Mahathir’s UN speech proposed as basis of Foreign Policy


October 16, 2018

Mahathir’s UN Speech proposed as basis of Foreign Policy

 

PARLIAMENT | The Foreign Ministry today tabled a motion in the Dewan Rakyat for the speech of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept 28 to be set as the basis of Malaysia’s foreign policy.Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah also proposed that the Dewan Rakyat agree with the direction of the country’s foreign policy as stated in the Address of the Prime Minister.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub seconded the motion.

In tabling the motion, Saifuddin said the prime minister’s speech outlined, among others, the position and foreign policy of the country based on principles such as not favouring any power, neutrality and practising the “prosper thy neighbour” philosophy.

“The Prime Minister also emphasised Malaysia’s relations with the world’s major powers, as well as other issues such as the situation in Palestine, the plight of the Muslims in Rakhine (Myanmar) and the trade war between the economic powers,” he said.

Saifuddin said Mahathir also noted the importance of the UN as a key platform to resolve universal issues and expressed the hope that the UN will continue to play an important role in maintaining international peace and security.

“The Prime Minister’s speech also outlined the objectives and plans of the foreign policy of the New Malaysia to support the sustainability of economic, political and social developments within our own country,” he said.

Saifuddin said the motion was tabled to enable the government to obtain inputs, views and feedback from the members of the Dewan Rakyat because the government needed to have a foreign policy framework as a select committee on foreign policy has yet to be formed and the new Parliament has yet to have a caucus of MPs on foreign relations.

“We propose that Malaysia’s foreign policy framework comprises four key components, the major strands of foreign policy which have been largely disclosed in the Prime Minister’s speech at the UN; empowering the foreign ministry; strengthening inter-agency cooperation; and increasing the people’s participation,” he said.

Bernama

Book Review: The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam


October 14, 2108

By: John Berthelsen

https://www.asiasentinel.com/book-review/the-road-not-taken-edward-lansdale-and-the-american-tragedy-in-vietnam/

There was a time when Edward Lansdale was arguably the most famous American in Asia, ostensibly the model for the hero of the novel “The Ugly American” by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer and widely thought of – erroneously – as the protagonist of Graham Greene’s novel “The Quiet American,” both books about a US aid official in a war-torn Southeast Asian country, in Greene’s case Vietnam.

Today, Lansdale, who died in 1987, is largely forgotten. But during the 1950s and 1960s, he was a legend, a man who literally single-handedly turned around the Philippines, ending the Communist Hukbalahap revolution and installing as president Ramon Magsaysay, an incorruptible and effective leader in a shambolic country.  Purportedly an officer with the US Air Force, he was actually on a kind of permanent loan to the Central Intelligence Agency.

As Max Boot writes in this impressive, extremely well-researched biography, the decisions  by generations of American planners stretching from the Kennedys to Richard Nixon to ignore Lansdale’s advice on how to handle wars of rebellion and insurrection were beyond tragedy. Lansdale’s advice, which worked in the Philippines, was to combine clever propaganda with a dedication to democracy, of making sure that all levels of society had a stake in its success, and finding credible local political figures to work with.

It wasn’t just the Road Not Taken, the title of Boot’s 713-page history. Refusal to heed Lansdale resulted in what would arguably be the loss of Vietnam and the death of 2.5 million Vietnamese along with 56,000 Americans who should never have been there in the first place and who, once there,  did absolutely everything wrong.

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After his triumph in the Philippines, Lansdale was posted to Vietnam, where he took on the task of shepherding a truncated country in chaos after partition following the departure of the French, as a million Catholics fled the north. He became mentor to Ngo Dinh Diem, wreaking order out of the disarray and putting South Vietnam, as it was known, on what appeared to be a solid footing before he returned to the US in 1956

That was pretty much the end of Edward Lansdale’s effectiveness. He was posted back to the United States as the Kennedys and the hawks took over.  A long procession of Americans who knew little of the country’s history and cared less decided that Diem was a liability, saddled as he was with his autocratic brother and the brother’s harridan wife Madam Nhu. On Oct 31, 1963, with the Kennedys’ acquiescence, Diem and his brother were murdered in an armored personnel carrier.

