Friday, September 18, 2009

Malaysian minister drags Singapore into Southeast Asia's simmering culture war

Just when Malaysia and Indonesia seemed ready to end their ridiculous kulturkampf over traditional dances and batik, Malaysia's tourism minister has dragged Singapore into the fray, implicitly accusing the neighbouring city-state of "hijacking" its food.

"We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food," tourism minister Ng Yen Yen told reporters at the launch of a gourmet food festival in Kuala Lumpur.

She went on to cite dishes such as chilli crab, laksa, and bak kut teh as examples of Malaysian dishes that had been hijacked by others, with Singapore presumably at the top of that list.

Without a hint of irony, she even singled out "Hainanese chicken rice" as an authentic Malaysian dish that had been stolen by interlopers, according to The Star newspaper.

All these dishes, incidentally, are listed by the Singapore Tourism Board as quintessential Singaporean fare.

Apparently this was more than idle banter as Ng explained that over the next three months, the Malaysian government would "identify certain key dishes to declare as Malaysian".

Forgive me for suggesting that, faced with rising racial tensions, crumbling public support and a stagnating economy, the Malaysian government ought to have better things to do than launch a food war against Singapore.

Given the shared cultural heritage of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and the fact that these three entities (none of which existed before 1949) could easily have become one giant nation (Indonesia Raya) or many smaller states, these new culture wars are rather farcical.

Nineteenth century British prime ministers Palmerston and Disraeli used gunboat diplomacy as their preferred vehicle for the jingoism needed to distract the people from the real issues of the day.

The Malaysian and Indonesian governments obviously prefer hawker stall diplomacy: "Mine is the original, best No.1 Laksa, lah. Other one only copy but no good, wah."

Pic courtesy of Flickr user KayVee.INC.


  1. It has to be one of the silliest ideas to boost
    your country's tourism.

    Commonsense dictates that what really matters
    is which country's version of the food/dishes
    met with the most approval of tourists/visitors.

    That counts, nothing else.
    Can the Malaysian take it to the ICJ, like the Pedra Blanca case. LOL.

  2. I'm Malaysian, but fuck Malaysia. Our fucking politicians are fucking raised from the gutters and educated in the sewers. Fucking embarassing and fucking childish. I hope Singapore don't respond to this bait. She's obviously taking minds off the real issues in Malaysian which is inefficiency, racism, corruption, declining societal intelligence and general fuckidity.

    Don't worry Singapore, no one with half a brain would want to visit Malaysia anyways. We fucking cane girls who drink beer here.

  3. Credit for the Hainanese Chicken Rice should go to Hainan. The end of ridiculous dispute.

  4. i am a malaysian too and agree with lennonist. cant see one single malaysian minister with brains, irrespective of race. all completely useless. i hope they get kicked out real good come next elections.

  5. i'm a malaysian here. you see singaporeans, you don't have to watch 'Friends' to have a good laugh. just follow the daily news in Malaysia.

  6. Aiyo..yo. why do we have such minister in malaysia. Have nothing better to do than to dwell on trivial things like this. Go address the brain drain situation and more important things than to accuse our more effcient and clean neighbor of hijacking food as theirs. No wonder the countries surronding us are moving forward but malaysia is more than happy to move backwards. Sad Sad case of giving priority to things that do not matter.

  7. After 51 years of independence .....we thought we would move forward.., sad to say we Malaysians are back to square One. 1Malaysia.

  8. I'm quite impressed that few Singaporeans seem to have risen to Ng Yen Yen's bait.

    I wonder what was going through her mind when she decided to make these comments...

    Still, it won't put me off visitng Malaysia.

  9. Malaysia had better go through all its official tourism related websites and remove all mention of food that are generally considered as having originated from China (dim sum), India (naan) and Indonesia (nasi padang) as can be found here

  10. "I'm quite impressed that few Singaporeans seem to have risen to Ng Yen Yen's bait."

    I'm Singaporean and we are pretty used to the nonsense coming from up north. We have our own issues to handle. No one has the time or patience to engage in something that is mere grandstanding by the Malaysians in their dispute with Indonesia.

  11. I'm Singaporean, and I went browsing around reading comments from both Malaysians and Singaporeans.

    It has been quite some time since ordinary peoples from both countries are so united in opinion, and have a common topic to laugh over! ;)

  12. Fooking Chicken Rice can be a point to argue about? I think Malaysia needs better politicians. Why bother about such trivial things? In the minds on Malaysians and Singaporeans, everyone knows Singapore has good chicken rice, malaysian has great wanton noodle, fried kway teow. Who owns the food? Who cares, we just need to know where to get the better food.