Malaysia brings its Tradition of Multilateral Diplomacy to UNSC


October 25,2014

Malaysia brings its Tradition of Multilateral Diplomacy to UNSC

by Dr W.Scott Thompson@www.nst.com.my

MALAYSIA has made it again, amid fierce competition, for one of theRazali Ismail with Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros Ghali at the UNGA non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Why all the fuss?

Everybody knows that the veto power held by the five permanent members, China, Britain, France, Russia, and the United States, or the victors of World War 2, is what, in the end, determines whether the UN can function.

Ziaton_IbrahimWell, think again. Although the war ended 69 years ago, and world power has been substantially redistributed in the meantime, the permanent members are still five of the 10 most vital players in world affairs. But the absence of Japan, Germany and India is glaring. India has lobbied for years for a seat, as has Japan.

But it’s typical of every organisation with a hierarchy for the top group to draw a line just below them and is seldom likely to wish to diffuse their privileged position.

When I was an Assistant Secretary in the US government, we always saw ourselves as the true decision-makers, and tried to keep Deputy Assistant Secretaries in their place. But smart deputies were needed often, and so, of course, we had to act accordingly to get things done. Exclusivity is often trumped by survival needs. Trade-offs are made.

Of course, in the first instance, holding one of the non-permanent (NPM) seats, sinceZainal_Abidin_Sulong they rotate basically by region, is prestigious. Bad state performance is not a plus in these campaigns. Turkey campaigned relentlessly for the European seat, but is seen as a little heartless in the current anti-Islamic State (IS) struggle. Though it is sheltering more refugees than any country, its underlying concern is all too evidently preventing Turkish Kurds from linking up with their brethren in Syria, Iraq, and Iran (the Kurds, being the largest ethnic group in the world without a state embracing a preponderance of their number).

Malaysia has the advantage that it is not antagonising anybody, but even more importantly, it has a high-quality diplomatic tradition that brings results. The first ever book written about Third World diplomacy is by an Australian, who traced the roots of Malaysian skills back through their willingness to learn from the British, but, more importantly, to the traditions of intra-state diplomacy going way back. Everything counts: Kuala Lumpur always sends a superb diplomat to Washington, to live in the mansion where Jackie Kennedy grew up. Living next door, I watched the constant flow of VIPs.

Tun Dr.Ismail at the UNTun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman at the UN

In fact, NPM members have often played key roles in world affairs. In the 1980s, when the issue of Cambodia was front and centre, the Thai permanent representative, Dr M.L. Birabhongse Kasemsri, turned out to be the central player in resolving the basic issues. His expertise in law of the sea, along with that of Tommy Koh of Singapore, was instrumental in getting the new rules drawn up in a way that protected the needs of Southeast Asian states. Had it been otherwise, China would be having a much easier time bullying in the sea that they claim to own, and consider a core foreign-policy interest.

I had a smart student, Dr Darmp Sukontasap, now a successful Thai businessman, who wrote his PhD on the Thai role at the UNSC. He makes a point, which I cite from his letter, with thanks.

Zakaria_Ali“In May 1985, during one of the heights of the bipolar world, Ambassador Birabhongse was the chairman of the Security Council, considering a very sensitive issue of Nicaragua’s complaint against act of aggression by the US. Ambassador Birabhongse handled his role very well, focusing on consultations in an inclusive manner. In the end, although the issue was not resolved to the satisfaction of either of the parties involved, the credibility of the Security Council and its president remained intact and the practice of inclusive consultations, continued.”

It’s also the case that a diplomatic event that doesn’t happen is sometimes more important than what does. In 1950, when North Korea invaded the South, the Soviet Union was so exasperated by American dominance at the UN (and its willingness to use its veto power more often than the rest combined, all to protect Israel) that it played hooky from the UNSC, and the General Assembly was able to vote a “resolution for peace” authorising a UN force to repel the North Koreans and their great communist allies. This was more than a veneer for the central role the US played; had a large number of other states not participated, the Americans would have lacked legitimacy. The UNSC did nothing.

