” What the…?!” you say, more surprised than angry.
But before you can even finish your sentence, your son runs over to breathlessly defend his neighbour.
Tun Dr Mahathir’s (“TDM”) poem says nothing about Sultan Hussein’s sale of Singapore (“SG”) to the British East India Company (“EIC”) in 1819. Absolutely nothing. Alfian Sa’at (“Alfian”) came up with this story out of thin air.
There’s nothing else in the poem that supports (or even hints at) this interpretation.
There is nothing in the poem’s present situation/context (TDM’s loss of PM-ship, Bersatu etc) that supports Alfian’s interpretation.
Even looking at the poet’s previous work isn’t helpful. On the contrary, TDM has a long history of taking shots at SG. I don’t remember the last time TDM talked about selling SG to the EIC.
Alfian disagrees with TDM’s understanding of history after bringing up the excuse that TDM was referring to a historical event. A classic example of “ownself talk, ownself shiok”.
Imagine your child coming up to you with a drawing. You look at the squiggly lines and say, “That’s a pretty lousy poem you have written there”, and wax lyrical about iambic pentameter. It’s not a poem your kid brought you, it’s a drawing.
That’s what Alfian is doing. His criticism is not directed towards TDM at all, just a figment of his own imagination.
As an example of the loss of Malay rights from the sale of land to the EIC, TDM could have used the sale of Penang island to the Kedah Sultanate in 1786.
When we read what was written (whether in the original or in whatever translation we chose) did we think, “Ah, TDM clearly refers to the 1819 sale of SG by Sultan Hussein to the EIC and nothing else”?
Many of us read it but didn’t come to that conclusion. Instead, we wondered what TDM was doing again, and why he was stirring tensions with SG (on racial grounds!).
Isn’t this something we should categorically reject? Instead of making excuses for TDM. Instead of blaming Minister Shanmugam and accusing him of “riling up Singaporeans”.