July 26, 2017
Dear Foreign Minister Anifah Aman,
You know me and I know you too since we used to chat on the phone and exchange sms and e-mail on foreign policy, especially on matters relating to Wisma Putra and ASEAN. I have always thought of you as the most level-headed Minister in Najib’s cabinet. That has all changed after reading your comment on Malaysiakini today.
You are wasting your time trying to defend Prime Minister Najib Razak who has lost public trust at home, and blemished his standing abroad. In doing so, not once but twice, you have put your personal reputation on the line by sounding ridiculous.
It does not take a knowledge of Malaysian history to know that the UMNO-BN government led by Najib Razak is corrupt, incompetent, arrogant and dishonest; it has mismanaged our economy. That is common knowledge. I have, for example, lived under 6 Prime Ministers and I know that the 1MBD scandal is but one example of how Najib achieved the distinction of the worst of them. Everything you write below is a distortion of the facts, which are known to all Malaysians and the world at large.
As Foreign Minister, you should be concerned about Malaysia’s international image. You would be well advised to worry about Malaysia’s role as the ASEAN Chair 2015 and work in earnest on your people-centered 2015 ASEAN Community project. Right now, this important regional commitment has taken a back seat because Prime Minister Najib is pre-occupied with his own political survival.
Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that the Wall Street Journal is ignorant about what is happening in Malaysia when you assume that their researchers and journalists do not know our history and politics. The problem with people like you and your Cabinet colleagues is that you refuse to accept the views of intelligent and knowledgeable Malaysians and other observers of the Malaysian political economy. Malaysia has become a laughing stock of the international community. If you have pride and dignity, you should resign from your post and stop being a circus clown. –Din Merican
Malaysia: Foreign Minister advises Wall Street Journal– Know and Understand Malaysian History
COMMENT by Foreign Minister Anifah Aman: The Wall Street Journal takes aim at Malaysia, but once again displays a woeful lack of knowledge and understanding of our country and its history.
Malaysia has been a democracy since independence in 1957. Elections are fiercely contested, and the opposition won five out of the country’s 13 states in 2008. Political discourse is vibrant and noisy.
The “voices of dissent” that the opposition’s former leader, Anwar Ibrahim, claims not to be able to hear are dominant in Malaysia’s online news media, which has far more readers here than the print press. If anyone doubts Malaysians’ “fundamental liberties”, they can easily see for themselves how free anyone is to criticise the government on these news sites.
Anwar mentions the recent Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) as “encroaching” on those liberties. But he fails to mention that it explicitly states that “No person shall be arrested and detained solely for his political belief or political activity”.
Pota in fact further secures the liberties of Malaysians: both their freedom to speak out, and their freedom from extremists who pose a real threat to the country. Anwar may not take this threat seriously, but the Malaysian government does.
The WSJ gives Anwar the platform to raise false and politically motivated allegations of corruption against our prime minister. Perhaps it might have been relevant for the WSJ to mention that Anwar himself was convicted of corruption in 1999. The verdict was not overturned.
He is currently in jail after a legal process that lasted years. He was first acquitted, then convicted, allowed to appeal, and only when that failed did he go to prison. If he truly believed in his innocence, he could have submitted his own DNA to the court. If the charge had been “trumped up”, as the WSJ falsely says, that would have proven it. But he did not – hardly the action of an innocent man. Far from “sowing communal and religious animosity”, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak early on launched the 1Malaysia policy.
This is the greatest attempt in Malaysia’s history to forge a national identity that includes all races and religions, and the Prime Minister regularly attends the festivals of non-Muslims, going to churches and temples to share the celebrations of fellow Malaysians.
Anwar and the opposition, however, never supported 1Malaysia. Why not? Was it because Anwar himself had a well-documented history of rabble-rousing and extremism, as well as of spouting anti-Semitic remarks – as the WSJ well knows but again fails to mention.
The suggestion that Malaysia is in danger of becoming a “failed state” would be laughable – if it were not for the fact that some people take Anwar seriously and will believe what he says, no matter how wild or imaginary.
Here is what some other people have said about Malaysia recently:
- Bloomberg rated Malaysia as the world’s 5th most promising emerging market in 2015.
- The IMF’s latest report on our country was titled: “Favourable Prospects for Malaysia’s Diversified Economy”.
- A Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations wrote: “Malaysian political discourse is becoming far more open than it was even a decade ago.”
- The ratings agency Fitch recently upgraded the outlook for Malaysia.
This is the truth about Malaysia today. It is a pity that the WSJ has fallen for desperate, unfounded allegations by a politician and presented them as facts – thereby taking sides in internal Malaysian politics.
Dato’Seri ANIFAH AMAN is Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.