Defending our airspace is not a video game


By Mariam Mokhtar, FMT

May23, 2014

PlayStation-crazy Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein thinks that RMAF jets sent to investigate an unidentified aircraft must fire missiles and shoot it down. He must realise that the defence of Malaysian airspace is not like playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

It has been 10 weeks since MH370 disappeared without a trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and in the absence of anything substantive, speculations and intrigue are taking hold in the public space.

It has been 10 weeks since MH370 disappeared without a trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and in the absence of anything substantive, speculations and intrigue are taking hold in the public space.

It is bad enough having to suffer an inept Cabinet. We do not need trigger-happy ministers to start a war because of their stupidity.Hishammuddin’s performance, in the interview with ABC’s Four Corners programme, was embarrassing. He wasn’t just evasive, he was reckless and negligent.

He misunderstands his role as Defence Minister. On the night Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, he justified the failure of the RMAF to scramble a fighter jet to investigate because the blip on the radar was “…not deemed a hostile object.” He said, “If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” The Defence Minister does not need Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim or other people to tarnish the reputation of Malaysia. Hishammuddin is doing a splendid job by himself.

Malaysia's defence minister defended his military's failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn't seen as a hostile object.

Malaysia’s defence minister defended his military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn’t seen as a hostile object.

As Defence Minister he should have known that to shoot a plane down, one does not need to send a fighter jet to apprehend it. One can target it with a surface-to-air missile. Hishammuddin’s justification for not sending fighter jets to investigate a possible incursion into Malaysian airspace is no different from his reaction to last year’s invasion of Sabah.

When Hishammuddin was told about the incursion of the Suluk militants in Lahad Datu in Sabah, he was very laid-back and told the public not to be alarmed because the Suluks were probably a bunch of old men enjoying a picnic. We subsequently found out that he was wrong!

Hishamuddin's reaction defies logic and common sense.

Hishamuddin’s reaction defies logic and common sense.

As Defence Minister, he has much to learn, and a schoolboy probably knows more than him. During peacetime a lot of the work of the military and armed forces is routine, like guarding key premises, weapons depots, telecommunications facilities or border posts.

Perhaps the most excitement the military gets is when they have to investigate reports of an incursion or to check-out sightings of people, straying close to important installations. Investigating any unknown activity does not necessarily mean the military has to engage in hostilities.

When a navy vessel encounters a boat full of asylum seekers they do not blow it out of the water.

The two aeroplanes which crashed into the twin towers on the Sept 11 terrorist attack were commercial aircraft and were not deemed hostile. What if MH370 had been commandeered by terrorists and turned into a missile?

A whole nation betrayed

After the Sept 11 attack on the twin towers, countries throughout the world put their air forces on red alert, ready to escort any plane which strayed from its flight path. They would only be shot if they were considered a threat.

Hishammuddin has often repeated that the RMAF knew the blip on the radar was not hostile. He has refused to explain how the RMAF knew this.

Although there was no radio contact with MH370, the RMAF fighter jets could have done a visual confirmation by the paintwork and the markings on the body of the plane. They could have trailed MH370 and known in which general direction it was heading.

The Search and Rescue (SAR) mission could have been better coordinated instead of sending search teams on a wild goose chase, wasting time and resources. The MH370 investigations highlighted a lack of communication between the Malaysian military aviation and the civil aviation authorities. How is Hishammuddin resolving this?

We spend hundreds of millions of ringgit on aeroplanes, submarines, patrol boats, defence equipment and radar but the leaders of the armed forces seem to be irresponsible or incompetent, or both. In most air forces, strategic airfields have two pilots ready to take-off at a moment’s notice and intercept unidentified aircraft.

The military did not intercept flight MH370 because Malaysia was not in war mode, says Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein.

The military did not intercept flight MH370 because Malaysia was not in war mode, says Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein.

Planes which have not filed a flight plan and which stray into prohibited airspace are intercepted and escorted out of the airspace. Sometimes rival countries may want to test the air defences of a country and check the capabilities of that country’s air force.

Hishammuddin has betrayed a whole nation. Perhaps, his most cruel act and his worst indiscretion was to insult the families of the passengers and crew of MH370. He has failed them. He gave conflicting and inconsistent reports on the military radar detection. There were allegations that the radio transcripts between the control tower and cockpit were doctored.

Why is there so much intrigue over the cargo manifest? Because of incompetence, he and Najib Tun Razak directed SAR to the wrong areas. Why are we at the mercy of ministers who are both reckless and dopey? Hishammuddin is not fit to be the Defence Minister, let alone a future PM. Trying to appease the rakyat by flying in economy will not do.