On that same day, ironically, Lansdale was officially retiring at the Pentagon. As Blow writes, “While colleagues were delivering flowery toasts and speeches in honor of Lansdale, (Defense Secretary) Robert McNamara walked in. And he kept on walking, striding purposefully forward, one polished wingtip after another, never looking at what was going on through his polished spectacles, much less stopping to join in the tributes to a man who had left behind a successful advertising career to devote the last 21 years of his life to his country’s service.”

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It was McNamara, of course, who was the architect of America’s descent into the folly of the Vietnam War.

Lansdale didn’t leave the service of his country. He was instead put in charge by the Kennedy brothers of attempting to oust Fidel Castro from Cuba, something Lansdale from the start said would be folly. He argued against the disastrous attempt by the Kennedys to invade Cuba, using CIA operatives and anti-Cuban exiles, which ended up one of the administration’s worst embarrassments.  Dubbed Operation Mongoose, the campaign against Castro was characterized by loony attempts to poison El Jefe, to lay dynamite charges in seashells near where Castro swam and other stupidities

Lansdale would be rehabilitated somewhat by Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson and would return to Vietnam to head pacification efforts in a country that already was too far gone to be saved. US troop levels climbed and continued to climb. Lansdale was looked upon as a woolly-headed liberal by most of the establishment in the country – and by the press establishment as well, with the disdain particularly full-throated by David Halberstam of the New York Times and other establishment press figures.  I was there at the time as a correspondent for Newsweek Magazine, and Lansdale was pretty much a shadow. Few ever went to see him. We all were too busy covering the war by that time although a few still believed in his attempts to mold the country into something other than sadly what it became – a killing ground.

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Of course, the folly of the war was never in doubt. And the bigger problem was how American foreign policy followed Vietnam down the rabbit hole.

”The key American shortcoming, in the early twenty-first century, as in the 1960s, was the inability to constructively guide the leaders of allied states in the direction desired by Washington. The Kennedy administration had seen a downward spiral into a hostile relationship with Ngo Dinh Diem after Lansdale’s return home at the end of 1956. Something similar happened with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki under the Bush and Obama administrations. What was missing was a high-level American official who could influence those allies to take difficult steps such as fighting corruption without risking a blowup or backlash. Lansdale believed such tricky tasks could be accomplished by a ‘person who was selflessly dedicated to the ideal of man’s liberty, was sustained by spiritual principles of his own faith, was demonstrably sensitive to the felt needs of the people of a foreign culture and had earned their trust.’”

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Lansdale pulled it off twice. But reading Boot’s account, particularly of Vietnam, as official after official came and went, knowing nothing of the country and willfully refusing to learn while piling on the ammunition, is heartbreaking.

Boot was one of George Bush’s Vulcans, a right-wing neocon. But this book, written while he was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a remarkably level-headed and astute  account of how US foreign policy went wrong and how it remains tragically wrong today. The US remains tied up in Afghanistan 17 years after it entered, with no idea how to extricate itself. Nor is the country’s foreign policy any more nuanced or intelligent anywhere else.  With the current administration, which has emptied out the State Department, it is unlikely to get any better any time soon.

Dr. M’s UNGA Address should hit right home


September 30, 2018

Dr. M’s UNGA Address should hit right home

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly was poised, articulate and to the point.

He did not mince his words when he spoke about global political, economic, social and environmental conditions since his last address 15 years ago, in 2003.

The gist? That the world has not changed much in terms of reform; that the developing world is still being bullied by powerful nations; that the trade war between the US and China continues to impoverish poorer and smaller countries; that there is a growing ambiguity of social values, and that the notion of freedom has become skewed, at best.

