Wednesday, October 04, 2006

You call this an apology?

I wonder where politicians learn to do apologies. There must be a school of diplomatic language out there that teaches you how to make apologies but at the same time don't make it sound like you did anything wrong.

Take what the Pope Benedict XVI and Lee Kuan Yew for example. Both international statesman and probably have a team of foreign affairs people to write diplomatic letters for them. Both of them recently put their foot in their mouth and were asked to apologize for their statements.

Let's look at the Pope first. The leader of the Catholic Church made a speech quoting Emperor Manuel II Paleologos of the Orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire. The quote when like this, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Obviously, the Muslim world wasn't impressed (notice how Muslims are really sensitive nowadays?) and demanded an apology.

Later, he made and 'apology' by saying in a public speech, "I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims,"

These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.
"I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect."

Now a lot of Muslim leaders were obviously still not happy with the apology. Basically translated, when the guy said, "he was sorry how you reacted" he didn't apologize for his remarks. He just said "I think you over-reacted. What I said was the truth and I'm sorry you can't accept what I said". What kind of dumb apology is that?

Now let's take a look at Singapore's favourite mentor, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. The dude made a remark at a IMF meeting in Singapore about how Chinese are treated in Malaysia. Read on from the report in The Star today:

Lee Kuan Yew says sorry for comments
KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has told Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that he was sorry for the “discomfort” caused by comments he made about how Malaysia treats its minority Chinese.
Lee said that after a decade of troubled relations with Abdullah's predecessor (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) it was the last thing he wanted.
“I am sorry that what I said has caused you a great deal of discomfort. After a decade of troubled relations with your predecessor, it is the last thing I wanted,” he said in a letter dated Sept 29 and forwarded to the Foreign Ministry by Singapore High Commissioner T. Jasudasen yesterday.
“I had no intention to meddle in your politics. Indeed, I do not have the power to influence Malaysia's politics or to incite the feelings of the Chinese in Malaysia.”
A copy of the three-page letter was provided by the Singapore High Commission here last night.
Abdullah had written to Lee on Sept 25 seeking clarification over the latter's controversial remarks that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards the republic was shaped by the way they treated their Chinese communities.
Lee thanked Abdullah for the letter and said he made the remarks in a free-flowing dialogue session with former US Secretary of Treasury Larry Summers before many foreign delegates attending the IMF/ WB meeting on Sept 15.
He also included in the letter the transcript of the relevant passage as reported by Reuters.
He said that on the bridge and the half bridge to remove the Causeway, Abdullah made the position of the Malaysian government clear that Malaysia respected legally binding agreements and acted in accordance with international law.
“This made unnecessary a reference to ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) and the International Court of Justice that would otherwise have been unavoidable. This respect for the law is the basis for sound, long-term relations between us,” he said.
Lee said he was explaining to a liberal audience of westerners who wanted to see a stronger opposition in Singapore why the republic needed a strong majority government, not a weak coalition that would hamper it in defending its national interests.
“Singapore needs a strong government to maintain good relations with Indonesia and Malaysia and to interact with Indonesian and Malaysian politicians who consider Singapore to be Chinese and expect Singapore to be 'sensitive' and comply with their requests,” he said.
Lee also pointed out in his letter that Malaysian politicians including Dr Mahathir and many others had publicly warned Malaysian Malays that if they ever lost power, they risked the same fate as Malays in Singapore, whom they alleged were marginalised and discriminated against.
He added that from time to time when Malaysian politicians attacked Singapore fiercely over some bilateral issue but some of them told the republic's politicians privately to just accept that as a part of Malaysian politics and not to react to those attacks.
“Singapore understands the reality of Malaysian politics. We have never protested at these attacks on our multi-racial system or our policies, except to clarify our own position when necessary.
“But we have to explain to our people the root cause of these difficulties in our bilateral relations.
“Otherwise Singaporeans will believe that their own government is doing wrong either to our own people or to Malaysia.
“As for the international audience, with so many foreign embassy staff and foreign correspondents reporting on Singapore and Malaysia, plus tens of thousands of expatriate businessmen working in our two countries, these people will come to their own judgement of the true position regardless of what I say,” he added.
Lee also pointed out that this was not the first time he had made similar remarks and “in fact I had said less than what I had written in my memoirs published in 1998.”
The former Singapore premier said since Abdullah took over as Prime Minister, the relations between the two countries had improved.
Lee also attached a postscript to his letter informing Abdullah that he would be releasing the letter to the media.

Now here's another I'm-sorry-you-over-reacted type of apology when the dude said "I am sorry that what I said has caused you a great deal of discomfort". Why not just say, "I'm sorry that I said that, I shouldn't have done that and it was insensitive of me"?

Probably wanted to save his face. The guy had to explain his remarks by saying, "hey, you also say bad things about my country what and I never complain also! I say a bit only, you make so big noise... okay lar, sorry lar! Nah! Happy?". What lar this Singapore.

Old man shouldn't be allowed to represent countries, they should be shooed out of government and let loose on lecture circuits and represent themselves only.

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