OPINION: Letter From Australia: Softly, softly, Musa Hitam
delivers a hard-hitting message on global stage by K.C. Boey
knows this aspect of education well, from his
days on the kampung trail as Political Secretary to the Education Minister, imploring village folk to keep their children in school instead of marrying them off.
And later as Minister of Education, and Deputy Prime Minister.
Now as an internationally regarded elder statesman (Musa has been Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations and member of the Commonwealth Action Group), captain of industry (Guthrie chairman, Lion Group director) and social savant (chairman of Malaysian-based World Enterprise
has much to say on the global stage, drawing on the local. His
message to the assembled academics is that global movement has been all one way from the developed world to the developing.And it's not just about the 200,000 Malaysians who have studied in Australia since the days of the Colombo Plan in the 1950s and the negligible flow the other way around.
The imbalance in acquired vocational skills apart, there is the lop-sided exchange in social, cultural, political and economic ideas, and information flow. Musa
is passionate about the mutual benefits of this dialogue, he
would tell every and anyone within hearing shot at the lunch and tea breaks of the half-day conference to mark the launch of the institute. He
personal experience as a Masters product of the University of Sussex
in the UK, and he
draws on his
40 years in public service to illustrate the cultural nuances in dialogue between peoples.
For instance, being polite as opposed to being direct does not necessarily imply submission, Musa
would say.That trait suggests one explanation for Musa's public persona, his
modest stature at the lectern in the Victorian grandeur of the Windsor Hotel disproportionately diminutive against the weight of his
Taking up where Musa
left off, the question was put to the panel discussion to round off the conference: what practical ideas do members of the panel have to promote twoway and multi-directional flow in global movement?Rowthorn saw obstacles more than propositions that might help.The problem is not unique to Australia and its neighbours, he
chides Singer for trivialising the issue to one of kway teow and nasi lemak.
In any case, as Musa
assures the audience, English is almost the lingua franca in Malaysia.