Intellectually-sharp and laudable, Dr. Mahathir delivered his poignant message, that the “new Malaysia” is not naive. He told the UN General Assembly that Malaysia will continue to soldier on with other countries, through the United Nations, to make the world a better place, economically, politically, socially and environmentally.

In foreign policy jargon, Mahathir delivered a warning against the acts of dangerous, threatening Hitlers and the misconceptions of peaceful, law-abiding allies.

Overall, his Address championed the aspirations of the developing world and smaller non-aligned nations. However, there is more that we should take away from his Address, in order to render his thoughts more relevant in the domestic Malaysian context.

There are three key areas the new Malaysia should focus on. Mahathir spoke of global terrorism. Although he did not specify the actual definition of the term (or of the word “terrorist”), one can read between the lines. He lamented that there is “something wrong with our way of thinking, with our value system. Kill one man, it is murder, kill a million and you become a hero”.

What he actually means is that the powerful have the capacity to define concepts in order to justify certain acts. Terrorism, as coined by the powerful, is a notion applied to non-state actors, jihadists and transnational communities of oppressed people who react violently to achieve justice.

Powerful states have the sole purpose of pushing their economic and political agendas and so a global understanding of the concept of terrorism was born after 9/11.

Yes, about 3,000 died mercilessly at the World Trade Center in 2001. But almost 130,000 (mostly civilians) perished in one day, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945. This is more than 43 times the death toll at the hands of the so-called Islamic terrorists.

Yet, throughout the decades after World War Two, the acceptable narrative describing US geo-political advances (and those of her allies) was never termed “terrorist” or “terrorism”.

I am not condoning such acts as no mass killing of civilians can be considered civilised behaviour. However, we must consider here the socio-political manipulation of labels.

In the Malaysian context it is happening all around us to the detriment of the common people. For instance, the notion of “the rights of Malays” and “the welfare of the Malays”. What rights are we focusing on? The right to get a job based on race or the right that all qualified and capable Malays should be appropriately awarded?

For me, it is the latter. Yet, certain politicians still choose to speak about the unfair treatment of the Malays and that the new Pakatan Harapan government should be tasked to help bring them up to greatness and to be protected.

The label of “rights” is bandied around but its meaning is deliberately couched in ambiguity for an ulterior political motive.

Using Mahathir’s example of the plight of the Rohingyas, his message was an appeal for “caring”; that just because a nation is independent it does not mean the world should close an eye to domestic suffering and injustice.

He reiterated that nations need to solve the problems of global conflict, racism and bigotry by going back to the root causes.

Similarly, the state of Malaysia’s education system needs care and we need to identify the root causes of the inequality that exists in our schools and universities.

Agreed, our teachers and professors are not being massacred, and neither are our students. But mentally, the massacre began 61 years ago.

The public university leadership has failed to produce thinking professional graduates and to my mind, this is humanity’s greatest form of oppression.

We are all aware that our public university leadership is more concerned with national and international rankings, administrative positions of the academic staff, titles and research funding.

But are the research funds, for instance, channeled into meaningful projects to help society overcome real problems of poverty and discrimination?

Are the researchers and academics “caring” enough to plan such research even though they may not be awarded a future government contract or a datukship?

This brings me to my next point: values. Mahathir commented that there is something wrong with our way of thinking.  To my mind, the sole purpose of an education is to instil good values. These include moderation, dignity, integrity, hard work, perseverance and honour. No matter what religion or creed one belongs to, these are universal values.

In post-election Malaysia, this topic has surfaced many times. But I fear it is just a narrative with no substance.

There are many issues that have surfaced since PH took over. From the appointment of key ministerial positions, to presidents of universities, to the PD move, to child marriage, the list goes on.

Nepotism, cronyism and corruption still loom over us but it is not too late for values reform. What better way to start than to realise that, while it is important for us to preach values to the international community, we should apply this to our own society.

There is a need for all Malaysians to delve deeper into Mahathir’s UNGA Address because he was not only sending a message to the superpowers and their allies.We should also see his message as a warning to tackle our own domestic crises; problems that have arisen as a result of past mistakes, on-going stubbornness to address those mistakes and a lack of foresight.

