I worry that William Pesek’s April 12 commentary on Malaysia, titled”How Malaysia can limit harm from lost Flight 370,” is encouraging international readers to view the nation’s strengths and weaknesses through the tiny prism of the lost Malaysia Airlines flight. Certainly let’s call this situation what it is — a poorly managed response by Malaysia Airlines and the country’s government to a unique and tragic event. But let’s not pass ultimate judgment on Malaysia as a nation because of one extremely rare incident.

Pesek quotes President Barack Obama stating recently that Malaysia is “a dynamic economy” and mentions Obama’s praise for the country as a model multiethnic society. He then calls Obama’s comments “naive” and expands this position to conclude that Malaysia needs “nothing less than a political revolution”(!). Pesek’s starting point in this dramatic overhaul is an end to affirmative action.

Can we have a little perspective here? It’s reasonable to point out that Malaysia has had the same ruling political party for decades and it’s fair to point out the dangers of economically limiting Chinese, Indians and other nonethnically Malay Malaysians. However, none of Obama’s comments was wrong, and none of them needs revising now that an airplane has gone missing. Malaysia is indeed a functional multiethnic state to a degree that other Islamic-majority countries are not, and it deserves praise for that.

I do not personally see a political revolution as beneficial to Malaysia anytime soon, and in any case, affirmative action has proven a great success in other multiethnic nations (for example Canada and the United States), and there’s no reason it cannot be so in Malaysia.

I simply hope armchair observers of Malaysia’s struggles in locating Flight 370 and in dealing with the survivors’ families will not jump to illogical, unrelated conclusions and thereby pass judgment on a nation struggling to assert itself valiantly after centuries of abject colonialism. Large-scale human errors occur regularly in all types of nations.

regan tyndall

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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