Singapore is not an island

October 12, 2015

 Jason Chin answers DAP on Bilahari’s Article

“Dr Mahathir seems to have expected to exercise remote control even though he was no longer prime minister. Among his grievances with his successors were their warming of ties with Singapore, Mr Najib’s decision to settle the railway land issue, cooperation on Iskandar Malaysia (IM) and the refusal of both Tun Abdullah Badawi and Mr Najib to proceed with his pet white elephant: the “crooked bridge”. Dr Mahathir wants to replace Mr Najib with someone more pliable.”--Bilahari Kausikan, Singapore’s ambassador-at-large

Bilahari KBilahari Kausikan–An Astute Observer of Malaysian Politics

A lengthy, well-analysed and descriptive article was published recently in Singapore’s The Straits Times entitled “Singapore is not an island” by Bilahari Kausikan. Bilahari expressed his opinion on the current political climate in Malaysia and how it related to Singapore-Malaysia ties.

DAP’s Tony Pua was irked and responded in super quick time. ( The Opposition coalition is a perfect coalition you see. Nobody can speak negatively about them.

When the late Lee Kuan Yew criticized UMNO he was applauded by DAP. But when he questioned Pakatan, his views were deemed outdated and wrong. But Lee has not been the only one with reservations about Pakatan.

Earlier this year Dr. Bridget Welsh, a renowned political analyst who is a senior research associate at the Centre for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University said that the Opposition coalition in Malaysia is starting to become irrelevant due to its internal quarrels, blaming not only the leadership of PAS but also the DAP for it.

Bilahari was spot-on when he said that Pakatan Rakyat, although in theory multiracial, “have nothing in common except the ambition to displace BN.” He added that in his opinion the new coalition of Pakatan Harapan was itself a ‘forlorn hope,’ and likely to fail.

In Tony’s response, he said that Bilahari’s views suggest that Singapore lacks a moral compass despite all its wealth and developed nation status.

In the first place, dear Tony, how morally encompassing is it for the DAP to now be in “alliance” with Dr Mahathir Mohamad? Malaysia does not need moral lessons from Tony Pua the DAP way. You, Tony, are in no position to accuse anyone of not having a moral compass.

In 2010, an Australian media group revealed that Singapore’s intelligent services and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had told the Office of National Assessments (ONA) in Australia that Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim ‘did indeed commit the acts for which he is currently in prison’.

When these revelations were made five years ago, PKR’s Tian Chua jumped to Anwar’s defence noting that the allegations were just “hearsay” and we could not depend on what foreign intelligence officials say. Fast-forward 5 years to 2015, and the same bunch of Opposition people are now heavily relying on what foreign reports have published. Double-standards, nay?

An online petition to the United States government was made to pressure President Barack Obama to prioritise the release of Anwar in the superpower’s policy towards Malaysia. When the British Prime Minister was due to come to Malaysia, the Opposition tried hard to get him to cancel his trip. When that failed, DAP’s lawmaker once again wrote an open letter asking the British PM to not support Najib’s administration. However, when the Chinese Ambassador came to Petaling Street and made an inference to the government’s administration, the Opposition chose to remain silent. Why is interference welcomed in one case but not in another?

Despite all the Opposition’s call for an international boycott of Najib’s administration, Malaysia is still involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations. So far, the Opposition’s call for a cut in international ties with Najib’s government have been in vain.

tony-pua-unta-1In his top-selling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey said that most people seek first to be understood; to get their point across. In doing so, they ignore the other person completely. They concentrate on a few selected aspects of what is being said. They focus only on the words, missing the meaning entirely.

Tony Pua is doing exactly that. Instead of digesting and properly deciphering Bilahari’s opinion, he knee-jerked to defence. This is exactly why most world leaders do not see any prospect in the Opposition pack in Malaysia.

Jason Chin is an FMT reader

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

Dr P. Ramasamy of DAP responds to Ambassador at Large Bilahari Kasuikan

Dr. P RamasamySingapore’s Ambassador-at-Large, who is a retired Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently a Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Policy Studies, Bilahari Kausikan, seems to have caught the attention of Malaysians, particularly, those from the DAP for the wrong reasons.

His recent 3,000-word article entitled “Singapore is not island” which appeared on October 6, 2015, in the The Straits Times (Singapore) seems to have elicited critical comments from the DAP leaders.

In his article, Bilahari said that the Chinese in Malaysia are delusional in that they continue to miss the point that Malays would not give up their political dominance at any costs. And if there is Chinese challenge to Malay political power, there is possibility that UMNO would combine with PAS to defend Malay rights.

He went further to criticise the Chinese for not having learnt any lessons from the May13, 1969, racial riots. Bilahari thinks that the recent Bersih demonstration was entirely staged by the Chinese to challenge the Malays and that the counter-demonstration organised by the “red shirts” was a typical Malay response to the Chinese challenge.

Bilahari thinks that Chinese youths are delusional in that they don’t understand history and how the working relationship among the various ethnic groups were constituted in the aftermath of political independence in 1969. Finally, Kasikan cautions the Chinese not to be too delusional but to grasp the reality and to make peace with the Malays.

Bilahari is entitled to his views and they would not be challenged as long as they reflect the ground reality in Malaysia. However, Bilahari seems to go overboard in not understanding the Malaysian political and ethnic reality, but goes overboard in defending a political and racial system that is entirely problematic.

First, as the DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang pointed out, it is not clear whether Bilahari makes a distinction between Malay political dominance and supremacy. While political dominance seems inevitable due to demographic changes, the presence of powerful Malay political parties, the inevitability of the institutions of the royalty and other traditional features of the Malay community, Malay supremacy is something no sane or decent Malaysians would accept or condone.

So in this respect, Bilahari has failed to distinguish these two concepts and hence his own “delusional thinking” to understand the complex and unfolding features of the Malaysian political scene.

Not fair to say Chinese have been misled

Second, sorry, “delusional thinking” is not a pre-occupation of the Chinese in Malaysia, especially the young ones. I don’t think that Bilahari is fair to the Chinese to say that they have been misled or misinformed about what is good or bad for Malaysia.

Malaysian Chinese youth like the youths of other races, want a decent country with a decent political system, a system that stays far away from corruption and misdeeds and a system that will ensure justice and fair play for all Malaysians.

Is Bilahari fair to say that these needs can be interpreted as a challenge to Malay political power? And if the Chinese engage in these acts of political and social participation, are they deemed to have broken the racial pact that was hatched before political independence?

Third, for the information of Bilahari, the Malaysian political and social systems are not static. Sometimes, foreign observers and writers, despite their good intentions, make the mistake of “essentialism”.

In other words, they would think and act as though there are one or two features that would serve as the determining or causative factors. Thus, in the case of Malaysia, it would be race and in the case of India, it would be caste.

Those engaging in essentialism would tend to miss the nuances, complexities and the fast unfolding aspects of a country’s political, social and economic systems.

Bilahari’s major error in his analysis is the mistake of engaging in essentialism without the benefit of critical analysis of the fast changing political scenario of the Malaysian system. Thus, what he knows about the system might be far off from reality.

Fourth, Bilahari is equally guilty of ignoring the larger reality of Malaysian political life. He seems to think that Malay political parties, especially Umno and PAS, have the overwhelming support of the Malays. This is not the truth. He fails to realise that Malays, especially the urban ones, have left UMNO en bloc in the last 20 years or so. Even PAS, the so-called Islamic party, has lost its clout due to the purges and desertions by many good leaders.

So, what is happening in Malaysia is not Malay political dominance being reinforced, but rather, Malay dominance or supremacy being weakened due to various misdeeds, corruption and the lack of democracy and others.

While he thinks that PAS and UMNO might join hands to counter the Chinese “uprising”, he fails to note that they Malays in PKR and the newly-minted Parti Amanah Negara are together with the DAP in dismantling the BN-UMNO regime!

Fifth and finally, there is nothing to be learned from the May13, 1969, racial riots.Such riots should be avoided, not only to be giving in to the racist and supremacist demands of the Malay right wing forces, but challenging Malay supremacy as represented by UMNO and its affiliates.