By far, the most important accomplishment of NPMs is making the “rule of law” central to the UN agenda. As always, the big boys don’t want to be constrained by laws while the weak ones seek their protection. And it is no longer a bipolar world, and consequently, there is much more room for trade-offs among the five and the NPMs.

On a non-core issue for a permanent member, it might be flexible and court NPMsZain_Azraai with UN Secretary-General for the legitimacy of whatever issue it is advancing. Too many new NPMs need their full term just to familiarise themselves with the processes of the UNSC. Malaysia knows its way around the UN, and its envoys will, from the start, bring credit to Malaysia while advancing the rule of law.

Congratulations, President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kala of Republik Indonesia


October 20, 2014

Congratulations, Republik Indonesia

MY COMMENT: Congratulations to my Indonesian friends, associates and the people of Indonesia, Malaysia’s good friend, on the occasion of the inauguration of your President and Vice President today.

Joko and JusufPresident Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla of Republik Indonesia

Despite some controversies during the last Presidential election, Indonesia has shown that it is a viable democratic state and a worthy leader of the ASEAN community.

To new President and Vice President I extend my warm wishes and congratulations on their inauguration. Not to be forgotten, we must say a big thank you to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for ensuring that his country remains a democracy and for promoting excellent relations with my own country. The outgoing President worked well with our Prime Minister. The good relations we enjoy today with Indonesia under SBY will continue in strength with the Joko Widodo-Jusuf Kalla administration in Jakarta.

There will be occasional glitches and strains, no doubt, but none seriousZahrain_Mohamed_Hashim enough to strain bilateral relations severely. I am in touch with our Ambassador Dato’ Seri Zahrain Hashim who has been working hard to improve relations with the Indonesian media and civil society since he began his tour of duty. His efforts are already bearing fruit and may he continue in an activist fashion to promote mutual understanding via dialogue and constructive engagement with opinion makers, religious leaders, and civil society activists, and think tanks and academia.

We can look forward to a further strengthening of bilateral relations under President Joko Widodo. Together, and with Malaysia in the United Nations Security Council, Indonesia in partnership with Malaysia as the ASEAN Chair in 2015 can be a positive influence on the strategic direction of ASEAN. The new President’s choice of Foreign Minister is critical though, since Foreign Minister Dr. Marty Natalegawa did a yeoman’s job of putting Indonesia’s imprint on Southeast Asia’s politics and political economy.

There are many challenges ahead for the new President, of course but one can be optimistic (certainly I am) that the new President, ably assisted by the experienced and business friendly Vice President Kalla will bring promises of a better future for the Indonesian people. Our relations with the government and people of Indonesia cannot be taken for granted. It takes a lot of effort to nip those glitches and strains in the bud.–Din Merican

The new President of Indonesia faces many challenges

by Dr. Farish M. Noor@www.nst.com.my

farish-a-noorTHE inauguration of President-Elect Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, and his vice-presidential partner, Jusuf Kalla, today marks a turning point in Indonesia’s history, as a politician with a humble civilian background and with no connections to the established elite of the country assumes the most powerful office in that country. Much is at stake in this event, as are the expectations that have been laid before the Jokowi-Kalla establishment.

Having kept his cards close to his chest all along, Jokowi was reluctant to divulge the names of the members of the cabinet, said to comprise 18 technocrats and 16 seasoned politicians, though it is widely known that much political bargaining had gone into deciding the final line-up.

This new government will face a People’s Representatives Assembly (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, or DPR) that is dominated by the opposition, and it is widely expected that many of the reforms that the new government will try to push through will be stalled on the debating floor.

Sec Gen-PPPEven then, last-minute developments may turn the tide in favour of the Jokowi-Kalla pairing. Last week, the United Development Party (PPP) went through one of its internal convulsions when the party assembly decided to make Mohammad Romahurmuziy (left) its new chairman, replacing Suryadharma Ali.

The PPP, at present, happens to be one of the parties that is part of the dominant Prabowo Subianto-led Red and White coalition, which currently stands to dominate the DPR. But at the PPP assembly, the winning faction signaled that there was now the possibility that the party might abandon the opposition coalition and jump to the Jokowi-Kalla pact instead.

