Subject: NEUROTIC NORDIN SOPIEE
Date: 28 Nov 1998 00:37:59 GMT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (FARGOES)
Organization: AOL http://www.aol.com
When in Malaysia, Don't Clap at the Wrong Time:
New York, Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Here is a little story of terror that provides a picture,
albeit in distilled form, of public life in Malaysia these days.
It seems that Noordin Sopiee, chairman of a Malaysian think- tank called the Institute of
Strategic and International Studies, was in attendance at the ``Gala'' dinner for the APEC
delegates when U.S. Vice President Al Gore gave his freedom speech.
Gore directly gave support to Prime Minister Mahathir's political foes when he declared
``We continue to hear calls for democracy, calls for `reformasi.' We hear them today --
right here, right now -- among the brave people of Malaysia.''
Noordin, one of the organizers of the dinner, made his big mistake when Gore finished
speaking, as Noordin himself described in a letter to the Malaysian New
Straits Times of Nov. 21. ``I sat through the entire proceedings and I must confess
that I was stung by his final comments. When Gore finished, I started to clap and it took
me a full five seconds before I stopped,'' he said.
Oh boy! That was really a blunder.
In all probability, poor Noordin was the only Malaysian to have clapped. And then he knew
he was in big trouble. So what did he do? He offered a public explanation for his
outrageous behavior: ``I suppose a lifetime of training and conditioning got in the way of
what I should have done.''
In other words, Noordin was saying that he was so well brought up that he clapped on
automatic pilot. If anyone is to blame it is his mommy.
But wait a minute. Was Noordin saying that his manners were better than those of
Mahathir, who presumably did not clap for Gore? No problem, Noordin covered that base as
well: ``I felt so sorry for our Prime Minister who sat through the whole thing from
beginning to end, smiling as well-bred Malaysians are taught to do on such occasions.''
Actually, Noordin's letter to the New Straits Times is only a follow up. Who knows the
agony that this poor man must have endured? ``I was so upset that the first thing the next
day, I called up the New Straits Times and asked them whether I could take a one-page
advertisement to express my views. I asked them how much it would cost. The paper came
back two hours later to say that a page could indeed be found and that the lowest,
absolutely lowest cost (special to me because I had once worked with the newspaper) would
be RM14,500. I took a deep breath. And proceeded to write the text.''
The actual text of the Noordin ad is not anything special. It is just a lot of
condemnation of Gore and sycophantic praise for Mahathir.
What makes the whole episode exceptional is that a private citizen of Malaysia was so
intimidated that he felt the need to make a pathetic public apology for what anywhere else
would have been a soon-forgotten, minor incident. Is this what life has come to in
Malaysia? Maybe the clapping incident is just a fluke or maybe Noordin is a little off
balance. But Mahathir's own statements and actions argue otherwise.
Moreover, take a look at today's issue of the New Straits Times which heralded the
following chilling header ``Reformasi Supporters Identified.'' Reformasi is actually the
name of the Indonesian reform movement. Gore used the term in his speech to stand for a
generic people's movement for ending dictatorship.
The text from today relates an announcement yesterday to the State Assembly made by
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim. He told the delegates that the government has
identified a handful of government officers who were sympathetic to the opposition parties
and to the reformasi movement. The accused hold positions in the Education Department,
Agriculture Department, Farmers Organisation Authority and Community Development
Shahidan went on to give some professional advice to the accused ``I strongly recommend
that they resign from their respective posts and refrain from seeking
employment from any government department or agency.''
How nice -- a purge. Anyone know where to get advance tickets if Mahathir
decides to hold show trials?
Subject: Re: Questions for
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 14:43:26 -0600
From: email@example.com (Faruq Nelson)
Organization: UIUC Philosophy Dept
Many people who know Noordin Sopiee are surprised that he has gone to such lengths to
denounce Gore. Read Noordin's article from the NST of 21 NOV 98, and
I think you'll have your answer. Right away, you'll notice something interesting.
>Very few Malaysians were at the Gala Dinner of the Apec Business Summit
>where Vice-President Al Gore carefully planned his remarks and his
>deliberate act of insult. I was.
>I was there as one of the organisers.... When Mr Gore
>finished, I started to clap and it took me a full five seconds before I
Noordin Sopiee organized the dinner at which Gore gave his speech. Noordin responded to Gore's speech with applause for "a full five seconds."