Bilahari, again, by engaging in essentialism, thinks that the riots occurred because the Chinese challenged the might of the Malays. However, such a naïve view cannot be acceptable in the light of evidence about the riots that have come about in recent years.

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.

Singapore is not an island

Malaysia is undergoing a systemic change that has profound consequences for Singapore

by Bilahari Kausikan

Published The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2015Bilahari-Kausikan-Singapore2What do most Singaporeans make of recent events in Malaysia? Bersih. Pesaka. 1MDB. A Deputy Prime Minister sacked. Protests and counter-protests.

Are we so inured to commotions across the Causeway that they seem no more than the faint tolling of distant bells, evoking only bemusement and schadenfreude? Our system works, so shrug and tend our own garden. If this is the attitude, it is mistaken. We are indeed different. But I believe Malaysia may be on the cusp of a systemic change that could have profound implications for us.

Since 1957, first Malaya then Malaysia, was premised on a political and social compact that had Malay dominance as its cardinal principle. So long as this was not challenged, other races could have their own space. In political terms, this compact was reflected in a system structured around an alliance of race-based political parties with the dominant Malay party – United Malays National Organisation or UMNO – at its centre.

The Chinese were represented by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), later joined by Gerakan; the Indians by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). Two opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS ), were in principle multiracial, but in practice largely Chinese and Malay and in any case were peripheral.

It was our refusal to accept the system’s cardinal principle that led to Separation from Malaysia in 1965. But it was a system that had its own coherence and until relatively recently, it did not serve Malaysia badly. And despite the complexities of bilateral relations and occasional periods of tension, over the last 50 years, it was a system we learnt to work with, while going our own way. That familiar system is now under immense stress. It is not certain that it can hold together.

Pressure Point

The pressure point is religion. Arab influences from the Middle East have for several decades steadily eroded the Malay variant of Islam in which adat or traditional practices coexisted with the Quran in a syncretic, tolerant synthesis, replacing it with a more austere and exclusive interpretation of Islam. This is one aspect of a broader process of globalisation which is a sociocultural and not just an economic phenomenon. It has changed the texture of Malaysian society, I think irreversibly.

It is impossible for any country to insulate itself from globalisation. Religion in Singapore is not immune from globalisation’s consequences, and not just in our Muslim community. Evangelical Christianity is one example. But Singapore is organised on the principle of multiracial meritocracy. So long as this is accepted by all races and religions as the foundation of our identity, the most corrosive political effects are mitigated. In the Singapore system, God – every God – and Caesar are separate and so all Gods must perforce co-exist, with the state playing the role of neutral arbiter.

The cardinal principle of Malay dominance is enshrined in the Constitution, which also places Islam as the first component in the definition of a Malay. This makes the mixture of religion and politics well-nigh inevitable. UMNO politicians have been unable to resist the temptation to use religion for electoral advantage. They are responding to the logic of the system as it has evolved.

najib-mahahthirIn 2001, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a fundamental political error when he tried to undercut PAS by declaring that Malaysia was already an Islamic state. A constitutional controversy ensued. But the most damaging consequences were political not legal.

Tun Dr Mahathir’s incautious declaration gave a sharper political focus to the changes in the interpretation of Islam that were under way and catalysed a competitive dynamic in which those inclined to religious moderation were inevitably outbid and overwhelmed.

The result has been an increasingly pronounced emphasis on religion in UMNO’s political identity and a significant and continuing narrowing of the political and social space for non-Muslims.

Surveys show that Malaysian Malays privilege Islamic credentials over other qualities they look for in their leaders. A Merdeka Centre survey this year revealed that 60 per cent of Malaysian Malays polled identified themselves as Muslims first rather than Malaysians or even Malays. Demography accentuates the political impact of these attitudes. In 1957 the Chinese constituted 45 per cent of Malaya (West Malaysia). In 2010, they constituted only 24.6 per cent of Malaysia including East Malaysia. Malay fertility rates are significantly higher than both Chinese and Indians.

In the 2013 Malaysian General Election, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition got only 13 per cent of the Chinese vote. Two days after the election, Utusan Malaysia, an UMNO mouthpiece, pointedly asked “Apa Lagi Cina Mau?” (What more do the Chinese want?)

The question was provocatively phrased, but not entirely unreasonable. Prime Minister Najib Razak tried hard to win back Chinese votes but got almost nothing for his efforts. MCA won only seven seats. Gerakan was wiped out. The DAP won 38 seats, the largest number in the opposition coalition.

A New System in the Making?

The Chinese parties in BN had clearly lost the trust of Chinese voters. Can MCA win back Chinese votes? Doubtful. MCA is obviously powerless to stem the narrowing political and social space for non-Muslims; the fecklessness of its leaders exposed by constant scandals and internal bickering.

MCA in TattersIn 2013, BN lost the popular vote but retained its parliamentary majority because of the 47 seats it won in East Malaysia. Native East Malaysians are not ethnically Malay but are classified as bumiputera. Some in UMNO began to question whether it was really necessary to work with the Chinese at all. The declining numbers of Chinese in the Malaysian population will sooner or later make them electorally irrelevant to UMNO and BN had already retained power without their votes.

Nor can the opposition coalition of the DAP, PAS and Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat – Pakatan Rakyat (PR) – form a new multiracial system. PR was always a motley crew. Although its component parties are in theory multiracial, they have nothing in common except the ambition to displace BN. Only Anwar’s charismatic personality and political skills held them uneasily together.

Anwar is now in jail and PR has fallen apart. PAS has left. Without Anwar, Keadilan’s future is bleak. The DAP is subject to the demo- graphic constraints of a falling Chinese population and is unlikely to make substantial electoral advances beyond its present strength, although it will probably retain what it now holds. PR’s successor – Pakatan Harapan – a coalition of the DAP, Keadilan and a minor breakaway faction from PAS, is a forlorn hope (pun intended).

PAS has purged its moderate leadership and is now led by the ulama. UMNO is increasingly relying on religion to legitimise itself. UMNO and PAS may eventually form some sort of de facto if not de jure alliance that could be the core of a new ruling system. There may be token ornaments of other races, but the Malaysian system will then comprise an overwhelmingly dominant Malay government with a DAP-led Chinese opposition. This will be potentially explosive.

I do not know if such a system will really replace the current system, but it certainly seems possible, even probable. It will not happen overnight. But the controversy over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) could well hasten its emergence. The recent demonstrations seem to foreshadow such a development.

Struggle for Power in UMNO

The anti-government Bersih demonstrations held in late August this year were, despite a sprinkling of other races, predominantly Chinese affairs. PAS, which had joined previous Bersih demonstrations, stayed away. The organisers claimed the demonstrations were apolitical, but the DAP with Keadilan clearly played significant roles.

Last month, a pro-government counter-demonstration was organised by Pesaka – a right-wing Malay group ostensibly devoted to silat, the Malay martial art. The demonstration was almost entirely Malay, positioned as defending Malay rights and marked by fierce racial rhetoric. Before the demonstration, posters were displayed, captioned “Cina turun Bersih, sedialah bermandi darah” (Chinese who attend Bersih, be ready to be bathed in blood) which depicted a Bersih supporter being slashed with a parang. A flier with a similar slogan was found at DAP headquarters.

UMNO denied organising the demonstration. Dato’ Seri Najib did not attend but said he had no objections to UMNO members doing so. The President of Pesaka is an UMNO leader. Another UMNO politician, who was one of the driving forces of the Pesaka demonstration, proudly admitted he was racist because it was under the Constitution.

Thankfully, violence at these demonstrations was avoided by the strong police presence. But the demonstrations certainly raised the temperature of an already racially fraught atmosphere.

Although the authorities denied it, the affray that broke out in July at Low Yat Plaza, a mainly Chinese shopping area in Kuala Lumpur, after a Malay youth was accused of stealing a mobile phone, was certainly racial. It exposed the tinderbox Malaysia had become.

Shortly after news broke about US$700 million (S$1 billion) believed to be from 1MBD being traced to what was alleged to be Mr Najib’s personal account, a Putrajaya spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has not taken any funds for personal use.”

UMNO has always operated through a system of patronage. If this is what the spokesman was hinting at, then Dr Mahathir’s accusations against Mr Najib ring hollow. Did he not preside over the same system and for far longer than any other Malaysian Prime Minister?