Even if this were to happen, it would still not be enough to tip the balance in the President’s favour, and it is likely that the stalemate will continue unless, and until, another bigger party jumps across the political divide as well.

asean (1)

As things stand, we are likely to see a beleaguered presidency that will have to fight for every step it takes towards the ambitious reform package that it wishes to push through on a range of issues that span the public domain, from maritime policy, border issues, Indonesia’s role in the ASEAN region to tackling the problem of logistics and communication in that vast archipelago of a country.

Should the impasse remain, there is the likelihood that Indonesia’s wider ambitions will be thwarted by domestic political scrapes and scuffles, instead, as the parties and coalitions battle it out to block each other’s initiatives, and in the process, delay the transformation that would be necessary for the country’s economic take-off, that is long expected.

Jokowi and Kalla

For the neighbouring countries in the ASEAN region, the prospect of an Indonesia caught in the grip of domestic political stalemate is not a positive one, what with ASEAN Economic Integration around the corner, with the ASEAN Economic Community scheduled for next year.

For all these reasons, Indonesia will remain the country to watch in our region, this year and the year to come. And the state of Indonesia’s domestic politics is bound to have a spillover effect on the polities and economies of the region.

Malaysia in the UN Security Council with high expectations


October 18, 2014

Malaysia in the UN Security Council with high expectations

by Tan Sri Hasmy Agam@www.thestar.com.my

“The challenges are high and there is much work waiting for our team, with a heavy, complex and sensitive bundle of issues to deal with.It is not simply a matter of taking our seat in the security council but being equally mindful of the high expectations, as well as the tremendous responsibility, that lies ahead for our delegates.

To meet these high expectations, it is important that both the team in New York and the support team at headquarters work together as the issues that are being dealt by the security council are now much more numerous and complex.”-Tan Sri Hasmy Agam

anifah_amanUNMY heartiest congratulations to the Government for winning a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Coun­cil. Also, warm commendations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Wisma Putra) for its lobbying efforts that went into overdrive in the last several months, involving not only senior officials but also the Foreign Affairs Minister and often the Prime Minister himself.

The bid for a seat on the security council is always vigorously contested, but fortunately on this as well as the last occasion, Malaysia was the sole candidate for the Asian seat, again reflecting the country’s standing and respectability among the Asian countries.

Our fourth win for a security council seat after an absence of 15 years demonstrates the continued confidence and trust that the UN membership has in Malaysia.

When we ran for a security council seat for the 1999-2000 slot, a day before the voting, I was Hasmy Agamapproached by the Permanent Representative of a country with which we had problematic relations. He told me that while the relationship between our two countries was a difficult one on account of a particular issue that divided us, nevertheless, he had been instructed by his Government to vote for Malaysia because of “your country’s principled and consistent positions on international issues.” That was a high compliment from an unexpected quarter on the way we conducted our foreign policy and diplomacy.

This latest victory on our part is a clear reflection of the continued respect for and confidence in Malay­sia and, equally important, the expectations that Malaysia would be able to once again play its constructive role during its upcoming membership in the council.

Attention should now be focused on our role and responsibility as a member of the security council in the next two years ending December 31 2016, and what Malaysia intends to do or to initiate during its membership. The challenges are high and there is much work waiting for our team, with a heavy, complex and sensitive bundle of issues to deal with.It is not simply a matter of taking our seat in the security council but being equally mindful of the high expectations, as well as the tremendous responsibility, that lies ahead for our delegates.

To meet these high expectations, it is important that both the team in New York and the support team at headquarters work together as the issues that are being dealt by the security council are now much more numerous and complex.

In the past, the team in New York was left much to themselves, being the experts on the ground, but I would hope that this time around there would be greater coordination and sharing of ideas in terms of the issues that we should take a lead on, or initiatives that we would like to promote in the security council.

The issues that are dealt with by the security council relating to international peace and security are numerous, some of which have been on its agenda for years, if not decades. Quite a number of them are intractable issues that defy solution, and new ones keep coming before the security council.