Hishammuddin defends the people who did not do their jobs. So, why is he rewarding failure? We owe it to the families of the passengers and crew of MH370 and that is why Hishammuddin must resign, along with the head of the RMAF and the chief of the armed forces.

They are only good at showing off their medals at the National Day parade. The rest of the time they act irresponsibly and treat the defense of the nation as a matter of inconsequence.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

Malaysia’s Political Outlook 2014: Key Challenges Facing Najib


December 26, 2013

RSIS No. 236/2013 dated 26 December 2013

Malaysia’s Political Outlook 2014: Key Challenges Facing Najib

by Yang Razali Kassim

Synopsis

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s top-most concern in the new year is not just UMNO’s dominance but also its very survival. Signals from the recent party general assembly point to a three-pronged strategy to achieve this aim.

Commentary

Rosmah and NajibMALAYSIAN PRIME Minister Najib Razak approaches 2014 with one big worry on his mind: how to win – decisively – the next general election (GE) that has to be called by 2018. The last one seven months ago on May 5 saw his ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition making its worst showing since 1969: despite winning the majority of seats, BN lost the popular vote to the opposition alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim.

As the new year begins, the big signal from Najib is that “1Malaysia” will probably have to be set aside as an electoral strategy. This is significant as it could mean that his vision of a unified, cohesive and inclusive plural society that was much touted in the 2013 GE – is as good as cast to the backburner.

Najib’s conservative swing

At the recent general assembly of UMNO, the anchor party of the multi-racial BN coalition, 1Malaysia was hardly mentioned in Najib’s keynote speech. Yet when resolutions were debated, one delegate sought to kill the whole idea, calling for 1Malaysia to be replaced by “1Melayu” – or 1Malay, referring to the majority community that UMNO represents.

Najib did not respond in defence of 1Malaysia. Instead his entire rhetoric during the assembly was primarily about advancing the Malay and Muslim agenda – signifying a major refocusing on this core constituency as UMNO gears up early for the 14th GE.

Unchallenged as president in party elections prior to the assembly, Najib has one TDMeye on his own political survival. The still influential former Prime Mnister Mahathir Mohamad has been uneasy about the BN’s worst showing at the May 5 polls and may want to ease Najib out, just as he did to Najib’s predecessor Abdullah Badawi. As his popularity dips due to some economic belt-tightening policies expected in the new year, Najib’s swing to appease the UMNO conservatives is not surprising.

Party hardliners are convinced that the multi-ethnic BN’s political survival rests increasingly with UMNO, whose survival in turn rests on the Malay constituency, which is synonymously Muslim. While 1Malaysia was designed to embrace all the races, its failure to attract the non-Malays, especially the ethnic Chinese, at the last

GE has weakened Najib’s hand.

The conservative faction’s argument is this: Forget about winning over the non-Malay vote and focus on expanding the Malay/Muslim ground. UMNO is strong enough to stand on its own; while the BN coalition won 133 seats overall in GE13, UMNO alone, as its anchor, won the most seats with 88 – even more than any of the opposition parties, whose combined tally of 89 seats was just one more than UMNO’s. In other words, it is UMNO that will remain the backbone of the political system. Thus Malay political power will be pivotal to the country – from political stability and security to economic progress and development.

UMNO’s three-pronged strategy towards GE14

This conservative logic formed the bedrock of the “back to basics” strategy that was spelt out by Najib, whose speech was themed “Fortifying the Future”. Going forward, UMNO will pursue three strategic thrusts – or what Najib called the “three messages from the assembly”: The first is a turn towards Islamic Shariah; the second is a stronger Malay and bumiputra agenda, for which, he said, UMNO need not be apologetic; and the third a “transformed UMNO” as a “party of the 21st century”. It is significant that UMNO as the “party of the future” will become not just more Malay, but Islamist at the same time.

Becoming more Islamist for a Malay-nationalist party like UMNO is an equally significant shift. Ideologically-driven Islamist parties actually find ethno-nationalism objectionable. UMNO clearly is positioning itself as the primary political vehicle for the Malay and Muslim constituency, thus raising the prospects of an all-out contest for power with the opposition Islamist PAS, even as UMNO – paradoxically – woos PAS for unity talks.