This system also means that Mr Najib is in no imminent danger of being forced from office so long as he holds the majority of UMNO divisions and retains Malay support. Frustration may account for Dr Mahathir’s attendance at the Bersih demonstration which I do not think has raised the good doctor’s standing with the Malay ground.

The 1MDB scandal is less about corruption than about a struggle for power within UMNO. Dr Mahathir seems to have expected to exercise remote control even though he was no longer prime minister. Among his grievances with his successors were their warming of ties with Singapore, Mr Najib’s decision to settle the railway land issue, cooperation on Iskandar Malaysia (IM) and the refusal of both Tun Abdullah Badawi and Mr Najib to proceed with his pet white elephant: the “crooked bridge”. Dr Mahathir wants to replace Mr Najib with someone more pliable.

The intra-UMNO power struggle is not over. Mr Najib retains his office but has been politically damaged. Dr Mahathir’s reputation may have been dented, but he still has a following within UMNO and the Malay public.

Mr Najib cannot allow himself to be outflanked on the right. Two days after the September demonstration, he attended a Pesaka gathering. He praised Pesaka members as being “willing to die” for the government and said “Malay people can also show that we are still able to rise when our dignity is challenged, when our leaders are insulted, criticised, shamed”, adding, “We respect other races. But don’t forget: Malays also have their feelings. Malays also have their limits.”

What Next?

A former minister, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, has said that “if Najib succeeds in uniting UMNO and PAS, then I am confident the Malays will forgive his grave mistakes”, adding that “after fulfilling this large and sincere task” he should step down and hand power to former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

I do not know if Mr Najib feels he has committed “grave mistakes”. But he certainly will not hand over power to a man he unceremoniously sacked. Still, Mr Zainuddin is probably not wrong about anyone who brings UMNO and PAS together becoming a Malay hero. It may not be Mr Najib, but the trajectory of political developments in Malaysia already seems to point in that direction.

Malaysia and Singapore are each other’s second-largest trading partner. Malaysia is Singapore’s sixth-largest investment destination and we are the top investor in IM. Every day tens of thousands of Malaysians commute across the Causeway to work in Singapore. It is in our interest to see Malaysia stable with a healthy economy.

Mr Najib understands that Malaysia and Singapore need each other. So far and unusually we have not figured very much in the controversies. Dr Mahathir did trot out his tired line about Singapore Malays being marginalised. But it did not catch fire. Did the government dampen the spark? No way of knowing for sure but if it did, it is one more black mark against Mr Najib in the old man’s book.

We, of course, have no choice but to work with whatever system or leader emerges in Malaysia. But some systems will be easier to work with than others. And the current heightened state of racial tensions suggests that we should not assume that the transition from one system to another will necessarily be peaceful.

It is my impression that many young Malaysian Chinese have forgotten the lessons of May 13, 1969. They naively believe that the system built around the principle of Malay dominance can be changed. That may be why they abandoned MCA for the DAP. They are delusional. Malay dominance will be defended by any means.

Any new system will still be built around this principle, and if it has some form of UMNO-PAS collaboration at its centre, enforcement of this principle will be even more rigorous with even less space for non-Muslims.

The respected Malay poet and writer Pak Samad recently warned “the way race issues are played up… it is not impossible that things will peak into a state of emergency”. Pak Samad is a member of the DAP and he was appealing to the government to take a more equitable attitude towards all races. But his views and those of some idealistic young urban Malays are exceptional and, during an intra-UMNO power struggle when the banner of Malay dominance is raised particularly high, utterly irrelevant.

Singaporeans should also note that no country’s domestic politics exists in a geopolitical vacuum.

Chinese Ambassador’s Remarks

In the midst of these unfolding developments, China’s ambassador to Malaysia made his way to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. Close to where only a few days previously the police had to use water cannons to disperse a potentially violent anti-Chinese Pesaka-led demonstration, the ambassador read out a statement that among other things pronounced the Chinese government’s opposition to terrorism, any form of racial discrimination and extremism, adding for good measure that it would be a shame if the peace of Petaling Street was disrupted by the ill-intentioned and that Beijing would not stand idly by if anything threatened the interests of its citizens and Malaysia-China relations.

Under other circumstances these sentiments would perhaps have passed notice. But the timing and context laid the ambassador’s words and actions open to disquieting interpretations. Was it just bad judgment? What was he trying to do? If the Ambassador was trying to help the Malaysian Chinese, then he failed miserably. He probably made things worse for them by confirming the worst suspicions of the Malay right wing.

But were the interests of Malaysian Chinese even a consideration? Was the intention to highlight a rising China’s clout? The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the Ambassador’s visit to Petaling Street as “normal” and emphasised China’s adherence to the principle of non-interference. But this was of course what she would have said irrespective of China’s intentions.

More telling perhaps was the apparent confusion over whether or not the Chinese Ambassador should be summoned to explain himself. This should have been obvious. A retired Malaysian diplomat who used to deal with China pointed out the dangerous precedent that would be set if no action was taken. But different Malaysian ministers contradicted each other, with a clearly frustrated Foreign Minister Anifah Aman finally telling them all to leave it to Wisma Putra.

Was this the consequence of China’s influence? Possibly. In the end, some sort of meeting with Wisma Putra seems to have occurred. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi subsequently announced that the Malaysian Cabinet decided to “call in” the Chinese ambassador (he was careful to make clear the ambassador was not being “summoned”).

Lesson For Singapore

We cannot solve other people’s problems. Malaysians must work out their own destiny and we will have to live with their choices.

Are we completely immune to contagion from Malaysia? After 50 years, does our collective Singapore identity now trump racial identities? Maybe under some circumstances. Optimistically, perhaps even most circumstances. But under all circumstances?I doubt it. Let us wish Malaysia well and hope that the worst does not occur. But it would be prudent to take no chances and prepare ourselves as if it might. The first step is for all Singaporeans to understand what is happening in our neighbourhood and realistically appreciate our own circumstances.

Deterrence and diplomacy are necessary to reduce the temptation that some in Malaysia may have to externalise their problems and minimise the bilateral friction that will sometimes be unavoidable. Strong deterrence and agile diplomacy must be underpinned by national cohesion which in turn rests on a foundation of common understandings.

Of late it seems to have become fashionable for some sections of our intelligentsia to downplay or even dismiss our vulnerabilities. Some political parties tried variants of this line during our recent General Election. Are they blind and deaf to what is happening around us? Is their desire for notoriety or political advantage so overwhelming as to make them indifferent to the consequences?

Malaysia is not the only concern. The haze is a daily reminder that all is not well down south too. This is not the most salubrious of neighbourhoods.

The writer, a former Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, is now Ambassador-at-Large.

Political Survival at a Cost to the Nation

October 12, 2015

Political Survival at a Cost to the Nation

by Khoo Ying Hooi

Najib and Rosmah2Malaysia is in a political turmoil. Critics at home and abroad see Malaysia’s leadership drifting downwards. The past year has seen Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak’s rule increasingly characterized as authoritarian and dysfunctional.

The fragility of the economy, and emasculation of the Rule of Law affect both our politics and  investor confidence in the economy. Last week, lawyer Matthias Chang was detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012. This followed his client Dato’ Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan’s detention under Sosma after he made several reports overseas against the troubled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In unprecedented and rare comment, Malaysia’s rulersy have also called for a transparent investigation into 1MDB’s affairs. The Attorney-General’s Chambers (A-GC) announced there would be no prosecution despite Bank Negara Malaysia call for a review of the prosecutor’s decision that no further action was required on 1MDB regarding false disclosures.

Regionally and internationally, Malaysia plays an active role. Malaysia’s role as ASEAN chair, for example, comes at a critical time with the nation having spent most of 2015 containing its own domestic crisis. The regional grouping is fast losing its credibility at a time when it is about to launch its ASEAN Economic Community in Kuala Lumpur on November 21-22 2015 at its summit (

Behind the promises made in its bid to the United Nations Security Council, Malaysia’s record on human rights and freedom has so far appeared to be deteriorating. The various incidents over the past few weeks further suggest the challenges against the protection of human rights in the country.