Dr.Sharifah Munirah Alatas is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister at UNGA, 2018


September 29, 2018

Malaysia’s Prime Minister at UNGA, 2018

Friday, September 28, 2018: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad speaks to 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York (9/28/18) on September 28, 2018. PM Mahathir Mohamad speaks about Rohingya issue, United Nations Development goal at the UNGA 2018.

President of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad gave his speech at The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday at 11:45 am, (28-9-18) on September 28, 2018 — and it could be one of his most important speeches yet.

Live streaming of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad Speech to the UN General Assembly 9/28/2018.

#MahathirMohamad #Speech #UnitedNations

The following is Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s speech at the general debate of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York

Madam President,

1. I would like to join others in congratulating you on your election as the President of the Seventy-Third (73rd) Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

2. I am confident with your wisdom and vast experience; this session will achieve the objectives of the theme for this session. I assure you of Malaysia’s fullest support and cooperation towards achieving these noble goals.

3. Allow me to also pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Miroslav Lajcak, for his dedication and stewardship in successfully completing the work of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly.

4. I commend the Secretary-General and the United Nations staff for their tireless efforts in steering and managing UN activities globally.

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5. In particular, I pay tribute to the late Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1997 – 2006, who sadly passed away in August this year. Malaysia had a positively strong and active engagement with the UN during his tenure.

Madam President,

6. The theme of this 73rd Session of General Assembly, “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies” remains true to the aspiration of our founding fathers. The theme is most relevant and timely. It is especially pertinent in the context of the new Malaysia. The new Government of Malaysia, recently empowered with a strong mandate from its people, is committed to ensure that every Malaysian has an equitable share in the prosperity and wealth of the nation.

7. A new Malaysia emerged after the 14th General Election in May this year. Malaysians decided to change their government, which had been in power for 61 years, i.e., since independence. We did this because the immediate past Government indulged in the politics of hatred, of racial and religious bigotry, as well as widespread corruption. The process of change was achieved democratically, without violence or loss of lives.

8. Malaysians want a new Malaysia that upholds the principles of fairness, good governance, integrity and the rule of law. They want a Malaysia that is a friend to all and enemy of none. A Malaysia that remains neutral and non-aligned. A Malaysia that detests and abhors wars and violence. They also want a Malaysia that will speak its mind on what is right and wrong, without fear or favour. A new Malaysia that believes in co-operation based on mutual respect, for mutual gain. The new Malaysia that offers a partnership based on our philosophy of ‘prosper-thy-neighbour’. We believe in the goodness of cooperation, that a prosperous and stable neighbour would contribute to our own prosperity and stability.

9. The new Malaysia will firmly espouse the principles promoted by the UN in our international engagements. These include the principles of truth, human rights, the rule of law, justice, fairness, responsibility and accountability, as well as sustainability. It is within this context that the new government of Malaysia has pledged to ratify all remaining core UN instruments related to the protection of human rights. It will not be easy for us because Malaysia is multi-ethnic, multireligious, multicultural and multilingual. We will accord space and time for all to deliberate and to decide freely based on democracy.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speak during the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. NSTP/Video Grab UNWeb TV

 

Madam President,

10. When I last spoke here in 2003, I lamented how the world had lost its way. I bemoaned the fact that small countries continued to be at the mercy of the powerful. I argued the need for the developing world to push for reform, to enhance capacity building and diversify the economy. We need to maintain control of our destiny.

 

11. But today, 15 years later the world has not changed much. If at all the world is far worse than 15 years ago. Today the world is in a state of turmoil economically, socially and politically.

12. There is a trade war going on between the two most powerful economies. And the rest of the world feel the pain.

13. Socially new values undermine the stability of nations and their people. Freedom has led to the negation of the concept of marriage and families, of moral codes, of respect etc.