Umno's embelmUMNO’s drift towards a more Islamist identity was marked by a highly controversial drive to pitch itself as the defender of Sunni Islam in the face of what it paints as the growing threat of Shiism in the country. The federal constitution would be reworded to define the official religion as “Islam Sunnah Wal Jamaah” or Sunni Islam, not simply Islam. That this move is partly politically-motivated is seen in the immediate targeting of the PAS deputy leader as a closet Shia and therefore a threat.

The second thrust of a greater push for the Malay and bumiputra agenda is clearly aimed at solidifying the Peninsular-East Malaysia axis around the Malay core. Najib conceded the crucial role of the “fixed deposit” states of Sabah and Sarawak in BN’s ultimate win in the last GE. As many see it, if not for these two states, there would have been a change of government in Malaysia. With Najib’s renewed emphasis on the Malay and bumiputra agenda, the New Economic Policy that officially ended in 1990 but was unofficially continued, has finally been resurrected in all but name. CEOs of all government-linked companies have been given KPIs to realise this goal on pain of seeing their contracts not renewed.

To complete the three-pronged strategy, UMNO will go all out to win the young voters. In the next GE, some six million new voters will be casting for the first time. The majority are likely to be anti-establishment and anti-UMNO. They could make a difference whether there will finally be a change of government or not in GE14. No wonder Najib made it clear: UMNO must win over the young voters and master the social media with which the young are savvy.

Implications

UMNO’s eagerness to recover its eroded political ground has seen it responding in unexpected ways, with implications yet to be fully fathomed. Its readiness to march to its own drumbeat is a warning to friend and foe alike that the rules of the game will be set by UMNO alone.

To its ethnic-based political allies in BN, which are facing their own internal crises, the message is that the BN power-sharing system will be on UMNO’s terms. To the opposition, the message is clear: whoever controls the Malay and Muslim ground will control power – and it is not going to be the opposition, which is not homogenous ethnically and ideologically.

UMNO is desperate to win. Going forward, all communities will be forced to ponder what this means for them and the country.

Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

The Allah Issue will not just go away,so get real


October 15, 2013

The Allah Issue will not just go away,so get real

by Zaid Ibrahim

COMMENT: The Court of Appeal (CoA), as expected, has reversed thezaid Kuala Lumpur High Court decision on the use of ‘Allah’ by Catholic weekly The Herald.

The CoA, however, took a long time to hear and decide on the appeal, and this has enabled the general election to be safely tucked away without anyone having to worry about any adverse effect the decision might have had, had it been delivered earlier.

Before my fellow-Muslims think that the decision is a great victory for them, I must urge them to think properly. The decision may be a big victory for some Muslim NGOs or Nasharuddin Mat Isa, Ibrahim Ali  and Hassan Ali, but for the rest of the Ummah it will matter very little.

The decision binds only The Herald. How many Muslims read it? How many are threatened by anything besides their own insecurities? Besides, someone can always produce another publication with a new name and the controversy will start all over again.

Loud Mouth Zahid HamidiThe Home Minister will issue yet another directive that the new publication is ‘against public order’ and lawyers will be busy, as will Ibrahim Ali and his gang. Yet another public quarrel will ensue, and this will go on and on.

The CoA decision is limited to The Herald alone. This does not, and should not, mean that Christians are prohibited from using ‘Allah’ in their prayers, or that they are prohibited at all in Sabah and Sarawak.

Christians beyond The Herald (and Catholics too), can still use that Name whenever they want to, and in any celebration they have. Of course, some Muslim NGOs will counter this new situation and go to court yet again to stop all Christians, regardless of denomination, from using ‘Allah’ on any occasion, religious or otherwise.

They will probably seek to widen the scope of the original government order to include prohibiting Christians and other non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ at all under any circumstance. What about Sikhs? Sikhs can’t be bound by an order limited to a single Catholic newspaper.

The CoA has also ventured into new territory, although I shall let my colleagues who are more learned in this part of the law dissect the judgement.

All I can gather from the CoA decision is this: Islam has primacy over other faiths and, if Muslims are upset about some part of the practice of non-Muslims – and the Minister issues an order to stop non-Muslims from that practice – then the order is considered ‘valid’.  The CoA has also made it clear that it will never disagree with the Minister’s order.

How will this be enforced?

Religious people fear God more than the courts, whether they are Muslims or not. This judgment means nothing to the God-fearing Christians.

The court can declare whatever it wants and some Christians (and those of other faiths, and perhaps Muslims too) will do whatever religion requires of them, regardless of the cost to themselves or others.

Religion has that effect on some people. It can drive emotion beyond reason. But many regular Christians believe that ‘Allah’ is the right Name for God. They will continue to use that Name and the Courts will not be able to do anything about it. How can anyone initiate contempt proceedings against so many people?

