Fri, 01 Dec 2000

Illness finds its way in by the mouth

President Abdurrahman Wahid's tirade against Singapore while attending the ASEAN summit last weekend in Singapore has invited instant criticism, with critics denouncing the tirade as an "inelegant" emotional outburst. This should teach him an invaluable lesson about self-restraint in his words and deeds. Maybe now he will stop being such an avid globetrotter and start putting the house in order.

This unfortunate incident reminds me of a Chinese adage taught in Chinese primary schools in the prewar days: "Illness finds its way in by the mouth; misfortune bursts out from the mouth." The wisdom holds true from time immemorial.

Being a Chinese-Indonesian traumatized by the devastating May 1998 riots, I shudder to think that the President's ill-advised outburst could incite racial violence against the Chinese by the Malay people.