14. But the worse turmoil is in the political arena. We are seeing acts of terror everywhere. People are tying bombs to their bodies and blowing themselves up in crowded places. Trucks are driven into holiday crowds. Wars are fought and people beheaded with short knives. Acts of brutality are broadcast to the world live. Masses of people risk their lives to migrate only to be denied asylum, sleeping in the open and freezing to death. Thousands starve and tens of thousands die in epidemics of cholera.

15. No one, no country is safe. Security checks inconvenience travelers. No liquids on planes. The slightest suspicion leads to detention and unpleasant questioning.

16. To fight the “terrorists” all kinds of security measures, all kinds of gadgets and equipment are deployed. Big brother is watching. But the acts of terror continues.

17. Malaysia fought the bandits and terrorists at independence and defeated them. We did use the military. But alongside and more importantly we campaigned to win the hearts of minds of these people.

18. This present war against the terrorist will not end until the root causes are found and removed and hearts and minds are won.

19. What are the root causes? In 1948, Palestinian land was seized to form the state of Israel. The Palestinians were massacred and forced to leave their land. Their houses and farms were seized.

20. They tried to fight a conventional war with help from sympathetic neighbours. The friends of Israel ensured this attempt failed. More Palestinian land was seized. And Israeli settlements were built on more and more Palestinian land and the Palestinians are denied access to these settlements built on their land.

21. The Palestinians initially tried to fight with catapults and stones. They were shot with live bullets and arrested. Thousands are incarcerated.

22. Frustrated and angry, unable to fight a conventional war, the Palestinians resort to what we call terrorism.

23. The world does not care even when Israel breaks international laws, seizing ships carrying medicine, food and building materials in international waters. The Palestinians fired ineffective rockets which hurt no one. Massive retaliations were mounted by Israel, rocketing and bombing hospitals, schools and other buildings, killing innocent civilians including school children and hospital patients. And more.

24. The world rewards Israel, deliberately provoking Palestine by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

25. It is the anger and frustration of the Palestinians and their sympathisers that cause them to resort to what we call terrorism. But it is important to acknowledge that any act which terrify people also constitute terrorism. And states dropping bombs or launching rockets which maim and kill innocent people also terrify people. These are also acts of terrorism.

26. Malaysia hates terrorism. We will fight them. But we believe that the only way to fight terrorism is to remove the cause. Let the Palestinians return to reclaim their land. Let there be a state of Palestine. Let there be justice and the rule of law. Warring against them will not stop terrorism. Nor will out-terrorising them succeed.

27. We need to remind ourselves that the United Nations Organisation, like the League of Nations before, was conceived for the noble purpose of ending wars between nations.

28. Wars are about killing people. Modern wars are about mass killings and total destruction countrywide. Civilised nations claim they abhor killing for any reason. When a man kills, he commits the crime of murder. And the punishment for murder may be death.

29. But wars, we all know encourage and legitimise killing. Indeed the killings are regarded as noble, and the killers are hailed as heroes. They get medals stuck to their chest and statues erected in their honour, have their names mentioned in history books.

30. There is something wrong with our way of thinking, with our value system. Kill one man, it is murder, kill a million and you become a hero. And so we still believe that conflict between nations can be resolved with war.

31. And because we still do, we must prepare for war. The old adage says “to have peace, prepare for war”. And we are forever preparing for war, inventing more and more destructive weapons. We now have nuclear bombs, capable of destroying whole cities. But now we know that the radiation emanating from the explosion will affect even the country using the bomb. A nuclear war would destroy the world.

32. This fear has caused the countries of Europe and North America to maintain peace for over 70 years. But that is not for other countries. Wars in these other countries can help live test the new weapons being invented.

33. And so they sell them to warring countries. We see their arms in wars fought between smaller countries. These are not world wars but they are no less destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, whole countries devastated and nations bankrupted because of these fantastic new weapons.

34. But these wars give handsome dividends to the arms manufacturers and traders. The arms business is now the biggest business in the world. They profit shamelessly from the deaths and destruction they cause. Indeed, so-called peace-loving countries often promote this shameful business.

