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Malaysia summons Singapore diplomat over Lee Kuan Yew's remarks.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 28 Kyodo

Malaysia on Thursday summoned Singapore's high commissioner to explain recent remarks made by the city-state's founding father Lee Kuan Yew about ethnic minority Chinese in Malaysia being ''systematically marginalized.''

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters that Singapore High Commissioner T. Jasudason was summoned to his ministry to explain remarks made by Lee in a forum last week that have caused an uproar in the city-state's two neighbors -- Malaysia and Indonesia.

''We want to know what exactly is the nature of the statement,'' Syed Hamid said. ''I think that statement went beyond fair comment, describing something that is not true within our country.''

He said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has sent a letter to the Singapore government seeking an explanation of Lee's remarks and an apology.

''In all honesty, it should be right for them to say that they are sorry...But we will wait,'' he said.

Lee, Singapore's founding father, who stepped down as its first prime minister in 1990 but still holds the Cabinet position of ''minister mentor,'' had told the forum that Malaysia and Indonesia ''have problems with the Chinese. They are successful, they are hardworking, and therefore, they are systematically marginalized.''

He also said the two countries ''want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese -- compliant.''

A Singapore Foreign Ministry spokesman told Kyodo News that Jasudason met with Malaysia's Foreign Ministry Secretary General Rastam Mohamad Isa to receive the protest.

Rastam ''sought an explanation for the minister mentor's recent remarks,'' the spokesman said, adding, ''We will reply through appropriate channels in due course.''

Malaysia's move came on the heels of similar reaction in Indonesia.

Indonesia summoned the Singapore's ambassador to Jakarta on Wednesday for an explanation.

Indonesian lawmakers have protested over Lee's remarks, pointing out that though Indonesia's ethnic Chinese made up only 3 percent of the 220 million population, they are a dominant force in the economy and hold several key posts in the government.

In Malaysia, the ethnic Chinese represent some 25 percent of the 26 million population and as in Indonesia they control a large part of the economy.

The latest controversy over Lee's remarks has only added to the long list of sore points between Malaysia and the predominantly Chinese Singapore.

Once part of Malaysia, Singapore gained an acrimonious divorce in 1965 over race issues, and ties have never healed since. The two sides often quarrel over issues ranging from the supply of water to the relocation of a Malaysian railway line that runs into the heart of the city-state instead of stopping at the border.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Oct 2, 2006
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