians that we will always be neighbours. “Honour thy neighbour” as they are the closest to you and will be able to help you when you need them. Healthy competition is good but not to the extent of unfounded suspicion and irrational fears. I’m no politician but I do know that it always pays to have friends, especially for small states like Singapore. Sometimes, in this confusing political climate, we lose track of one common but important point: We all live underneath the same blue sky.