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P. Ramlee fan strikes right diplomatic note Print E-mail

CAN Japan, which has transfixed Malaysia with its disciplined and precision society for nearly three decades, learn anything from Malaysia?

Most will say that the likelihood of this happening is similar to a snowflake dropping from the Saharan sky. But the Japanese ambassador to Malaysia, Masahiko Horie, begs to differ.

Twenty-nine years after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad turned his gaze east to the Land of the Rising Sun for the best of Japanese society, the Japanese envoy is propounding something similar -- in the opposite direction.

Horie, enthralled by things Malaysian over the three years he has been here, feels the time has come for Japan to learn from Malaysia about what it does best -- multicultural living. He points to multiracial harmony as one potential area of interest besides the general Malaysian prowess in English.

"I am advocating that Japanese youth come to Malaysia to learn about multiculturalism. They can also emulate your command of English which is better than in Japan."

Horie is convinced that Japanese youth need to pick up the nitty-gritty from Malaysians on how to get along with people of other religion, culture and language as they became part of the global village.

I am sitting in his official residence in Jalan Langgak Golf, Kuala Lumpur, as the 63-year-old veteran diplomat speaks at length on one of his pet subjects -- the Look East Policy (LEP).

He provides names, dates and places at the drop of a coin on the topic or the raft of issues close to his heart like the Malaysian' love for the Bon Odori festival (where more than 40,000 people danced together last year), Japanese investment in Malaysia and the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT), which is close to his heart.

It's the second time I am at his sprawling bungalow in the span of a few weeks, the first when he invited me for a get-to-know-you lunch served on a little table in a cavernous annexe.

I was surprised to receive the invitation as there had not been any overture from the embassy to engage me in the time that he has been here.

At that meeting, Horie had expressed surprise at my remark some time ago to one of his subordinates that I had been unable to gain access to the sitting Japanese ambassador.

His sentiments were understandable, I thought, as he is as media-savvy as they come. In fact, my comments were about a predecessor who had preferred to maintain a low profile, and certainly not about him.

The second meeting saw him striding down the stairs armed with a veritable arsenal of facts and figures, complete with newspaper cuttings, in-house statistics and magazines.

There are 9,000 Japanese expatriates and 1,400 Japanese companies in Malaysia; about 1,500 Japanese are here under the Malaysia My Second Home programme ("I am going to apply"); Japan is the largest investor with investments of between RM5 billion and RM10 billion (S$4.184 billion) annually; and 13,000 Malaysians have been trained under the LEP.

A word about the MJIIT is necessary at this juncture as Horie has been cradling this project for the past three years with a passion.

"We have worked on this project for 10 years. It is based on the concept of excellence in engineering," he said, adding that it would be based at the new Universiti Teknologi Malaysia campus to be built in Kuala Lumpur.

Horie is an intense and hardworking envoy, always juggling official business and pleasure in a posting that by his own admission brings immense joy to him and his wife, Yoko (daughter of sunshine).

His friends tell me that he can break into a song (in Bahasa Malaysia, no less) with very little convincing.

His favourite singers are P. Ramlee and Siti Nurhaliza (he sang her song, Gelora Asmara, to her at a function).

The interview is coming to an end and I am ready to leave when Yoko is asked to join us, not knowing what is awaiting her.

The ambassador coaxes her into sitting at the piano to accompany him in a soulful rendition of Getaran Jiwa, which he sang with ease and without a song sheet.

I am amazed by this batik-wearing envoy who speaks his mind and sings his heart out -- two traits that have helped him make his way into the hearts of Malaysians.

Horie is momentarily troubled by the possibility that he may go down in the annals of Malaysian diplomacy for his singing skills and not his diplomatic prowess. I assure him that there is not a ghost of a chance of this happening.

His manifold efforts at enhancing bilateral relations through tangible projects on numerous fronts will sing volumes of where his heart is in Kuala Lumpur.

Source: http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Malaysia/Story/A1Story20110207-262182.html



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