The courts will then look stupid – how do will they enforce such orders? This is the scenario I foresee happening in the coming years of this so-called 1Malaysia. Silly things will continue.

Likewise, Muslims will fight this ‘battle’ for years to come, and they will be so preoccupied by this war over God’s Name against Christians and other infidels that no one will have little time left for education, their families and their  general economic improvement.

This is why I sometimes think that this is all part of the Jewish-Freemason-Communist-Illuminati-American-Martian (insert favourite bugbear here) conspiracy—to sidetrack the Muslims, Christians, and everyone else from focusing on what truly matters in life.

We are made to think that we need to continue to fight great battles and to seek great victories. Maybe we want to think it.

Get real.


ZAID IBRAHIM, a lawyer by training, was involved in politics for a time. This article is reproduced from his blog ‘The Zaidgeist’.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad asks What’s Project IC?


April 27, 2013

Malaysiakini reports: Dr Mahathir Mohamad asks What’s Project IC

http://www.malaysiakini.com (04-25-13)

Dr Mahathir-nstFormer Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed ignorance at the existence of “Project IC” during a live television interview programme before justifying the granting of citizenship to foreigners in Sabah.

“What project is this? What is IC?” said Mahathir, whose facial experience appear as though he was confounded by ntv7 interviewer Sheahnee Iman Lee’s question.

When pointed out that the “Project IC” was the subject of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI), Mahathir replied: “Right. Oh, the one in Sabah? Mahathir went on to provide his side of the story on how he, as Prime Minister, had instructed government agencies to recognised qualified migrants as citizens in Sabah.

His argument was that these people spoke Malay and that their children could not go to school because they were not considered citizens.

“As a matter of charity, almost, we decided (that) they have been working Project ICthere, they speak Malay and why can’t we consider them as out citizens?

“Tunku Abdul Rahman gave one million citizenships to people who couldn’t speak a single word of Malay and their children also do not qualify.

“If you going to be a citizen, you have to be tested on whether you are able to speak Malay or not. But the people in Sabah can. The one million that we gave (before Independence), why no questions were asked?” said Mahathir.

Right hand men involved

Megat JMahathir was said this during a special primetime programme on ntv7 last night called ‘Chattime with Tun Dr Mahathir’ which lasted an hour.

Over the past three decades, Sabah’s population had rose exponentially and is blamed on a clandestine effort by the Mahathir-administration to alter the state’s demographics for political reasons.

Sabah once had a non-Muslim majority, but that is now no longer the case. Testimonies from civil servants to the Sabah RCI have shown a link between organised efforts to increase Sabah’s Muslim population with a plot to vote out the Parti Bersatu Sabah government in 1994.

Other testimonies showed that two of Mahathir’s right hand men wereaziz-shamsuddin involved ordering various activities that were later referred to as Project IC or Project M by those investigating the population boom.

Cronyism

On cronyism, Mahathir said his administration had helped certain people with business acumen because those with a track record were more likely to succeed.

“If you give one million dollars to a trishaw peddler, is he going to make use of it? He is going to consume it.But if you give it to a person with the ability to do business he is going to make use of the opportunity and the capital in order to grow his business. And when he grows his business, obviously he will be quite well known, he is considered a crony. The real cronies who fail, nobody mentions about them,” he said.

Mahathir said that the government helped those with capacity because helping those who cannot grow a business will not contribute to the economy.

Muhasabah Lahad Datu


April 6, 2013

Muhasabah Lahad Datu

oleh Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang@http://www.themalaysianinsider.com

Hadi-Awang-PAS-For-All5hb April, 2013–Peristiwa berdarah di Lahad Datu menjadi ujian kebijaksanaan kerajaan dan kesetiaan seluruh rakyat terhadap negara.

Walau pun berbeza kaum, agama dan fahaman politik, namun tugas mempertahankan negara apabila diceroboh dan keselamatannya diganggu gugat adalah kewajipan bersama mengikut agama, adat dan akal yang waras.

Maka Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) dan seluruh ahlinya mendoakan Allah melimpahkan rahmat kepada anggota keselamatan yang terkorban dan dimasukkan ke dalam kalangan para syuhada, sekurang-kurangnya syahid akhirat dan disembuhkan mereka yang tercedera, serta dikembalikan keamanan dan keselamatan negara.

Walau bagaimana pun muhasabah wajib dilakukan terhadap kerajaan yang diamanahkan menjaga keselamatan negara. Dalam hal ini pihak tentera dan polis tidak boleh dipersalahkan, kerana banyak asas dari sudut politik yang kukuh menunjukan bahawa peristiwa seperti itu tidak sepatutnya berlaku.