Ban_Ki-moon and PM NajibAs a responsible security council member, Malaysia will have to deal with the issues in an objective and even-handed manner, and help ensure that the council remains united so as to be able to carry out its core function of maintaining international peace and security.

Issues of concern to the security council in the last few years include the increasingly complex and tumultuous political/security situation in West Asia or the Middle East.

As a security council member, Malaysia should have a clear and unambiguous position on each of these issues, based on a set of clear principles tempered, perhaps, by a certain amount of pragmatism based on national interests.

In the past, we had been able to follow a much-appreciated balanced approach. This has always been and will remain a big challenge to members of the security council, especially those who are concerned about their integrity and credibility.

I strongly endorse the suggestion made by Professor Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia and currently Chancellor of the Australian University, that Malaysia “should initiate efforts in the security council to push for nuclear disarmament.”

Evans made this suggestion in response to a question by Bernama, at the end of a recent Forum on Nu­­clear Non-Proliferation and Disarma­ment held at the Institute of Diplo­macy and Foreign Relations.

Other equally important initiatives that could be taken up include those relating to regional peace and security, international terrorism, the situation in Palestine and the very pertinent issue of safety of civil aviation in the light of the recent tragedies that had befallen us.

It would be good if the ministry would provide opportunities for others outside of the diplomatic profession to contribute ideas in terms of the issues to be taken up, as well as strategies and approaches to be adopted.

A lot of work needs to be done in initiating anything new in the security council so as to ensure the all-important consensus, without which it would not be possible to initiate anything, given the differing national and regional interests and positions of members of the council, aside from the vested interests of the veto-wielding permanent members.

My former colleagues in the ministry, who dealt mostly with bilateral issues, used to argue very strongly that bilateral relations were the bread-and-butter of diplomacy.But in the globalised world we live in today, and as foreign policy is as extension of domestic policy, multilateral diplomacy and bilateral diplomacy are becoming intrinsically linked.

Multilateralism has evolved and has taken centrestage on many issues. Indeed, many issues that are handled at the multilateral level have become increasingly important elements of bilateral diplomacy.

There should be a good balance between the two, one reinforcing the other in the pursuit of our overall national interests. Hence the importance of developing specialised skills among our officers so that we would be in a position to play an increasingly active, even leadership role, on certain important issues at the multilateral level so that from time to time, and on issues of vital interest to the nation, the Malaysian tiger could roar out again as in the past, even as we pursue a path of moderation in the international arena.

Tan Sri Hasmy Agam is a former diplomat who served as a member of the Malaysian Delegation to the United Nations Security Council in 1989-90 and 1999-2000. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Malaysia: UN Security Council, 2015-2016


October 17, 2014

Malaysia in UN Security Council

source: Bernama/www.malaysiakini.com

Malaysia has won a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), taking 187 out of the total 192 votes.

AnifahAman2The voting took place at the United Nations General Assembly hall in New York to fill five vacancies among the Security Council’s non-permanent membership. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (left) was at the hall to observe the voting process. Malaysia needed to garner at least 130 votes to get elected.

A total of 193 representatives of UN member countries were eligible to cast their votes to elect the five new members of the council. The new members will take up their seats on January 1, 2015 and will serve on the council until December 31, 2016.

The five seats available for election in 2014, distributed regionally, are: one seat for the African Group (currently held by Rwanda); one seat for Asia-Pacific Group (currently held by the Republic of Korea); one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, (currently held by Argentina); and two seats for the Western European and Others Group (currently held by Australia and Luxembourg).

Lithuania will maintain for another year the seat for the Eastern European Group. The respective winners for the other vacancies were Angola (Africa), Venezuela (Latin America and the Caribbean) and New Zealand while Spain and Turkey are involved in a third round of balloting to fill the remaining seat.

The Five Permanent Members

un_security_council_1Malaysia: UNSC Member (2015- 2016)

The Five Permanent Security Council members, which each wield the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Along with Lithuania, the non-permanent members that will remain on the Council until the end of 2015 are Chad, Chile, Jordan, and Nigeria.

