mardi 19 juin 2018


On first reckoning, you would think that these two countries have nothing in common. One is in South East Asia, predominantly Muslim, upper end on the development scale; the other a small island the other side of the world, communist, with very high standards of Education and Medical Care. Both have a modicum of Democracy, but Malaysia is not a one party state.
Dr. Mahathir is known as a Fox among even the most cunning of politicians.
Recently at the age of 92 he was reelected as PM of Malaysia defeating a well oiled machinery of the long governing Muslim dominated party, where the former PM and his cronies stole about a billion dollars worth of Government money. Dr. Mahathir promises to rectify these mistakes
But he had not forgotten his old ally, Cuba

In 2003, when the Non Aligned Government heads of state met in KL, Fidel Castro was healthy and present and I remember a photo of them together at the Malaysian Embassy (resulted from that meeting). The wily Dr. M, as he is known, used his good offices with Fidel; to prod the Americans, gain some respect in the process.
Fidel in return promised 45 medical scholarships to deserving Malaysian students and opening of an Embassy in KL. I had met two of the last four Malaysian Ambassadors to Cuba, Joji Samuel who is now his country's ambassador to Thailand and Omar Khairy who became a good friend and the last three out of four Cuban ambassadors to Malaysia have been my friends: Pedro Monzon, Carlos Amores and Ibete Fernandez.
Whenever I am in KL, I try to stop by the Embassy for a chat or we share a coffee or a meal. Each of these ambassadors is extraordinary , as Cuba is very selective on who represents the country abroad and I have learned a lot from them.
This morning, a good friend of mine from KL, sent me this link to an article in the New York Times about Dr. Mahathir Mohammed and what he is trying to accomplish in that debt ridden, corruption wrapped country.
In the article, there are four photographs, I am sure carefully chosen, symbolically the three of them are representing the Islamic values of the country, where you see Mahathir or his assistants dressed in traditional Islamic way of the Malay people (which by the way is quite recent that is another story) and the only other picture shows Dr. Mahathir receiving the Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia, Mrs. Ibete Fernandez.

I looked at the symbolism of this photo and its context.
NYT is a widely read and the most respected newspaper in the USA. Dr. Mahathir is no friend of Trump and is aware of his anti-Cuban policies. By showing the only political photo in this article in the most prestigious daily newspaper in USA, where people would see him receiving the Cuban Ambassador to his country is a manoeuvre by the clever Dr. Mahathir. An Average Malaysian who may not see this article (even though it came to me from a Malaysian friend of mine), lots of Americans would see it and read it and would see the photo of my friend Ibete, who is the Cuban Ambassador with Dr. Mahathir, thus emphasizing the symbolism of friendship over distance from Cuba and how we value friendships when the country closest to Cuba maintains such a hostile attitude towards Cuba.
I enjoyed reading the article and seeing the photo of Cuban Ambassador with Dr. Mahathir