Pasukan keselamatan juga tidak sepatutnya menjadi mangsa korban musuh yang tercipta dengan sebab kecuaian politik mereka yang memimpin negara sejak mencapai kemerdekaan lebih 50 tahun yang lalu.

Persoalan asas yang kita ingin tanya ialah: “Mengapa asas keharmonian yang sedia ada di daerah itu tidak dijaga dan dibina dengan baik?”

Hakikatnmya ialah, kedudukan serantau, kejiranan, serumpun, sekelurga dan se agama cuma dipisahkan oleh sempadan geografi dua negara. Malaysia mempunyai hubungan kejiranan dengan Filipina, dan sama-sama menjadi anggota ASEAN sejak penubuhannya pada 8 Ogos 1967 lagi.

Orang-orang Suluk, atau grup etnik Tausug pula mempunyai hubunganNajib-Op Daulat keluarga, agama dan budaya yang sama dengan sebahagian besar penduduk keturunan Sulu di Sabah yang sukar dipisahkan. Hubungan rapat ini menjadikan aktiviti keluar-masuk antara rakyat kedua-dua negara berada pada kedudukan yang paling sukar untuk dikawal secara keras oleh pasukan keselamatan yang bertugas.

Tragedi ini berlaku kerana pihak politik yang berkuasa tidak menyelesaikan akar-usul masalah ini secara bijaksanaan sehingga berlakulah kemalangan yang sangat menyayat hati itu. Di samping kemarahan membara terhadap penceroboh yang tidak beretika, namun sifat kemanusiaan tetap berada dalam setiap orang yang berperasaan.

Muhasabah wajib dilakukan dengan meneliti dan memahami kerana beberapa perkara.

Pertama, pemisahan secara sempadan negara yang berbeza dimulakan oleh penjajah asing terhadap rantau ini, mereka sengaja meninggalkan bom jangka selepas mereka meninggalkan tanah jajahan dengan niat jahat, setelah mereka melaksanakan agenda pecah dan perintah di zaman penjajahan dahulu. Bukan sahaja pembahagian rantau ini di antara penjajah Inggeris, Belanda dan Sepanyol dan selepasnya Amerika juga mengambil tempat di Filipina secara khusus.

hishammuddin-hussein-in-lahad-datu-300x225Kedua, perjanjian juga di buat oleh penjajah ini secara menipu sultan-sultan dan raja-raja yang dilemah dan dihilangkan kedaulatannya.

Ketiga, setelah masing-masing mencapai kemerdekaan dengan negara yang berbeza dan mempunyai kedaulatannya, mengapa segala syarat perjanjian yang sudah lapuk di zaman penjajah yang sudah pulang ke negeri masing-masing, dengan pihak yang sudah diletakkan dalam lipatan sejarah masih lagi wujud? Mengapakah pihak kerajaan dalam negara kita ini masih menghidupkan lagi perjanjian seperti ini?

Keempat, negara Malaysia dan Filipina pula yang terlibat secara lansung dalam perjanjian damai yang memberi kuasa otonomi kepada bangsa Moro di Mindanao. Mengapa terlepas pandang terhadap wiliyah dan kepuluan yang lain bersamanya, sehingga penyelesaiannya tidak lengkap dan masalahnya tidak selesai?

Perkembangan pendidikan, ekonomi dan sosial terbiar dan terus terbiar, kerana kerajaan UMNO lebih menumpukan kepentingan politik mengejar kerusi mendapat takhta dan harta semata-mata, tanpa perhatian terhadap pendidikan, ekonomi dan social di kawasan berkenaan. Rakyat miskin terus di rumah dalam air sejak turun temurun, hanya segelintir di daratan dengan kemudahan yang terhad tanpa penyelesaian.

Semua kecuaian tanpa cakna ini boleh menempah kesan negatif dalam kehidupan dan boleh mencetuskan ketegangan berbagai kaum. Semua perkara ini perlu dimuhasabah dengan adil dan ikhlas walaupun tercalar diri sendiri.

Tindakan ketenteraan mempertahankan kedaulatan negara, langkah menjaga keselamatan rakyat wajib dilaksanakan dengan berhemat, dalam masa yang sama jalinan hubungan tersebut di atas wajib diperbetulkan.