Last Tuesday, the Apex Court decided the Sedition Act 1948 is constitutional. In the same week, the Court of Appeal also reversed its own ruling on public assemblies. That meant rally organisers and participants now risk being arrested and charged should they be part of any rally that is deemed illegal.

Today, with Malaysia facing a severe trust deficit crisis that makes it vulnerable and a less appealing role model, the country’s ability to spread its influence is declining. Rather than try to improve its image domestically and the outside world, Prime Minister Najib instead chooses to adopt authoritarian practices to promote his regime’s political survival at home.

The main goal now is to convince people and potential partners that any change in the status quo is likely to be harmful. Based on the political developments so far, the country appears to be confident that it has enough institutional control at home and support abroad to stay the course. So it is entirely possible that the ruling government, which is also now the world’s longest having been in power for 58 years, can turn even more repressive in time to come to maintain the status quo.

Foreign Policy: Obama Deifies American Hegemony

October 3, 2015

Obama Deifies American Hegemony

by Paul Craig Roberts

Obama at UN2015Today (September 28) is the 70th anniversary of the UN. It is not clear how much good the UN has done. Some UN Blue Hemet peacekeeping operations had limited success. But mainly Washington has used the UN for war, such as the Korean War and Washington’s Cold War against the Soviet Union. In our time Washington had UN tanks sent in against Bosnian Serbs during the period that Washington was dismantling Yugoslavia and Serbia and accusing Serbian leaders, who tried to defend the integrity of their country against Washington’s aggression, of “war crimes.”

The UN supported Washington’s sanctions against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. When asked about it, Clinton’s Secretary of State said, with typical American heartlessness, that the deaths of the children were worth it. In 2006 the UN voted sanctions against Iran for exercising its right as a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty to develop atomic energy. Washington claimed without any evidence that Iran was building a nuclear weapon in violation of the non-proliferation treaty, and this lie was accepted by the UN. Washington’s false claim was repudiated by all 16 US intelligence agencies and by the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on the ground in Iran, but in the face of the factual evidence the US government and its presstitute media pressed the claim to the point that Russia had to intervene and take the matter out of Washington’s warmonger hands. Russia’s intervention to prevent US military attacks on Iran and Syria resulted in the demonization of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. “Facts?!, Washington don’t need no stinkin’ facts! We got power!” Today at the UN, Obama asserted America’s over-riding power many times: the strongest military in the world, the strongest economy in the world.

The UN has done nothing to stop Washington’s invasions and bombings, illegal under international law, of seven countries or Obama’s overthrow by coup of democratic governments in Honduras and Ukraine, with more in the works.

The UN does provide a forum for countries and populations within countries that are suffering oppression to post complaints — except, of course, for the Palestinians, who, despite the boundaries shown on maps and centuries of habitation by Palestinians, are not even recognized by the UN as a state.

On this 70th anniversary of the UN, I have spent much of the day listening to the various speeches. The most truthful ones were delivered by the presidents of Russia and Iran. The presidents of Russia and Iran refused to accept the Washington-serving reality or Matrix that Obama sought to impose on the world with his speech. Both presidents forcefully challenged the false reality that the propagandistic Western media and its government masters seek to create in order to continue to exercise their hegemony over everyone else.

What about China? China’s president left the fireworks to Putin, but set the stage for Putin by rejecting US claims of hegemony: “The future of the world must be shaped by all countries.” China’s president spoke in veiled terms against Western neoliberal economics and declared that “China’s vote in the UN will always belong to the developing countries.”

In the masterly way of Chinese diplomacy, the President of China spoke in a non-threatening, non-provocative way. His criticisms of the West were indirect. He gave a short speech and was much applauded.

Obama followed second to the President of Brazil, who used her opportunity for PR for Brazil, at least for the most part. Obama gave us the traditional Washington spiel:

The US has worked to prevent a third world war, to promote democracy by overthrowing governments with violence, to respect the dignity and equal worth of all peoples except for the Russians in Ukraine and Muslims in Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan.

Obama declared Washington’s purpose to “prevent bigger countries from imposing their will on smaller ones.” Imposing its will is what Washington has been doing throughout its history and especially under Obama’s regime.

All those refugees over-running Europe? Washington has nothing to do with it. The refugees are the fault of Assad who drops bombs on people. When Assad drops bombs it oppresses people, but when Washington drops bombs it liberates them. Obama justified Washington’s violence as liberation from “dictators,” such as Assad in Syria, who garnered 80% of the vote in the last election, a vote of confidence that Obama never received and never will.

Obama said that it wasn’t Washington that violated Ukraine’s sovereignty with a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government. It was Russia, whose president invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimera and is trying to annex the other breakaway republics, Russian populations who object to the Russophobia of Washington’s puppet government in Ukraine.

Obama said with a straight face that sending 60 percent of the US fleet to bottle up China in the South China Sea was not an act of American aggression but the protection of the free flow of commerce. Obama implied that China was a threat to the free flow of commerce, but, of course, Washington’s real concern is that China is expanding its influence by expanding the free flow of commerce.

The US has worked to prevent a third world war, to promote democracy by overthrowing governments with violence, to respect the dignity and equal worth of all peoples except for the Russians in Ukraine and Muslims in Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan.

Obama declared Washington’s purpose to “prevent bigger countries from imposing their will on smaller ones.” Imposing its will is what Washington has been doing throughout its history and especially under Obama’s regime.

Obama denied that the US and Israel employ violence. This is what Russia and Syria do, asserted Obama with no evidence. Obama said that he had Libya attacked in order to “prevent a massacre,” but, of course, the NATO attack on Libya perpetrated a massacre, an ongoing one. But it was all Gaddafi’s fault. He was going to massacre his own people, so Washington did it for him.

Obama justified all of Washington’s violence against millions of peoples on the grounds that Washington is well-meaning and saving the world from dictators. Obama attempted to cover up Washington’s massive war crimes, crimes that have killed and displaced millions of peoples in seven countries, with feel-good rhetoric about standing up to dictators.

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West was released previously. His latest book is  How America Was Lost.

A Critical Look at Obama’s UN Speech: Diplomacy as Cover for Aggression

by Michael Pollack

Words can be playthings for war criminals, as is the case here. Michael Hudson and Paul Craig Roberts provided excellent context for Obama’s UN appearance (CounterPunch, Sept. 29); my own follow-up textually analyzes the lies and contradictions behind Obama’s splendiferous rhetoric, a display of hypocrisy and cant worthy of Woodrow Wilson in transmogrifying the meaning of democracy—as now, does Obama—to fit an hegemonic foreign policy dedicated to counterrevolutionary ends. In both cases, Russia is the central object of attention, Obama the Wilsonian of US exceptionalism brought up to date, post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, interventions and multiple covert actions, attempts at regime change, and drone assassination, as well as embargoes, boastfulness of military and economic might, in sum, the exultation and use of force characterizing America’s role in international politics. The speech reeks with premises of a double standard exempting the US from the rule of law.

This is disheartening, but not unexpected, the Bush-Obama continuity in national-security policy, part of the larger pattern from the World War II aftermath forward, reaching an apogee of Reaction, that is, until the next stage of political-ideological consolidation of nascent fascism becomes evident. America has been the leading force in global conflict and disruption, the two areas Obama singles out for special comment in the speech, Ukraine and Syria, both showing its unilateral drive for unrestricted dominance. On the former, a coup in Kiev installed through US effort a Far Right hooliganism disguised as government, and as for the latter, one queries, what gave America the right to consider the Middle East an exclusive zone of control and military penetration? This last has been going on for some time, and interestingly, in all the discussion, planning, and concrete activity to displace Assad, there is no mention of Israel’s possible role in guiding or supporting US policy in this regard—nor, of course, giving reasons for demonizing him. If Assad has gone against his people, evidence of atrocities has thus far been sketchy, and the tenor of the discussion smells like old fish given America’s penchant for strengthening and on occasion installing dictatorial regimes—for what else defines the CIA’s purpose in being?