Try clapping while you time yourself for five seconds. That's surely enough applause to
give any onlooker the impression that you approve of whatever it is you are applauding.
As an organizer of the dinner, Noordin would have been positioned where many people
could have had the opportunity to see him applaud Gore's remarks. If Mahathir himself did
not see Noordin applaud, there is no shortage of people who would trip all over
themselves for the chance to tell Mahathir about it.
Mahathir has made it very clear that he is extremely displeased with Gore's remarks. If
Mahathir believes that Noordin helped Gore embarrass Mahathir, then Noordin is in major
trouble. And he knows it. Hence Noordin's loud, sustained, nearly hysterical
condemnation of Gore.
Faruq abd ul-Rafi (R. A. Nelson)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Philosophy
We won't stand for 'kurang ajar' idiots
New Straits Times, Saturday, November 21, 1998
By Tan Sri Noordin Sopiee
Very few Malaysians were at the Gala Dinner of the Apec Business Summit where
Vice-President Al Gore carefully planned his remarks and his deliberate act of insult. I
I was there as one of the organisers. I sat through the entire proceedings and I must
confess that I was stung by his final comments. When Mr Gore finished, I started to clap
and it took me a full five seconds before I stopped. I suppose a lifetime of training and
conditioning got in the way of what I should have done.
I was so upset that the first thing the next day, I called up the New Straits Times and
asked them whether I could take a one-page advertisement to express my views. I asked them
how much it would cost.
The paper came back two hours later to say that a page could indeed be found and that the
lowest, absolutely lowest cost (special to me because I had once worked with the
newspaper) would be RM14,500.
I took a deep breath. And proceeded to write the text. (In case you missed it, it is
reproduced below as part of this letter).
The morning it was published (Wednesday), I received many phone calls and faxes. Someone
who was a fellow student in England, who has therefore known me for more than 30 years,
said: "Wah ... I didn't know you have a temper!" Many of my friends and many who
have heard me speak all over the world are very surprised because over the decades they
have known me as a very diplomatic sort of fellow who would never, never call a spade
"a bloody shovel".
I am, in fact, the sort of person who would invariably call a bloody shovel "a
I have therefore tried to ask myself why it is that I was and still am very angry. Is it
because of what Mr Gore said in his speech? Is it because I felt so sorry for our Prime
Minister who sat through the whole thing from beginning to end, smiling, as well-bred
Malaysians are taught to do on occasions such as these?
Mr Gore's speech was unadulterated kindergarten stuff. A mediocre first-year political
science student would be able to match the sophistication.
I happen to believe that democracy is a moral good. And most often it is the most
productive system that any society can have. I do agree with Churchill that despite its
many flaws and weaknesses, it is the best system of government so far invented.
I happen to believe that even if democracy is not productive and optimal in economic terms
- in certain societies, in certain circumstances, and at certain stages - this does not
necessarily mean that democracy should be abandoned or denied.
Mr Gore says something that he can not possibly believe: that a nation cannot possibly
have economic growth and prosperity unless it is a democracy, and a most American
democracy at that. (He surely does not need reminding that the fastest economies in Apec,
amongst those in the very room in which he spoke, are all not democracies).
I have been told that many in the US Government in Washington had tried to have the speech
re-written, as did the American ambassador in Kuala Lumpur. It would seem that nothing
less than a specific, calculated insult to Malaysia in terms of word and action would do
if Mr Gore is to reap sufficient capital for the run for the US presidency on which he has
I am afraid I cannot imagine that what he said is for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
It is so cynically, so blatantly, for the benefit of presidential hopeful Al Gore.
Even this is not the complete reason for my anger. I think I was so enraged not so much
because of what was said but because of what was done.
The Americans had specifically agreed, and given the undertaking, that after speaking, Mr
Gore would sit and go through the first course before leaving for another appointment.
Instead, he had his say and he rudely left. He was intent on insult.
The American aides had insisted that the air-conditioning in the hall be turned off on
grounds that poison gas could be put through the air-con ducts and therefore threaten
Vice-President Gore. (The death of the one thousand other guests, including the heads of
many governments including our Prime Minister, does not, of course, count). I am proud
that the Malaysian engineers stood their ground and refused to obey instructions.
Even before the Gala Dinner itself, the announcer had been given detailed text about the
announcements that had to be made. Obviously, Mr Gore's arrival had to be announced. Then,
as protocol dictates, the arrival of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
On the night itself, Mr Gore's staff ordered the announcer to first announce the arrival
of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Only then, she was instructed, could she announce the
arrival of Mr Gore. Mr Gore would thus be the last to enter the hall. That would be the
order of precedence.