Jangan ikut contoh buruk yang pernah dilakukan oleh penjajah semasa sulu lahad datu soldiersdarurat dahulu, penyelsaiannya secara mengepung dan memaksa semata-mata tanpa pendekatan yang lain. Perlu difahami bahawa perasaan manusia tidak boleh dikepung dan dikongkong sepanjang masa, walau pun jasadnya dikepung dan dikongkong secara paksaan .

Peristiwa 13 Mei 1969 wajar menjadi iktibar apabila ianya ditangani sendiri oleh pemimpin di masa itu. Ditubuhkan Jawatankuasa Muhibbah melibatkan kerajaan dan seluruh pemimpin masyarakat, agama dan kaum yang berpengaruh tanpa mengira perbezaan agama, kaum dan politik. Seterusnya ditangani secara politik, ekonomi, pendidikan dan lain-lain.

Konfrantasi dengan Indonesia juga dapat ditamatkan dengan pendekatan ini, walau pun ada yang terkoban dan cedera, akhirnya berakhir dengan damai tanpa dendam.

Janganlah pihak kerajaan UMNO-BN terus menerus berdegil tidak mengaku kesilapan atau mahu menangguk di air keruh, kerana kedua-duanya akan menenggelamkan kita semua, atau laksana Pakistan yang melahirkan Bangladesh.

* Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang adalah Presiden PAS.

King Ghaz and the Question of the “Sabah Claim”


March 30, 2013

King Ghaz and the Question of the “Sabah Claim”

Hamzahby Dato Hamzah Abdul Majid*

Fast forward to a morning in July 1962, I was reporting for duty at the Ministry of External Affairs (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Wisma Putra). The Ministry was located at the (then) Selangor State Secretariat Building (now Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad), directly opposite  the (Royal) Selangor Club.  It shared the  building with the Treasury and a few other government departments.

Meeting King Ghaz (The Boss) of Foreign Affairs and his Professionals

I reported to the Assistant Secretary (Administration) Encik Hanafiah Ahmad (later Chief of Tabung Haji and now Tan Sri). A slight gentleman with glasses, he was friendly and helpful. With all the formalities completed, Encik Hanafiah took me to YM Tengku Ngah Mohamed, the Deputy Secretary of Ministry.

Ghazali ShafieThe pipe smoking Tengku Ngah informed me that I would be assigned to the Ministry’s Political Division reporting to my immediate superior, Principal Assistant Secretary (Political Division) Raja Aznam Raja Ahmad (later Tan Sri), a well- educated Malay aristocrat with impeccable manners.

Raja Aznam briefed me on the role of the Ministry and its structure, Right at the top was the Prime Minister (Tengku Abdul Rahman) and concurrently  Minister of External Affairs. The top  Diplomatic Service Officer was the Permanent Secretary, Encik Muhammad Ghazali Shafie.

Raja Aznam took me to the Permanent Secretary’s Office where I was introduced to the redoubtable Matthew Josef, Personal Assistant to the Boss. Josef looked at me and said, “The Permanent Secretary is expecting you. Come in, he will see you now, Good Luck.

With that he took me into the Boss’ spacious wood-panel office. Directly in front of me were a set of sofa and 2 deep armchairs. To my left was a large somewhat semi-circular desk. Behind the desk was the Man himself. I recognised him at once. The same ear of a man that I met five years earlier in the Radio Malaya studio–in command, confident, even arrogant.

He then asked me if I knew that we had a diplomatic issue with Indonesia and the Philippines  over our intention to invite North Borneo and Sarawak  to form Malaysia. I told him only from I read in the newspapers. Again that glare. He snapped, “then, write me a brief summary of how you understand the situation…Get to work.”

Zainal Abidin Sulong and Jack de Silva

Raja Aznam introduced me to Zainal Abidin Sulong (later Tan Sri) who hadZainal_Abidin_Sulong just returned from a posting in the United Nations, New York. Zainal was an excellent office mate–well informed, calm, hardworking and with a sense of humour. He was always busy drafting. From time to time, the Boss would barge into the room and growl instructions to him.

Zainal (left)  would slowly stand up. listen patiently and, when the Boss left, quietly resume his work. He was widely liked and respected. His knowledge of the personalities involved in North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia was encyclopedic, and the Boss depended heavily on him.  Next to the Boss, I would say Zainal was to play an exceedingly important role in the formation of Malaysia.

In the next room was Jack de Silva, a Catholic and strongly anti-Marxist. He  had served as First Secretary  in our High Commission in London. Articulate, gregarious, chain smoking, Jack was a hard driving officer with a mercurial temperament and a prolific drafter of documents and reports. I got my ‘sea legs’ in the ministry while sharing the small office with Zainal.