Let’s look, then, at the speech, the caveat being: words are measured by the record presumably supporting them. In self-congratulatory mode, Obama credits the US since the UN’s founding with “prevent[ing] a third world war—by forging alliances with old adversaries; by supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of a foreign power; and by building an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict over cooperation, an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people.” As though there had never been a Cold War with the US immune from criticism, beginning with Bretton Woods, then the Marshall Plan, the support of Chiang, Korea, atomic diplomacy, the poisonous cultural atmosphere of McCarthyism—and we’ve barely gotten out of the early 1950s. Each of his boasts is qualified by history, the last, “an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people,” not even applying to the US itself, where massive surveillance hardly bespeaks respect for the people—nor the saturation bombing, whether in Vietnam or Iraq. And who but America, “choose[s] conflict over cooperation”?

There have been setbacks, to be sure, “but we [he refers to the UN, yet implicitly puts America at the forefront] have pressed forward, slowly, steadily, to make a system of international rules and norms that are better and stronger and more consistent.” In fact, quite the opposite, the US in flagrant violation thereof in shaping international alliance systems and practicing regime change, in the Hemisphere, for starters, but extending worldwide wherever governments give signs of disobedience or ingratitude. America, like Wilson also proclaimed, is the foundation of world order—internationalism then, globalization now. Yet, Obama warns, beware: “the march of human progress never travels in a straight line, that our work is far from complete; that dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.” The reference, unmistakably, is first to Russia, the center of Obama’s animus, and also, never far behind, China.

Syria becomes the test of America’s beneficence in international politics. The US must never forsake its moral obligation to advance democracy. “Today,” he states, “we see the collapse of strongmen and fragile states breeding conflict, and driving innocent men, women and children across borders on an epic scale. Brutal networks of terror have stepped into the vacuum.” In other words, Assad is to blame for ISIS and the refugee problem, America’s pressures toward regime change in Syria nonexistent. However, Russia and China are not far behind as culprits in defaming (American-sponsored) world order. Older ground rules, e.g., “might makes right” and “strong states must impose their will on weaker ones,” are no longer acceptable: “On this basis, we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law. We see an erosion of the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to this institution’s [UN’s] mission…. In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.” Actually, despite the straight-line projection from Russia to Assad to bombing innocent children, one senses that Obama is more anti-Assad than anti-ISIS and acts accordingly.

Granted, the world sees “greater polarization,” to which America “is not immune,” but under his leadership Obama charts the path forward (a pardonable braggadocio given what he has to offer): “As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning. I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.” An open admission of US impunity in the violation of international law! To which he adds, “We cannot look backwards,” precisely the phrase he used to explain away his refusal to investigate the Bush administration for possible war crimes—we must go forward, not backwards (he uses it whenever his administration has been caught red-handed in its arrogance of power).

From here we enter Obama’s topsy-turvy world in which he proclaims America’s abidance with international law, renunciation of repression, and commitment to the role and power of ideas. Examples: “Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.” “I believe in my core that repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed.” “You can jail your opponents, but you can’t imprison ideas. You can try to control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.” All noble words, but contradicted at every turn by his and USG’s actions, as when he said above, “unilaterally and by force where necessary.” There is much more to the speech, layers on layers of hypocritical gibberish, but let me stop here with this extended nugget, a renunciation of imperialism, repression, aggression: “Indeed, I believe that in today’s world, the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory. Lasting prosperity does not come solely from the ability to access and extract raw materials.”

He continues: “The strength of nations depends on the success of their people—their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity—and that, in turn, depends upon individual rights and good governance and personal security.” High school spread-eagle oratory at its best—never mind surveillance, mass incarceration, the militarization of state and local police, pressures exerted on the media for abject conformity, a tightening of political discourse, far worse than under McCarthyism, because now internalized by the citizenry, with ethnocentric, xenophobic beliefs and values receiving widespread assent in the political arena, and the self-righteous praise of Exceptionalism conferring license to act as though inhabiting a solipsistic world of grace as launching pad for global pillaging. He concludes the passage: “Internal repression and foreign aggression are both symptoms of the failure to provide this foundation.” Yes, and America has excelled in both.

My New York Times Comment to one of several article on the topic, (Sept. 28), follows:

Obama criticizes Putin, ignoring his own role and that of the US in global interventions, covert actions, and regime change. America does not have clean hands; Obama especially, with his massive surveillance at home, should be the last to criticize either Putin or Assad–his own record of confrontation with Russia and China, his boast that America has the strongest military, his militarization of trade (TPP), his general demeanor, mark him as the most belligerent, officious president in modern memory.

Putin and Xi have a firm grasp of international politics, while Obama is the cowboy/braggart thoroughly at home with the use of force, not to say, drone assassination. To hear him criticize the others is sheer phoniness, as he brings America lower in the world’s estimation.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at

To Prime Minister Najib: Stop lecturing the World

October 2, 2015

Najib at Unga 2015

Five years ago I stood before this assembly and called for a Global Movement – of Moderates of all religions, of all countries – to marginalise extremists, reclaim the centre, and shape the agenda towards peace and pragmatism. We in Malaysia have followed up, both with practical action and by building intellectual capacity.

…We believe that moderation is key. Moderation is not about being weak. On the contrary, it is courageous and shows strength. The strength to push for peace and put the people first.It is a principle that runs through all civilisations and faiths. Islam embodies it in the concept of “wasatiyyah”, Confucianism as “chung yung” – both of which mean “middle path” or “the Golden Mean.” But this is a principle we must rediscover, and at the 26th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this April, we reaffirmed our commitment to this approach when we adopted the Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates.

Malaysia stands ready to share its experience; of upholding Islam and marginalising extremism; of implementing the objectives of Shariah while practicing democracy; of maintaining a multi-ethnic society where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and successful economic development.–Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak

Nice words, indeed, but they lack credibility. Suddenly, we have become a model Islamic state. He should deal with problems at home and stop playing the politics of race and religion before lecturing to the rest of the world.

Our economy is a total mess. Our bonds have become junk bonds; our stock market is a non-performer; Din Merican at his UC Officethe ringgit, now at rm4.50 to the US dollar, is drifting south towards rm5.0; our foreign exchange reserves are below USD100 billion; corruption is rampant and public and investor confidence in Najib as Prime Minister cum Finance Minister is at an all time low.

Come home and fix our problems and lead. Show us that you have the conviction and courage to do what is right. Take the heat or, if not, get of the kitchen.–Din Merican

Prime Minister Najib Razak@ the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly New York, 1 October 2015

Congratulations on your appointment as President of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Your experience and wisdom will be invaluable in guiding us.

This session’s theme – ‘The United Nations at 70: the Road Ahead for Peace, Security and Human Rights’ – is timely. For we urgently need to find new approaches, to rise above the political divide and put people first, in an age when the old ways are proving inadequate to the challenges we face today.

We are a world of nation states. But new conflicts and threats imperiling our peace and security do not recognise borders. Non-state actors, such as the so-called Islamic State, threaten to destroy sovereign states.

They don’t confine their horrific acts of cruelty within official boundaries. Expert at using social media to recruit followers in faraway countries, they lure them with false promises, persuading many young people that their barbaric actions will bring them closer to God.

It is sickening, and there could be no greater a slur on Islam – a religion of peace, moderation and justice. But these extremists cannot be defeated by traditional military means alone.

Five years ago I stood before this assembly and called for a Global Movement – of Moderates of all religions, of all countries – to marginalise extremists, reclaim the centre, and shape the agenda towards peace and pragmatism. We in Malaysia have followed up, both with practical action and by building intellectual capacity.

Central to this effort is reaffirming Islam’s true nature, as we must acknowledge that we are not winning the propaganda war against the so-called Islamic State. Their twisted narrative is not being adequately countered to prevent many misguided people from joining or supporting from afar.

So it is more important than ever that we spread awareness of authentic Islam. Most especially when conflicts persist and people lose hope. For it is there that extremism finds fertile soil. And those who fight for extremism – for a perversion of true Islam – are one of the main drivers of the current migration crisis from the Middle East.

Islam unequivocally prohibits killing civilians during war. It explicitly protects minorities and respects those of other faiths. It urges the pursuit of knowledge, and stresses both justice and compassion. As the Prophet Muhammad said: “You will not enter Paradise until you have faith; and you will not complete your faith, till you love for one another what you love for yourselves.”

This means there should be no strife among Muslims. Not between Shia and Sunni, who may take different paths, but seek the same destination.