35. Today’s weapons cost millions. Fighter jets cost about 100 million dollars. And maintaining them cost tens of millions. But the poor countries are persuaded to buy them even if they cannot afford. They are told their neighbours or their enemies have them. It is imperative that they too have them.

36. So, while their people starve and suffer from all kinds of deprivations, a huge percentage of their budget is allocated to the purchase of arms. That their buyers may never have to use them bothers the purveyors not at all.

Madam President,

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37. In Myanmar, Muslims in Rakhine state are being murdered, their homes torched and a million refugees had been forced to flee, to drown in the high seas, to live in makeshift huts, without water or food, without the most primitive sanitation. Yet the authorities of Myanmar including a Nobel Peace Laureate deny that this is happening. I believe in non-interference in the internal affairs of nations. But does the world watch massacres being carried out and do nothing? Nations are independent. But does this mean they have a right to massacre their own people, because they are independent?

Madam President,

38. On the other hand, in terms of trade, nations are no longer independent. Free trade means no protection by small countries of their infant industries. They must abandon tariff restrictions and open their countries to invasion by products of the rich and the powerful. Yet the simple products of the poor are subjected to clever barriers so that they cannot penetrate the market of the rich. Malaysian palm oil is labelled as dangerous to health and the estates are destroying the habitat of animals. Food products of the rich declare that they are palm oil free. Now palm diesel are condemned because they are decimating virgin jungles. These caring people forget that their boycott is depriving hundreds of thousands of people from jobs and a decent life.

39. We in Malaysia care for the environment. Some 48% of our country remains virgin jungle. Can our detractors claim the same for their own countries?

Madam President,

40. Malaysia is committed to sustainable development. We have taken steps, for example in improving production methods to ensure that our palm oil production is sustainable. By December 2019, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard will become mandatory. This will ensure that every drop of palm oil produced in Malaysia will be certified sustainable by 2020.

Madam President,

41. All around the world, we observe a dangerous trend to inward-looking nationalism, of governments pandering to populism, retreating from international collaborations and shutting their borders to free movements of people, goods and services even as they talk of a borderless world, of free trade. While globalisation has indeed brought us some benefits, the impacts have proven to be threatening to the independence of small nations. We cannot even talk or move around without having our voices and movement recorded and often used against us. Data on everyone is captured and traded by powerful nations and their corporations.

42. Malaysia lauds the UN in its endeavours to end poverty, protect our planet and try to ensure everyone enjoys peace and prosperity. But I would like to refer to the need for reform in the organisation. Five countries on the basis of their victories 70 over years ago cannot claim to have a right to hold the world to ransom forever. They cannot take the moral high ground, preaching democracy and regime change in the countries of the world when they deny democracy in this organisation.

43. I had suggested that the veto should not be by just one permanent member but by at least two powers backed by three non-permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly should then back the decision with a simple majority. I will not say more.

44. I must admit that the world without the UN would be disastrous. We need the UN, we need to sustain it with sufficient funds. No one should threaten it with financial deprivation.

Madam President,

45. After 15 years and at 93, I return to this podium with the heavy task of bringing the voice and hope of the new Malaysia to the world stage. The people of Malaysia, proud of their recent democratic achievement, have high hopes that around the world – we will see peace, progress and prosperity. In this we look toward the UN to hear our pleas.

I thank you, Madam President.

 

Israel’s Prime Minister at  UNGA,  2018

 

Iran’s President Addresses UNGA, 2018

Better to be honest than diplomatic


Better to be honest than diplomatic

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng

 

COMMENT | Diplomacy, as some would have it, is the art of “telling someone to go to hell in a way they look forward to the trip”.

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Although this quote might appear on the favourite coffee mug of many United Nations officials and diplomats, the truth of the matter is, diplomacy is meant to be a life saver and invariably, a geopolitical game changer, at critical moments in history.

Take the crisis in Myanmar and China, for instance. Close to 700,000 Rohingyas are being persecuted in Myanmar, of which another one million are in “re-education” camp in China.

If Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah is expected to be gingerly tactful and polite – which he already has been since day one – such humanitarian crisis could careen into what political scientists call “complex humanitarian emergencies” (CHE).

A CHE is when an originally solvable problem degenerates into an intractable issue that now confronts the international community, whether to resort to war to separate the enemy combatants or to persist with the use of forceful, perhaps coercive, diplomacy to divert the issues from the path of disaster back to the normal trajectory of peace and civility.

Either way, diplomacy cannot be built on deceit let alone deception.

When a foreign minister feels deeply about another country, he or she should say it outright. Saifuddin, in a sense, was not wrong to tweet about his dislike of two countries which he was about to visit.

If one goes by the gold standard of contemporary diplomacy, there are two templates at the UN now. Both contradict one another in form and style.

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The first kind takes place at the UN General Assembly, where diplomats from all over the world, and their leaders too, converge in New York City to “vent”; Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is about to let it rip when he speaks at the United Nations tomorrow.

On the other hand, at the UN Security Council, as far back as 2000, the council’s five permanent members have resorted to using secret, back-room and stealth-like diplomacy, to do whatever they want, without the consent of the council’s non-permanent members.

Meaning, the US, China, UK, France and Russia often do things away from the prying eyes of the non-permanent members.

The net effect in the UN General Assembly, however, while normally hortatory (full of talk and no action) does become what the late US permanent representative to UN Jeanne Kirkpatrick called “the Turkish bath”. The general assembly is where the whole world lets off steam, express their frustrations, and some even walk out. Unseemly as these diplomatic practices are, they help countries, great and small, to keep their frustrations well managed.

At the UN Security Council, there is also another diplomatic method and ethos applied, where the five permanent members either attack each other’s views and values by exercising their right to veto any decision or to abstain themselves (from their vote of hands).

Either way, diplomacy cannot be understood as purely being “nice”. The Foreign Affairs Ministry is not a five-star hotel where the customer is always right and smiles must always be the fixture of all the staffs. Diplomats are trained to speak their mind, either firmly or politely, short of triggering a wild fire of outlandish conflicts and verbal tit for tat.

It is disingenuous that Kepala Batas MP Reezal Merican and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin have asked Saifuddin Abdullah to shape up in his speech acts. “Behave as a diplomat,” Khairy tweeted, while Reezal told the minister to “consult with senior officials” before speaking. Both of them are wrong.

The Foreign Affairs Minister is given the leeway to walk out of the room, stand up to raise a point, even tweet about his feelings – especially when the countries in questions have been red flagged by the international community for a spectrum of egregious violations of rights and conventions.

Saifuddin is the diplomat-in-chief of Malaysia as well as of the Pakatan Harapan government.

At a time when Mahathir is about to speak on “The Future of Asian Democracy,” at the Chatham House in London, it is all the more important why Saifuddin should speak his mind.

It is here, the headquarters of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, that the “Chatham House Rule” was formed in 1927. The rule, which states that speakers can express their personal views even if they are not be in line with their organisation’s, is meant to increase openness of discussing public policies and current affairs.

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Being honest, in a glib or tactful manner, is not the equivalent of being grouchy and grunge. Saifuddin, one of the most genteel Malay politicians to have emerged in Malaysia, should be encouraged to speak his mind.

Those who are offended, such as Reezal and Khairy, seem to forget that they were once afraid to speak the truth to ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak too.

This contributed to a humongous 1MDB debt bomb, for which neither of them have offered an apology to Malaysians, who now carry a debt of about RM 34,000 each for decades to come.

The insistence on being polite in politics is rubbish, as there is just too much at stake to be nice all the time. Thumbs up for Saifuddin for calling a spade and spade, short of poking a stick into the eyeball of those countries he dislikes. Pakatan Harapan one; Barisan National (or what remains of it) zero.


PHAR KIM BENG was a multiple award-winning Head Teaching Fellow on China and Cultural Revolution in Harvard University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.