Superfluous advice from Bush administration


  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 21 May 2003

By V.K. CHIN

THE latest advice issued by the Bush administration to Americans to avoid certain countries, including Malaysia, due to possible terrorist attacks is really quite superfluous. 

Since the Sept 11 attacks on several landmarks in the United States, Americans have refrained from overseas travel unless absolutely necessary. 

Those who are spending their holidays locally are even particular on the mode of travel and most of them prefer to do so by car or rail, avoiding air travel wherever possible. 

They have this morbid fear of flying since several commercial aircraft were hijacked by the terrorists and used as weapons to destroy the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. 

Though airport security has been stepped up, many Americans have no desire to fly and face the possibility of their planes being hijacked and putting their lives and that of their family members in danger. 

The tight security has also resulted in long queues and the passengers are subjected to strict body and luggage checks to prevent any attempt to smuggle weapons on board. 

With this background, it is therefore meaningless for the State Department to issue such travel guidelines advising Americans where not to travel to. 

Malaysia is upset because it has been lumped together with other countries where terrorist activities have been active and there is some justification for such warnings to be issued. 

The Government has always been tough in dealing with any terrorist group out to sabotage political stability and the economy and to create unrest.  

These preventive measures were taken long before Sept 11 and are still ongoing. 

These actions have been recognised and accepted by the Bush administration and so Kuala Lumpur is naturally mystified by such travel warnings as they may give the wrong impression to others. 

In the past few months, the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry had organised several mammoth gatherings to mark the annual festivals for different communities and religions attended by up to 100,000 people. 

These occasions would have been ideal for troublemakers to create disorder and yet nothing untoward happened and the VIPs were able to mingle freely with the people. 

This demonstrates clearly the peace and harmony enjoyed by locals and foreign visitors to such gatherings who were able to have a good time without feeling any danger at all. 

It is actually the Bush administration officials who live in Washington and away from all these so-called dangerous places who seem to be feeling unsafe. 

To be fair, the heads of mission of these Western governments based in Kuala Lumpur are well aware of the actual situation on the ground and no doubt they have been filing their reports accordingly. 

However, there is a tendency for their reports not to be given due weight most probably as the contents do not fit into the agenda of their political masters back home. 

Still, it will be useful for Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to have another session with them just to update them on the latest situation and to exchange information. 

It will be a good occasion too for them to check or clarify on any latest developments on security and other related issues. 

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