Islam condemns the destruction of historical sites that are part of the world’s cultural heritage. The lies of IS include the claim that it is their duty to destroy historical sites, because the Prophet Muhammad destroyed the idols that had been introduced into the Ka`ba in Mecca.

This is based on a false analogy. The Ka`ba was built by the Prophet Abraham for the worship of the One True God, and later generations added the idols. The Prophet Muhammad was commanded to purify the Ka`ba of these idols for its use by his followers, to bring it back to its original form.

The historical sites being destroyed by IS were never used for the worship of the One God and then later desecrated; so the argument for destroying them does not and cannot apply. Moreover, God informs us that these sites we travel by, and which denote past civilizations — some of which were global superpowers of their time, but are now no more — are signs to remind us not to be arrogant, but to walk the earth humbly.

We must combat IS’ warped ideology in this way: explaining why their path is un-Islamic; why their actions are evil, theologically incoherent and a travesty of Islam – which commands us to be knowledgeable, compassionate and humble.

The Malaysian Government has helped develop an important body of scholarship that does just that. An international group of Sunni and Shia scholars representing a cross-section of the global Muslim community was convened in Kuala Lumpur. Its mission was to define an Islamic State, based on the continuity of Islamic religious thought through the past 14 centuries.

It is nothing like the entity in Syria and Iraq that usurps that name. The scholars unanimously emphasized that an Islamic State must deliver justice in all its forms – political, economic and in the courts – to its citizens. It must be based on the objectives of Shariah, or Maqasid Shariah, which is to protect and enhance life, religion, intellect, property, family and dignity.

An Islamic State must defend the different peoples under its rule, and preserve their religions, languages and historic sites – because God commands us: “Indeed, we have made you nations and tribes, that ye may know one another.”

He could have created us as one religious community, but He did not do so – in order to test us – and orders us to compete with each other in being virtuous. A true Islamic State therefore aids God’s Divine Intent in testing humanity, and urges us to compete in virtue, in knowledge, kindness, compassion and humility – but, crucially, not coerce us in this.

These are Islam’s true principles. The so-called Islamic State knows nothing of Islam’s noble ideals, of its compassion, or of the solemn duty to care for and learn about our fellow man. They are violating the Divine will. They are desecrating the name of our religion through their self-proclaimed caliphate – to which no true Muslim will pledge allegiance.

This is the message we must spread, to Muslims and non-Muslims. And I call on the Ummah to rise with one voice, and let the world ring when we say to IS: You do not represent us.

Let no one doubt how seriously Malaysia regards the problem of militants: both those who wish to use Kuala Lumpur as a transit point, and those who wish to sow violence and destruction at home.

Much of this work cannot be revealed for security reasons. This may lead some to think that because Malaysia has not suffered from a successful terrorist attack, we do not have national security challenges. That is not the case.

Our tireless, ever-vigilant security forces have intercepted many would-be IS recruits transiting through Kuala Lumpur. It is because of our efforts that they have not fallen into the darkness that blights Syria and Iraq.

But some have. We have identified 39 Malaysians who have travelled to join IS. And we have arrested over 100 of our citizens suspected of links to IS. These threats are real.

There are people who want to bring terror to our streets.We will not stand for it, neither will they succeed. For Malaysia has been, and will always be, a land where many faiths and ethnicities freely prosper and thrive.

But we must strive harder to combat this threat together. Militaries and intelligence services need to share information, and countries need to collaborate more, daring to pre-emptively arrest as necessary.

We have instituted legislation to allow this. When evidence is irrefutable, we will unhesitatingly take action. If our citizens’ lives are threatened by bombing a mall or a station, we would be negligent of their trust not to intervene before it is too late.

2015 gave us examples of inspiring new approaches. For example, the United States restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. This was a historic achievement, an exemplary display of moderation in action. It took courage. It would not have happened had those wishing to cling to old political divisions held sway.

Forward-thinking leaders put their people’s interests first. Similar courage, Mr President, is needed to permanently address the injustice suffered by the Palestinians since 1948.

Decades of impunity and the systematic dehumanisation of Palestinians has culminated in increasing violence, increasing illegal settlements, and increasing violations of rights. The frustration and anger felt by Palestinians resonates with Muslims worldwide.

If the world continues to turn a blind eye to their sufferings, we risk another catastrophe in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We will also fail to uphold the right to self-determination, which was at the very basis of the United Nations when it was created 70 years ago.

On that note, given the Rosh Hashanah violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and aggression against its worshippers three weeks ago, I call on the Israeli government to live up to Judaism’s highest ethical principles, and the essential message of the Torah as succinctly expressed by the first century BC sage Hillel. When asked to describe the Torah in a soundbite, he said, “That which is hateful to you, don’t do to your fellow human being.”

This dictum, known universally in all religions as the Golden Rule, could herald the dawn of a much needed revised relationship between Muslims and Jews.

Currently Israel has forced its authority over Islam’s Third Holiest Site – in defiance of the jurisdiction of King Abdullah of Jordan, the lawful Custodian. It is therefore Israel’s duty to facilitate Muslims from around the world to visit. For this is an aspiration that all devout Muslims harbour and pray to be able to realise in their lifetime.

Putting people first will not always be easy. But the problems of today require new and global solutions.

Malaysia will raise these issues as a member of the UN Security Council – and reforming the Security Council to better reflect 2015’s realities, not 1945’s, represents a good start towards building a new, adequately responsive global architecture.

We in Malaysia know how much that is needed. We were extremely disappointed that the proposed resolution to set up an international tribunal into the shooting down of flight MH17 did not go through because a veto was imposed. We will continue to seek justice through other legal options, because we owe it to the families of those who perished in this outrageous crime.

But whether it be reform of the UN, tackling extremism or dealing with migration, greater mutual effort is necessary. We must look into ourselves and our own traditions to create new mechanisms. We believe that moderation is key.

Moderation is not about being weak. On the contrary, it is courageous and shows strength. The strength to push for peace and put the people first.

It is a principle that runs through all civilisations and faiths. Islam embodies it in the concept of “wasatiyyah”, Confucianism as “chung yung” – both of which mean “middle path” or “the Golden Mean.” But this is a principle we must rediscover, and at the 26th ASEAN Summit in Malaysia this April, we reaffirmed our commitment to this approach when we adopted the Langkawi Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates.

Malaysia stands ready to share its experience; of upholding Islam and marginalising extremism; of implementing the objectives of Shariah while practicing democracy; of maintaining a multi-ethnic society where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and successful economic development.

As we cooperate to solve the scourges of poverty, hatred, war and man-made and natural disasters that have given us the refugee crises we see today, we must draw from our spiritual traditions – and that generosity of spirit which goes beyond legal requirements.Surah `Abasa, the 80th chapter of the Quran, opens with God criticizing the Prophet Muhammad – whom we Muslims regard as God’s Beloved – because he frowned and turned his face away when one of his followers, a poor blind man, interrupted to ask him a question while he was occupied preaching to a rich and powerful unbeliever.

If God promptly rebuked the Prophet Muhammad, how much more will we, the community of Muslim world leaders especially, stand to be rebuked by our Creator if we “frown and turn our faces away” from our fellow-Muslim poor and marginalized, now fleeing Syria in massive numbers – causing social and economic stresses in Europe? Don’t we stand partly responsible for any ensuing European hostility towards Islam, the faith we love, and towards our fellow Muslims?

This is why Malaysia has taken, over the years, many people fleeing war, starvation and persecution. We currently have hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, and we took in more earlier this year when there was a dire humanitarian situation in the Andaman Sea.

I am pleased to announce today that, to help alleviate the current refugee crisis, Malaysia will do its share, and open our doors to a further 3,000 Syrian migrants over the next three years.

49. New international solutions are needed to deal with the migration crises. The millions fleeing are people – like us. They should concern us all. We must respect our common humanity.

For it is only when we transcend the silos of race and faith; only when we look at images of desperate migrants, the victims of extremists, and those whose lives are degraded by hunger and poverty – and see not strangers, but our brothers and sisters; and it is only when we see that dreadful picture of three year old Alan Kurdi washed ashore – and recognise our own children in that tragic boy’s innocent face – that we will act as our better selves. People around the world cry out for our help. We cannot – we must not – pass on by.