Tunku’s Singapore Statement on the Formation of Malaysia

On May 27, 1961, the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had made a historic statement in Singapore proposing the formation of Malaysia. The (then) Federation of Malaya was intent on inviting British North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak to join in and from a new nation, Malaysia.

Initially, the Philippine government did not react. But after the election of Diosdado Macapagal as president in December 1961 the “Sabah Claim” emerged as a factor. It had been on the “back burner” for a while, as it was an issue only between the Philippine and British governments.

The  “Sabah Claim”

Now with the formation of Malaysia becoming reality, the clamour in the Philippine media grew stronger. The momentum built up quickly, and emotions morphed into policy.

MacapagalIndonesia, headed by President Sukarno regarded North Borneo and Sarawak as part of Indonesian Kalimantan and claimed to be the rightful heir when the British finally withdrew.

Thus Sukarno and Macapagal joined forces in opposition to the Tunku’s proposal. Macapagal (left) hoisted a Philippine “claim” on Sabah and Sukarno vowed to “ganyang” (crush) Malaysia.

Both Indonesia and the Philippines regarded the idea of Malaysia as a “Neo-colonialist plot”. They claimed that the British no longer had any moral authority to hold on to the two colonies and were using the concept of Malaysia to perpetuate their influence in the region.

The Boss  was the main figure in the gathering storm, helping PrimeTun Razak with Tunku Minister and his illustrious Deputy, Tun Abdul Razak, and tasked to design and implement a strategy to bring about the formation of Malaysia.

A team of competent and dedicated officers in the ministry was assigned to assist the Boss. They did a Herculean task of keeping in touch with events and developments in North Borneo and Sarawak, in the United Nations,in our neigbouring countries, and among our allies.  It was a small but effective and ably led team.

Sometime in April, 1963, the Boss told me that there would be a meeting of top diplomatic officials of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines at the Padre Faura (the Philippine Foreign Ministry) in Manila. He would lead the Malaysian Delegation and I was to attend it as a member.

Bertie TallalaThe Boss said, “You can stay with Bertie (now Dato Albert Tallala). You know Bertie, don’t you? I think you both the same University (in Dublin). Bertie (left) had graduated the year before I joined.

On the morning of the meeting, the Boss, Ambassador Zaiton Ibrahim Ahmad, First Secretary Hashim Sam-Latiff were greeted by Pete Angora Aragon, Chief of Protocol at the Padre Faura and taken to the reception room where Philippine Undersecretary Salvador P. Lopez and the Indonesian First Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Suwito Kusumowidagdo were waiting. The three men greeted one another warmly. Lopez was the very epitome of Philippine charm and bonhomie and Dr Kusumo was all smiles. Each diplomat tried to project an air of earnest amity.

Right of Self Determination

This meeting was in every sense historic. It was the first time that the three adversary countries actually sat down at the official level to try to solve their problems diplomatically and avoid a military conflict. From the outset the Boss took the position that the two territories should not be viewed as pieces of real estate, devoid of human inhabitants, to be carved up and divided cynically by neighbouring countries.

There was need to ascertain the wishes of the people of the two territories, as appointed-members-cobbold-comm-Feb-1962was undertaken and reaffirmed by the Cobbold Commission in its Report dated August 1, 1962.

But both the Philippines and Indonesia did not accept the Cobbold Report as the last word on the wishes of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak.

Clearly, these officials could decide on the issue after several days of deliberations (April 9-17, 1963). It was finally agreed that the meeting would recommend to their respective governments that the Foreign Ministers of the three countries should meet early in May. They further agreed to recommend that the Foreign Ministers meeting should be followed by a meeting of the Heads of Government of the three countries.

Two more Tripartite meetings followed. One  was at the Foreign Ministers’ level on June 7-11, 1963, where our side was led by the Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. The Philippine delegation was led by Vice President Emanuel Pelaez, Dr. Subandrio headed the Indonesian side. The Ministers reaffirmed in the Manila Accord (Clause 10) the principle of self-determination and “would welcome the formation of Malaysia provided support of people of the Borneo territories is ascertained by an independent and impartial authority, the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative”.

As quid pro, Malaysia “undertook to consult the Government of the Borneo territories with a view to inviting the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative to take the necessary  steps in order to ascertain the wishes of people of those territories.” (Clause 11).

Clause 12  reflected the long discussion on the issue of the Sabah claim and the subdued compromise that the Foreign Ministers “took note” of the Philippine claim to North Borneo and its rights to pursue it in accordance with international law and the peaceful settlement of  disputes. This was another fig leaf that we could live with, but it was  to lead to lingering tensions with the Philippines.