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Each of the council’s members has one vote. Under the Charter, all UN Member States are obligated to comply with council decisions.

wisma_putraWisma Putra

The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act a of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. Prior to this, Malaysia was on the UN Security Council three times – in 1965, 1989 till 1990 and 1999 till 2000.

- Bernama

Without Bureaucratic Cobwebs, ASEAN cooperation can now move forward


October 10, 2014

Without Bureaucratic Cobwebs, ASEAN cooperation can now move forward

by Tunku A. Aziz@www.nst.com.my

tunku-azizWHEN ASEAN came into being on August 8, 1967, it was largely driven by considerations of peace and security among neighbours in a troubled region. We Malaysians had just emerged, with scars to show, from Indonesia’s “Konfrontasi”. There were admittedly serious concerns about countries in Southeast Asia being drawn inexorably into the Communist orbit, but Malaysia refused to be stampeded into embracing the “Domino Theory”.

Although the Malayan Communist Party-inspired insurgency was far from over, we were confident that we were in effective control of our country’s security and with the right mix of poverty eradication and industrial development policies, we could manage our own affairs without unwelcome United States intervention.

Malaysians were with their elected government. Embracing the US would have been the kiss of death for us, an emerging nation in search of a role and an identity. We had to develop our own home- grown model for regional cooperation.

We created ASEAN, then made up of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, in the confident expectation that it offered the best hope for our vision of a conflict-free region. However, ASEAN’s founding fathers, in envisioning their grand design, had not given sufficient thought to the role that their civil servants would be playing in policy formulation and implementation. The passage towards some semblance of unity of purpose was excruciatingly slow. ASEAN official inertia had to be experienced to be believed.

The private sector in ASEAN wanted to move at a much faster rate and felt that the civil servants were not only dragging their feet but were being totally obstructive. The ASEAN Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI) were quick to see the business potential presented by a regional market of more than 250 million people, and took to the new opportunities like duck to water, only to find that the bureaucrats had forgotten to fill up the pond.

Several industry-based working groups were formed and important trade links were made with the US and European Union chambers of commerce and industry. I remember a trip to Washington DC in the ‘70s by the ASEAN CCI and being received in the White House where a meeting with US officials and senior business leaders was arranged in the Franklin Room.

US Vice-President Walter Mondale was to host the meeting but he had to be called away on urgent state business. We were going all out to promote ASEAN to the American business community, but soon realised that we were so far ahead of the ASEAN governments that we were put in an embarrassing position. We cajoled, huffing and puffing, but to no avail. We were stuck in a bureaucratic maze.

We were running out of patience and the inevitable clash was not long coming. On Dec 12, 1979, some 12 years after the formation of ASEAN, 250 top ASEAN business leaders from all the national chambers met in Singapore. This was the opportunity I needed as chairman of the ASEAN CCI Working Group on Industrial Complementation to read the riot act.

Let The Straits Times of Singapore of December 13 echo my disappointment. Under the headline, “ASEAN civil servants rapped — ‘Too rigid an attitude towards cooperation”, it reported:

“Malaysian business leader, Tunku Abdul Aziz, yesterday lashed out at civil servants of Asean for their rigid, uncompromising and hopelessly impractical attitude towards closer regional cooperation.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said: “I have detected of late evidence of disenchantment and disquiet within the private sector with the way in which the question of economic and industrial cooperation is being handled by the economic ministers through their Committee on Industry, Minerals and Energy (Coime).

“A measure of the general euphoria prevailing throughout the ASEAN private sector is that until a few months ago, most of us were satisfied that Coime understood its role and was prepared to exercise its power and authority in a way that would satisfy private sector aspirations.

“What we did not know, of course, was that this body of hardened bureaucrats, sitting collectively in splendid isolation and insulated from the reality of a real world, was no more ready to deal with its appointed task than the Ayatollah is ready to grant the Shah of Iran the freedom of the city of Teheran.”

Questioning the effectiveness of the guidelines laid down by ASEAN civil servants on industrial complementation of regional projects, Tunku Aziz said:

“In spite of the usual pious declarations of selfless devotion to economic cooperation, these guidelines must be seen for what they are. They are rigid and uncompromising and are so obviously intended to protect the national position at all costs.