Malaysia-China Relations: A Storm in a Tea Cup

September 30, 2015

Malaysia-China Relations: A Storm in a Tea Cup

By Parameswaran Ponnudurai

Malaysia Dr Huang HuikangChina has again demonstrated its rising political clout in Southeast Asia—this time thumbing its nose at diplomats in Malaysia wanting to summon Beijing’s Ambassador in Kuala Lumpur over his alleged interference in domestic politics, according to diplomatic sources.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had directed his officers last week to summon envoy Huang Huikang to seek an explanation over his statement that Beijing opposed any form of discrimination against races and would not tolerate violent demonstrations in Malaysia, which has been wracked by racially-charged events recently.

But Huang ignored the Foreign Ministry directive after private discussions with some Malaysian officials, reports said. Some see it as defiance and part of China’s growing assertiveness amid its rising economic and political influence in the region.

Huang made the eyebrow-raising statement last week when he visited a predominantly ethnic Chinese district of Kuala Lumpur as ethnic Malay supporters of the government of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak threatened to march through the area to protest alleged abuses by ethnic Chinese traders.

The planned protest at the Petaling Street district was aimed at countering a mammoth rally which attracted many urban Chinese people calling on Najib, the leader of the dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party in the ruling coalition, to quit over a corruption scandal.

While some believe Huang’s statement may have led the organizers to scrap the protest, they questioned the Chinese approach of disregarding basic diplomacy.

Move to reverse diplomatic protocol

anifah_amanUNWhen Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials contacted the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to summon Huang to the Foreign Ministry, his aides told them he was very busy, the diplomatic sources said.

Huang’s aides instead demanded that the Foreign Ministry officers go to the Embassy to see him in a bid to reverse a longstanding tradition in international diplomacy, the sources said.

Huang then went to lobby Ong Ka Ting, the special Malaysian envoy for China, and several Malaysian ministers, who decided to let Huang off the hook. One of the Ministers, Nazri Abdul Aziz, has “admitted he made a mistake,” saying he had no intention to interfere in the foreign ministry’s affairs, The Star daily reported Tuesday.

barack-obama-dan-khairy-jamaluddinIt was not clear whether the ministers had consulted Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly, about their action to roll back Foreign Minister Anifah’s decision, which has caused red faces among Malaysian diplomats taken aback by the sudden reversal by their political leadership.

Red Shirts-Pesaka“This is a big blow to Malaysia and national sovereignty,” said a diplomatic source. “The Chinese influence appears to have reached the top echelons of power.” Malaysian dailies reported that Huang met Domestic Trade Minister Zainuddin Hamzah for more than two hours on Monday and Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri for dinner a day earlier.

The local Sin Chew Jit Poh Chinese daily published a photo showing Nazri sitting opposite Huang at a rectangular dinner table, along with five other unidentified people.


Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Anifah, also in New York with Najib, is fuming over the move to rescind his decision. “I am disappointed that some cabinet ministers had decided to take certain actions and make press statements without consulting me first,” he said in a statement.  He said he had not canceled his instruction to call in Huang to the Foreign Ministry. “Unfortunately, their (the ministers) interference has caused a negative perception in the eyes of the public,” Anifah said.

“As a sovereign state, we should convey our stand clearly to China,” he said, stressing that he had consulted with Najib before making his decision. While Anifah said he stood by his decision, it is unclear whether the Foreign Ministry would indeed officially summon Huang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Huang’s visit to Petaling Street during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival was a “normal” activity, stressing that Beijing “adheres to principles of peaceful coexistence” and “does not interfere in other countries’ domestic politics or intervene in other countries’ internal affairs.”

“China and Malaysia are friendly neighbors, we hope that Malaysia can maintain national unity and stability and ethnic harmony,” he said at a daily news briefing in Beijing , according to news agencies.

Growing ties

Najib and XiMalaysia-China relations have improved rapidly in recent years with bilateral trade burgeoning last year to US$101.98 billion, according to the Malaysian national news agency Bernama. Investments have also risen. But close bilateral business ties should not stop Kuala Lumpur from ticking off China over any unbecoming behavior, some leading Malaysian politicians say.

“We need not be afraid to express our feelings for fear of jeopardizing economic relations and other interests that we cannot reprimand them when they go against diplomacy norms,” Khairy Jamaluddin, the youth wing head of UMNO, was  quoted saying. He said Huang had no right to meddle in Malaysia’s “internal” affairs.

Sovereignty claims

Some Malaysian officials have also spoken against China’s increasing encroachment into Malaysian waters in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing’s increasingly assertive moves to press its sovereignty claims in the vast sea have raised concerns among its other neighbors and the United States too.

China has been accused in the past of using its extensive financial might over Cambodia, its key regional ally, to prevent any statement being adopted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the South China Sea that may be damaging to Beijing. “We hope Malaysia does not succumb to similar pressure,” said one diplomat who has been closely following the latest diplomatic spat.

The Rhetoric of David Cameron’s Foreign Policy: The Case of Libya

September 29, 2015

The Rhetoric of David Cameron’s Foreign Policy: The Case of Libya

by John S Warren


If you care to read the British Government’s official advice to potential or actual visitors to Libya, which as at 26th September, 2015 is “Still Current”; you will find the following bleak message:

“Latest update: Summary – intense fighting continues in Benghazi, Sirte, Darnah and parts of southern Libya; the situation remains dangerous throughout the country”.

More specifically the grim picture painted by the Foreign Office continues as follows:

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya due to the ongoing fighting, threat of terrorist attacks and kidnap against foreigners (including from ISIL-affiliated extremists), and a dangerous security situation throughout the country.

British nationals still in Libya are strongly urged to leave immediately by commercial means. The British Embassy in Tripoli has temporarily closed, and is unable to provide consular assistance.

There is a high threat from terrorism. There have been a number of attacks and threats against westerners, western interests and symbolic targets throughout Libya. ISIL-affiliated groups have stated an intention to target foreigners. There is clear evidence that groups within Libya have both the intent and capability to carry out kidnappings and are specifically targeting foreign nationals”.

The advice goes on with similar warnings regarding the high risk of kidnapping, of car bombs and heavy fighting in residential areas of Benghazi and elsewhere: on 27th July “a British diplomatic convoy was subject to an attempted car-jacking on the road between Tripoli and the Ras-al Jadir border crossing with Tunisia. Like many other parts of Libya, roads in this area are vulnerable to criminal gangs”. The official advice confesses that the fighting includes the involvement of major, well-known international middle-eastern extremist jihadi groups, and acknowledges, as if at last to underscore the FCO’s own remote detachment and complete ignorance: “it’s unclear in some areas which faction has control.”

Meanwhile we have a flow of refugees, gathering from across the Middle East’s or Africa’s worst war-torn or anarchic states, circuitously moving in an arc from East or South before consolidating through Libya, which discreetly funnels them from frying-pan to fire; into the hands of the operatives of the few non-hydrocarbon international trades (along with gun-running) Libya now specialises in: people-smuggling to Europe. The journey, like any war-zone taken over by criminals, has its own rate of morbid attrition for all who venture to take their chance of surviving the Mediterranean crossing or the inhumanity of the smugglers; and yet so nightmarish (we can only imagine), is the road the refugees have traversed to reach this Dantean Inferno in Libya, or so desperate their predicament; on they come, regardless. The fall of Gaddafi has brought together on the edge of Europe the worst of all possible worlds, and opened the flood-gates to exacerbate the greatest human refugee migration since World War II, and direct it toward Europe.

How did this happen? Let us begin with an examination of David Cameron’s view of the British contribution in 2011 to Gaddafi’s momentous fall in Libya, and the triumph Cameron’s government had achieved in leading the regime-change project. A quite clear statement of critical factors may be found by happenstance in the bold assertions Cameron allowed himself on BBC Radio 4, 2nd September, 2011 promoting the objectives the Libyan rebels (the National Transitional Council) had achieved, and which Cameron had directly backed with military air-strikes (and which RUSI described as “crucial air support”), simultaneously cementing Britain’s role in regime-change by the PM making bullish claims for the Libyan revolution’s success and prospects, while co-chairing a major international summit in Paris to build support for the Libyan regime that replaced Gaddafi. Supported by Britain, the new Libyan regime promised the Paris summit a speedy transition to democracy and early elections in Libya (the elections were held, but the rest proved completely illusory).