The successful June 7-11 Foreign Ministers meeting paved the way for the Summit Meeting of Malaya’s Tunku Abdul Rahman, Indonesia’s President Sukarno and Philippine President Macapagal which produced the Manila Declaration of August 5, 1963. The Heads of Government of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines “welcomed” the formation of Malaysia.

Eventually, with the fall of Sukarno and with the installation of the New Order government led by General Suharto, Malaysia reached an amicable solution with Indonesia. However, normalisation of relations with the Philippines took longer as the issue of the Sabah claim lingered on. In fact, bilateral relations underwent some strains over the issue.

Malaysia will not enter into any further dialogue on the Question of the Claim

A defining bilateral meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand on July 15, 1968. The Philippine delegation was led by Ambassador Guerrero, an aggressive diplomat who played hardball. The Malaysian delegation included the brilliant lawyer R.Ramani (who was also our Permanent Representative to the United Nations), Zainal Abidin Sulong and Zain Azraai.

This meeting did not start, nor did it end for that matter, too auspiciously.The Philippine delegation began with tactical moves to cause delays and with sweeping dicta and claims. It declared that its claim on Sabah was valid based on history and on its own security arrangements and made clear that it would not entertain any further clarifications sought by Malaysia.

The Boss rose to the occasion and demolished the Philippine claim with devastating logic and I quote:

“…Our questions indicated that we wished to challenge your basic assumption that the Sultan of Sulu had in fact sovereignty over the territory. his rights and powers over which he purported to convey to Dent and Overbeck in 1878. We did receive any precise answer from you on this question; and you were unable to point to anything in support of the Sultan’s claim to sovereignty, except to say in the vaguest terms that the Sultan of Brunei had ceded the territory to him, and you mentioned several dates when such cessation was understood to have taken place…

“We drew your attention to various authorities which cited different dates when the Sultan of Sulu acquired some rights and powers over the territory. Was it therefore in 1650, or was it in 1704, or was it about 1836, or near 1842, or was it 1878? You yourself gave several possible dates. It did not seem to occur to you that each particular date destroyed every other date and the fact of cession was, thereby, at the highest, left in doubt. Nor were you able to indicate the circumstances of his acquisition, whether rebellion in the territories of Brunei, a war of succession or an act of capitulation…

“We drew your attention to the documents of that time…Whether your case should not go no further than mere assertion of Sulu sovereignty…You are unable to do so, and we did not any intelligible answer from you as this, except that you had not heard of the Anglo-Philippine Talks in London in 1963…

“… in fighting subversion and terrorism Malaysia has the best record in this region…Malaysia has a good record of cooperation with Thailand and Indonesia on these matters. It is common knowledge that Malaysia and Thailand have a working arrangement on the Malaysian/Thai border…likewise along the Malaysian/Indonesian border.”

He concluded his long address with…

“Let me say this once again, Excellency. Do not pursue your claim to Sabah in order to satisfy these economic and security needs. These can only be fulfilled through cooperation with us. But your persistent pursuit of the claim will destroy that cooperation and therefore will not achieve for you the very things which you desire most for your economy and security…

“Therefore, let us maintain the good relations between our two countries and discuss our common needs. But at the same time let it be clearly understood that my Government will not enter into any further dialogue on the question of the Claim, or with that claim as its basis”.

__________________

*The above by Dato Hamzah Abdul Majid is an abridged and edited excerpt of his tribute titled King Ghaz: Personal Recollection, which appears in the National Archives publication titled King Ghaz: A Man of Time (2010) edited by Dato Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim.

I have chosen parts that deal with the Philippine Claim on Sabah. It is intended to provide a historical account of what happened during the period leading to the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Dato Hamzah was a member of the Malaysian foreign policy team led by (Tun) Muhammad Ghazali Shafie that dealt with the struggle to form Malaysia.

Filipino politicians are now apparently using the Lahad Datu Incursion as a pretext to revive  this issue  of the Sultan of Sulu’s claim on Sabah which is now a sovereign state in Malaysia. As far as Dato Hamzah and I are concerned, this matter should be put to rest in the interest of good relations between the Philippines and our country. Sabah belongs in Malaysia and the Philippines must learn to respect the wishes of the people of Sabah to be part of Malaysia.–Din Merican

Also read this :http://www.dlsu.edu.ph/research/journals/apssr/pdf/200712/4Fernandez.pdf

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