On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Poor attendance at US comedy court

We shouldn't get too uptight  about the hearing. The American  public, particularly the average  Joe Sixpack, would be more interested in
football and game shows.

The hearing was poorly attended, with only three of the 21 panel  members present, reflecting lack  of interest and seriousness.

Assistant Secretary of State for  East
Asia and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth, who was scheduled to  speak on behalf of the Clinton
Administration, did not turn up.

Three witnesses, purported experts, gave their views. They were  Deputy Assistant Secretary of  State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Ralph
Boyce, Asia-Pacific  Policy Center
president Douglas  Paal, and Dr Linda
Lim, a Singaporean teaching at the University 
of Michigan Business School.

For a country advocating justice  and
human rights, it certainly has  a strange
way of conducting a  hearing. No
Malaysians were present; many of us would want to  know if its because no Malaysian  was keen to participate or otherwise.

Dr Lim was asked to give her  views,
presumably to touch on Malaysia's strained relations with Singapore.

But that did not stop her from  giving
her views on the economic  situation in
Malaysia, particularly  the capital
control measures.

It would have made a difference  if those
affected the most  Malaysian businessmen who
have to  plan their budgets  were asked to 

To the average Malaysian who  has to
service his housing loan, the  move to
impose high interest rates  was like a
rope around his neck.

The United States should have  less faith
in an expert who has  probably never
carried out a business transaction in her life.

This reminds us of the habit of  the
foreign media in seeking the  views of
so-called experts on Malaysian politics who are based in  Hong Kong and Singapore.

Surely, the views of Malaysians  carry
more weight than these foreigners who are thousands of miles  away, relying merely on news reports, the
Internet and comment  from their circle
of contacts.

The foreign media is also fond of 
quoting anonymous Western diplomats based in Kuala Lumpur when  filing stories from Malaysia. Do  Western diplomats know better?

Hardly is there any report quoting Asian diplomats, even when  many fo them can speak the local  languages and even pass off as

Interestingly, Paal admitted that  his
centre had colloborated with  Datuk Seri
Anwar Ibrahim and had  received donations
from Anwar  and his associates.

At that hearing, Paal reportedly 
recommended to the members of  the
US Congress to maintain a cool 
relationship with the Malaysian 

Delivering his presidential address at the Umno general assembly on Friday, Dr
Mahathir was understandably upset at the hearing,  describing it as a “kangaroo  court.''

But we shouldn't give too much  credence
to such hearings. It  doesn't do Malaysia
much good  when we sometimes seem over
sensitive to visits by foreign opposition figures.

In the case of the US, despite its  talk
of championing justice and  fair-play, it
has a record of refusing to sign, accede and ratify a  long list of treaties under the United

For example, the US is still indifferent to the International Convention on the
Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid,  adopted by the UN General Assembly in

Records show that it is still  vague on
the Convention on the  Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the UN in 1979.

It is the same with the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports,
adopted by the UN  in 1985.

Malaysia is just a dot on the map  to the
American public. Not too  many Americans
are overly-excited by events here.

At the end of the day, the fate of  the
country is decided by Malaysians – not foreigners.