All of this British policy rhetoric, we should remember, was offered to the British people as triumphant and decisive, permanent proof of success, at a time when the disastrous example of Iraq was still raw in the public memory, even in the FCO; and both the military and political policy in Afghanistan was slowly descending into the incomprehensible political enigma it remains to this day.

Cameron said this to the British people on 2nd September, 2011 in support of the overthrow of Gaddafi, and as a scornful rebuff to the critics:

“A lot of armchair generals who said you couldn’t do it without an aircraft carrier, they were wrong. A lot of people who said Tripoli is completely different to Benghazi, the two don’t get on, they were wrong. People who said this is all going to be an enormous swamp of Islamists and extremists, they were wrong. People who said we were going to run out of munitions, they were wrong.” (Source: International Business Times report of the PM’s 2nd September, 2011 statement)

This much remains true: they didn’t run out of munitions, and the Libyan militias, extremists, gangsters, jihadists and terrorists haven’t run out of munitions ever since. Indeed it is now claimed that Libya is a significant source of armaments supply in this unstable area of the world, reaching as far as Mali or Syria.

The Prime Minister, however loftily claimed that Tripoli was “getting itself back together again in relatively good order” and the new regime (the National Transitional Council) was “rapidly mending” Libya. He went on:

“If we have the opportunity to do the right thing and you can see that what you are about to do is achievable and doable, then there’s a very strong case for going ahead, and that was my view about Libya. It was something we ought to do and it was something we were able to do.”

He also claimed that the revolution was in the UK National Interest, presented the British intervention as a “moral imperative” (now given a grand title in diplomacy, ‘Responsibility to Protect’ – R2P); with the rebel success inflated to a point that it would allow continuation of the ‘Arab Spring’: but in a moment that perhaps establishes Cameron’s authentic place in the history of British foreign policy as the most ill-judged PM since Anthony Eden; he suggested that Britain remained a “full-spectrum player” (whatever that means).

More alarmingly Cameron claimed there were “many similarities” between Libya and Syria, presumably implying that he would now wish to apply his uncanny Napoleonic talent for both intervention and for military strategy and tactics in Syria; and of course we have subsequently seen references to drone and air strikes in Syria, but no claims to quick victories, or indeed anything that looks like victory – or even a clear and distinct idea of the identity of the enemy in this labyrinthine myriad of over-lapping, interconnected, warring parties that provide a bewildering tapestry of changing alliances, dubious relationships, contradictory militias, sects, tribes, jihadists, ideologists that we are either ‘fighting’, or perhaps allied with, against some other equally uncertain ‘enemy’ who was last year’s ally, based on who knows what unreliable or shifting intelligence (or even identify who our friends are?); in a non-war that Parliament has not approved.


Notice that Cameron cannot claim now (2015) that nobody in 2011 saw the deep flaws in his Libyan regime-change campaign at the time; his case openly rested on the decisiveness and finality of the British-backed rebel triumph in producing regime-change and the promise of stability, of final victory and even democracy it ensured. All of this failed spectacularly. Yet, as Cameron’s 2nd September statement demonstrates, he could not even stop there; and in the moment of irresistible hubris to which he wretchedly succumbed, deliberately resorted to florid rhetorical devices to emphasise his heavy scorn (a derivation of symploce: here repetition of ‘people’ and ‘they were wrong’ – see quotation above), the Prime Minister dismissed with excessive relish the many dire and acutely prophetic warnings he had been given that his action would at best only produce chaos in Libya, and open the Mediterranean (and therefore both friendly North African states like Tunisia, to say nothing of Europe itself) to a variety of serious threats and refugee problems for which no single country, nor even the EU, has subsequently proved itself adequately equipped to resolve, or even face.

I do not claim to be an expert on Libya. There are many established sources for evidence of the current state of Libya (and I here carefully restrict myself narrowly to offering only those likely to be favourable to the UK, or at least not likely to be dismissed by UK Government apologists) although there are few Western sources currently operating within Libya, for it is so dangerous for correspondents, as the travel advice reveals.

Such sources of evidence include the Middle East Monitor (Samira Shackle, 5th August, 2014 tellingly titled a paper “Libya’s descent into anarchy” and went on to describe the country as “in a state of civil war; violence between rival militias is out of control; arms proliferate; and the rule of law and order is practically non-existent”); the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI] (which has been cautiously but very persistently critical of UK policy, notably of the R2P formula); the Quilliam Foundation (which has doggedly supported UK action as late as 2014, but Noman Benotman, in a briefing paper on 25th March, 2014 at the same time described Libya as facing “a disastrous lack of security and law and order”, and acknowledged a “total failure in Libya’s defence and security sectors, both of which are essential for governments to exercise their power”); or Chatham House (a supporter of UK policy as late as 2012 but which now seems curiously [?] quieter and quieter on Libya briefings since then); or best of all simply read the British Government’s Travel Advice to Libya, under the sub-heading “Security”, as I have done and there discover the stark message of black failure presented by the Government in its own words, four years after Cameron claimed to have delivered secure success – that he was right; ironically, for the British people to read now, absorb and whatever they do – in all costs avoid Libya.

It seems clear that the Libyan security position in 2015 is no better than 2014, and indeed (certainly from a UK policy perspective), much worse. None of the sources listed above now offer convincing evidence that Libya may be described as anything other than a failed state, war-torn, divided, reduced to civil war, anarchistic and overwhelmed by tribal factionalism, jihadists and criminals. The Libyan government writ does not run, and it appears it was the collapse of security and order in Libya that opened the route through the porous Libyan border for terrorists to mount their appalling attack on foreign tourists (principally from the UK) in Tunisia earlier this year. What alone surprises, is the relative lack of detailed attention that Libya (and Britain’s catastrophic intervention) has received from public ‘expert’ opinion and think-tanks since 2011, in the middle of all the ‘hand-wringing’ over the Middle East, given the nature of the current crisis and the problems for Europe that Libya presents.

All I have done here is to present the British Government’s own assessment (pre-and-post the Coalition, for Government policy has remained apparently unchanged, like the PM responsible for the policy), principally in the words of the Government or the PM, and to contrast this with the established, and generally undisputed facts, again drawn largely from Government or uncontentious sources.

The picture is no better the closer we look at the unfolding policy catastrophe, from beginning to end, that was managed as a joint-Western military-operation-of-the-willing in 2011 (including France and a notably reluctant US), but led by David Cameron; and not forgetting William Hague, who paid for his part in the blunder by being sacked. Be in no doubt: Libya was a major British blunder, led by two men (David Cameron and William Hague) who were, frankly out of their depth and far beyond their manifestly limited competence. For the avoidance of doubt my case here is not a defence of the brutal Gaddafi regime; it is an examination of an obvious British political foreign policy disaster in 2010-11 (by no means the first in our long and very chequered history in the region) that has had appalling consequences not only in Libya, but extending far beyond its borders, and affecting people throughout a widening region of the world, and in almost unimaginable numbers.

I make no claims to solve the world’s problems (and I hold that some problems cannot be solved), nor do I claim that Gaddafi was not a tyrant (only that Britain is not capable of fixing Libya – it hasn’t done so; and worse, it has effectively walked away from the mess it facilitated so ably in doing so much to remove him), but I would prefer if Britain did not make the world both a worse and more dangerous place by pursuing interventionist policies that are quite obviously both beyond its capacities and transparently doomed; and I make that claim without relying on hindsight.

Bella Caledonia published an article titled ‘Walking Away: the Formation of British Foreign Policy’ on 24th February, 2015: I attempted very carefully only to use Government sources or sources/evidence that could scarcely be challenged by Government, in order to explore the failure and self-delusion of British Foreign Policy in Libya. I believe the Government’s position on Libya was annihilated by the swiftness and the scale of the catastrophe it recklessly invited upon its botched policy; and not least by the fact that the clear and manifest opposition of wiser and more experienced judgement (or simple attention to obvious facts and bitterly earned experience) was ignored by irresponsible and too easily influenced British politicians who quite clearly lacked either judgement or experience.