All too easy to apologise after offending Indians

Ravin Palanisamy

PRIME Minister Anwar Ibrahim has come under fire from Tamil Malaysians for failing to appoint a Tamil-speaking full minister to the cabinet and for using the k-word in a dialogue with university students recently. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 25, 2023.

Commentary by Ravin Palanisamy 

PRIME Minister Anwar Ibrahim came under fire from Tamil Malaysians when he failed to name a Tamil-speaking full minister to the cabinet in his reshuffle on December 11.

Leaders and members of the community felt slighted as this was the first time a Tamil-speaking minister was left out of the cabinet since independence.

The majority of Malaysian Indians are Tamils, who feel they must be represented in government by one of their own. 

Thus, this is not the first time Anwar had slighted Tamils, or even the larger Indian community. His first year in office already saw several incidents that worried and outraged the community.

Now, hot on the heels of the controversial cabinet appointments comes another gaffe from Anwar.

This time, he uttered the word “keling” – a term deemed offensive to many Indians – in a Temu Anwar Dialog Mahasiswa programme at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim, Perak on Thursday. 

Despite his subsequent apology, this is highly unacceptable coming from a prime minister. Especially one who relied on the support of the Indian community to win power in the last general election.

With his vast experience in leading a multiracial party and country, Anwar should have known that the k-word would offend sensibilities. 

However, he justified his usage of it, citing “Hikayat Hang Tuah”, a Malay work of literature that depicted the famous warrior’s command of various languages like Malay, Arabic, Siamese, and the Keling language, derived from the term “kalinga”.

He clearly knows that the word is disliked by many. He even admitted that he often refrained from using it but on this occasion, he was only quoting a book. 

“Now, the term ‘keling’ is disliked by many, so I don’t use it. I only quoted from the book.

“If there is any misunderstanding, I apologise; it’s not my intention (to insult). I’m the last person to cast aspersions, insulting any ethnicity or religion,” he had said at a dialogue session with chief editors of electronic, print, and online media yesterday.

Would Anwar have been this insensitive towards the Malay-Muslim community?

For sure, he would have been more careful.

Would he have dared to try this with the Chinese community, who has continued to show unwavering support for him and Pakatan Harapan?

And would he make undiscerning comments regarding Palestinians or their plight? 

I bet he would not, knowing that there would be a massive backlash.

However, it seems fine to insult the Indian minority because they are seen as easy targets and will not retaliate. 

All that is needed is an apology or a song and dance in the style of Indian film actor M.G.R. to capture the hearts of the community and gain votes in the next general election. 

It is astonishing that no lawmaker from the multiracial PKR or DAP has even come forward to comment on the matter. 

But again, maybe a mere apology is more than enough to appease the Indians. – December 25, 2023. 

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has justified his recent usage of the k-word, citing ‘Hikayat Hang Tuah’, a Malay work of literature that depicted the famous warrior’s command of various languages like Malay, Arabic, Siamese, and the Keling language, derived from the term ‘kalinga’. – Wikimedia pic, December 25, 2023.

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  • We offend people all the time with our actions and speeches. But the apologies come with good and sincere intention are to be applauded rather than criticised. We need to take things with a pinch of salt.

    Posted 3 months ago by G Tan · Reply

  • Come Thaipusam he will dorn a vashti and sing
    Murugan songs and all the Indians will swoon for him. Try that with the Chinese or the Sarawakian Christians and see what happens. He will be a dead duck.

    Posted 3 months ago by Besaman Mucho · Reply

  • Stop making a mountain out of a molehill. PMX has apologised and if that is not enough, too bad. Its your own sensitivity.

    Posted 3 months ago by Brave Malaysian · Reply

  • Insult then apologise. That is the latest trend.

    Posted 3 months ago by Besaman Mucho · Reply