“These guidelines are a blight on the concept of regional cooperation. It is not surprising that we are beginning to wonder whether our governments are intellectually ready to cope with the rather special demands of a concept that requires a high degree of political will.

“Let us hope the governments of ASEAN will recognise the importance of private sector participation and involvement at all levels of policy formulation so that what emerges is a concerted effort distilled from the best available talents from both the government and the private sector.”

The Business Times Malaysia in its editorial, “ASEAN — useful plain speaking”, said that: “It needed to be said, sooner rather than later. But no one did until Wednesday when Tunku Abdul Aziz, in his capacity as Chairman of the ASEAN CCI’s Working Group on Industrial Complementation, hit out at the official Committee on Industry, Minerals and Energy in which rests the responsibility for reviewing ideas for reviewing ideas in these fields.”

The Asian Wall Street Journal waded in to support my “blast”, reporting my attack on the official guidelines that “are intended to regulate and control rather than promote and encourage private sector participation in and contribution to economic cooperation. These guidelines are a blight on the concept of regional cooperation”.

The tenor of my speech took ASEAN ministers and their bureaucrats by complete surprise, but it had the desired effect. Governments understood our position better and helped to remove much of the cobweb that had befuddled their collective mind.

Today, ASEAN is jogging along nicely and thriving. Successive regional leaders, 4th PM of Malaysiaparticularly Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, can take pride in nurturing ASEAN to become a regional force for good.

ASEAN has been well-served by many distinguished secretaries-general, but in my considered opinion, the best ever was undoubtedly Dr Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand, the quiet and thoughtful man of diplomacy, the United Nations Secretary-General we never had because he was in the wrong party and the government of Thailand did not support his candidature for that high office — a great loss to the world.

The ASEAN bureaucrats of my time very nearly scuttled the vision and hopes of millions of Southeast Asians for their rightful place in the larger global scheme of things. Mercifully, in spite of them, ASEAN has arrived.

Remembering Foreign Secretary Robin Cook


October 8, 2014

Remembering Foreign Secretary Robin Cook

by John Kampfner

The Guardian, Friday 3 October 2014 17.00 BST

Robin Cook2A Rare Voice of Principle in British Politics

Only the credulous or the craven might consider a British politician their hero. I plead guilty, but only on one count. It is nearly a decade since Robin Cook’s sudden death. Parliament was robbed of a rare voice of principle, a man who combined erudition and acerbic wit with a forensic ability to assimilate and distil information to devastating effect.

Cook’s political career was punctuated by great moments, from the demolition of John Major over the Scott inquiry in 1996 to the demolition of his own Labour government, again over Iraq, in 2003. His intolerance of Whitehall deceit was matched by impatience towards those who couldn’t keep up with him. Cook’s refusal to schmooze – he would much rather go to the horse-racing – prevented him from getting to the very top, but he left his mark in a way that many of his colleagues and time-servers have not.

He may be best remembered for leading the opposition to Tony Blair’s great foreign misadventure, but Cook was actually an advocate of military action in defence of human rights, while trying (and largely failing) to curb arms sales. A fierce advocate of centre-left values, he was at the same time rarely tribal, and embraced the unfashionable cause of electoral reform.

I remember a trip we made not long after he’d been made foreign secretary. Fresh from giving a public dressing-down to Croatia’s nationalist President, he flew back to Scotland and straight to a constituency surgery.

He spent a couple of hours listening to a long line of concerns ranging from domestic violence to leaky roofs to housing benefit, writing down various points long-hand in his notebook. He was painstaking in the detail, but he saw in these examples a bigger picture. Even during this so-called time of plenty, long before the financial crash, he warned of the dangers of society’s stratification. He was always very aware of inequality.

I was thinking of Cook while putting the finishing touches to my study of 2,000 years of the global super-rich. Having been immersed in acquisitiveness, narcissism and the odd show of noblesse oblige, it is worth remembering that it doesn’t have to be this way.

• John Kampfner’s The Rich is published by Little, Brown.