Fortunately, one of the Malaysian organisers had the gall to inform the American staffer
that we were not there to take orders from Americans. The announcer was told to announce
the arrival of Mr Gore first, then the arrival of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
When the emcee actually announced the arrival of Mr Gore, he refused to enter the hall.
She then announced the arrival of Dr Mahathir. The PM, who was from a different holding
room (because the Gore team had insisted that unlike all the other Presidents and Prime
Ministers Mr Gore must have a separate waiting room, which only he would occupy) duly
walked into the hall.
It was only after our Prime Minister entered the hall that Mr Gore deigned to enter.
And when he did so, he deliberately shook the hands of two others before shaking the hand
of the Prime Minister, who was politely waiting to greet him.
More than a week before the event, I had been warmly entertained by a top US official and
led to believe that the United States would not be raising the issue of human rights and
democracy at the Apec meeting. (This proved to be technically correct because Mr Gore
raised the issue at the Apec Business Summit, an NGO event, before the Apec meeting, not
at the Apec meeting itself. I have been told that during the subsequent Apec Leaders'
Meeting over the next two days, which were not reported or reportable, Mr
Gore said absolutely nothing about democracy and human rights. Perhaps some clever lawyers
will tell me that the Americans were true to their word.)
The American Government had kept up the elaborate pretense that Mr Clinton would be coming
when they had no intention of having Mr Clinton at Apec and in Kuala Lumpur.
The subject of the dinner speech at the Apec Business Summit to which the Americans had
agreed was: "My Vision of the Pacific Community". An outline of that speech had
been conveyed to the Malaysian organisers. That outline addressed the agreed topic. There
were no offensive points or remarks, which was why the organisers were relaxed and ready
for a truly gala dinner when the Gore bombshell hit the fans.
I have no evidence to suggest that the Americans deliberately conveyed the outline to us
in order to mislead the organisers, who otherwise would have cancelled the dinner speech.
But then neither do I have any evidence to suggest that a clear attempt at deception was
We in the organising committee should have smelt something when the Americans were so
accommodating up front. I may be wrong. But with the benefit of hindsight, it would seem
they were prepared to make any promise, accommodate any request, and do whatever was
necessary, to ensure that Mr Gore had an opportunity to fling mud in our face - before the
eyes of the world, and more importantly, before the eyes of the American electorate.
I must say that since I lost my 'cool', and put in my expensive advertisement, things have
happened which I could not imagine. An American friend of mine in an American company in
Singapore phoned to apologise to me personally.
How did he know about the uproar? Because Malaysians working in the company in Singapore
are up in arms and don't mind if the bosses know it. (Perhaps somebody should tell them
that most American executives in the region are horrified by the Gore insult.)
Anyway, how did the Malaysians in this company know about what was happening in Malaysia?
"I don't know, but they all know," he said. "Malaysia and Singapore are
I am told that the telephone 'hotline' that some have set up to take calls of angry
Malaysians has been jammed solid. Perhaps they should have a battery of telephones instead
of just one line.
I have been particularly touched by a letter from one 'girl' who wrote some very strong
words (which are quite un-printable). She ends by saying: "I am now relieved for
taking this off my chest." Her signature I cannot decipher but she signs off as
"an ordinary working girl in KL (but not so ordinary after all, after
Nationalism is a very powerful force. Those who talk of globalisation and the passing of
the nation state might once in a while bear that in mind.
My mother and my father taught me to love my country. They taught me well. I hope that my
wife and I have similarly taught our three boys.
Like other Malaysians, there are many things in Malaysia today which we don't like and
which upset us.
I would like to apologise most humbly if I cause offense; but I cannot stand the corrupt
practices, the cheating and the dishonesty that I see so often, in so many places.
We deserve many of the criticisms that have been made by Malaysians and by
foreigners. Many, many things are wrong and have to be put right. (Although it is us
Malaysians who must get the job done, not visitors on the way to somewhere else who spend
two days on our soil.)
I have reached that point in my life when I will not stand for stupid, ignorant, kurang
ajar idiots insulting my country in pursuit of their own agenda.
I will no longer stand for it.
And I am proud that I am not one. I stand in the company of millions of my
A Malaysian citizen