November 8, 2018
Mahathir on Malaysia’s Foreign Policy
November 8, 2018
November 1, 2018
by Dr. Sharifah Munirah Alatas
Since 9/11, global scrutiny turned to contentious concepts such as terrorism, mono-polar, bipolar, superpower, economic and cultural imperialism, as well as linguistic colonialism.
It is the latter which is the subject of this commentary because it has stirred harsh, aggressive and sometimes, amusing reactions in the media (local, regional and global), as well as in Malaysia’s recent parliamentary sitting.
A few days ago, Parliament was entertained by the rantings of a particular opposition MP who claimed that English is not an intellectual language. Among the many incoherent sentences that were uttered, he cited examples of ancient civilisations and conquerors, attempting to rationalise that, “English is not an intellectual language that develops the mind and brain”. He also confidently pontificated that “modern economies like Japan, Taiwan and non-English speaking Europeans do not use English in their journey to become developed nations”.
I hope this issue commands the attention of most Malaysians because for a multi-cultural, multi-religious, economically-developing and relatively-peaceful nation, we need to separate the “wheat from the shaft”.
Linguistic colonialism or imperialism as a concept is a derivative of Edward Said’s conceptualisation of cultural imperialism (in his two famous books Culture and Imperialism, and Orientalism). I doubt, though, that the recent local uproar about the use of English as a medium of instruction of a few subjects in school is based on any knowledge of Edward Said’s work.
Nevertheless, anti-English language crusaders keep creeping out of the woodwork because it seems fashionable. It is glaring that all of these narratives to date have been devoid of historical context. And this makes for extremely wimpy analyses.
Hasan Arifin, BN’s MP for Rompin, is not alone. There are many in Malaysia, among the public, government and elite who feel that English is being “deified”. They also believe that English speakers never created great civilisations. Leaving aside that this notion is erroneous, it also begs the question, “what is a great civilisation?”
In my understanding, a great civilisation is based on a network of cities (territories) comprising cultures that are defined by the economic, political, military, diplomatic, social and cultural interactions among them.
So, the Roman, Spanish, Arab, French, British and Chinese (with their various dynasties) were great civilisations. How did language then become the signature dish, so to speak, of that civilisation?
Through these empires, languages spread and shifted in dominance. In the past, empires spread their influence through their armies, and after the conquests, so began the social and linguistic assimilation. Between the 3 BC and 3 AD, the Roman Empire was bilingual — Latin and Greek. This was because the Romans knew that Greek was a language of prestige, philosophy and higher education — an “intellectual” language.
Spain succeeded in making over 20 sovereign states today, that speak Spanish, excluding millions of Spanish speakers in immigrant communities in other non-Spanish speaking nations such as the United States, Canada and the Philippines.
Castillian Spanish became the most important language of government and trade. It was the lingua franca of the Spanish empire, a derivative of Latin. Latin was still the “intellectual” language of the Spanish and of the Church.
The Chola Dynasty was one of the longest, most civilised empires in the history of southern India. Tamil and Sanskrit were the official languages.Tamil and Sanskrit are two distinct languages, the former being Dravidian and the latter being an Indo-Aryan language. As we can see, all three great civilisations were bi-lingual.
In 21st century Malaysia, however, we are faced with a backlash of a-historical pundits who reject the ebb and flow of civilisational change, yet advocate for national progress and development.
Let me educate them on the current position of English in the world today. First, it is an intellectual language. The British Empire, between the reigns of Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II (1588-1952), had about 250 million English language speakers. English achieved unique conditions of development. The large continents of North America, Africa and Asia were colonised with industrialisation and trade in mind.
Global conditions at the time facilitated the transition towards the flourishing of English in previously French and Spanish colonial territories of North America and Africa. Due to abundant natural resources and human capital in these regions, the wheels of commerce and trade helped to “deify” (not my word) the English language. English was “at the right place, at the right time”.
Today, all civilisations are enriched by the ideas, thoughts and knowledge disseminated world wide in English. Of course there are other languages that perform this function, but English is predominant.
Second, people like Hasan Arifin and his supporters cannot distinguish between modernisation, Westernisation and imperialism.
Modernisation is the development and application of current and innovative science in the development process of all sectors of society. Westernisation is a process subsumed under modernisation when specifically-Western notions of what it means to be modern are accepted as universal values of modernisation.
Many aspects of Westernisation should not be accepted as modernisation. Imperialism, on the other hsnsd, is the process of domination of policies and ideas with a specific agenda in mind. In history, imperial powers have imposed power and influence through diplomacy or military force.
I think the current discourses in France and India of a “linguistic imperialism” are far-fetched. Like Westernisation, there is good and bad imperialism. It is also era-specific.
In the 21st century, military and economic powers like the US, China, Great Britain, Japan, Germany and Russia do not mirror the same imperialistic goals of the World War Two era.
Anintellectual, would realise that the need to master the English language is hardly the imposition of an imperialistic agenda.
The inadequacy of the historical-context approach is dangerous for nation building. A system oiled by pseudo-intellectuals who run the policy-making machinery will be suicidal for our “new” Malaysia.
My advice is to be firmly grounded in historical processes, be up-to-date with current economic and socio-political trends and subdue ethnocentric tendencies which are embarrassing and underdeveloped.
Critics of the English language quote China and Japan as being ignorant of the English language, yet they challenge the US and other great powers economically and militarily. It takes more, however, to become a global hegemon.
Anti-English crusaders in Malaysia believe religiously that China and Japan, despite their incapacity to speak and write in English, have reached a level of global economic hierarchy that threatens US and other major power positions. However, even this notion is skewed.
China, for example is known as “the factory of the world” and “the bridge-builder of the world”. But China’s global hegemonic status is in doubt because it lacks the capacity for economic reform, to minimise economic inefficiencies and it has proven inadequate at reforming the financial sector in order to provide investors with consistently profitable returns (the failure of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port construction is a case in point). Therefore, the issue of language does not figure in the equation.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
November 1, 2018
20th Century Mindset in A 21st Century 4th Industrial Revolution Pluralist Era–The Kris Vs Technology and Innovation
“The voters in GE-14 voted for a new Malaysia. Equal opportunity in education, lessening of race-based politics, abolishing of tolls and whatever that was promised by the then opposition, the “Coalition of Hope” of the Mahathir-led campaign against kleptocracy and the materially, morally and ideologically corrupt regime of Najib.
At least that was the promise which then turned into a primarily false one, leaving the voters feeling lied to and short-changed”–Dr. Azly Rahman
COMMENT | As we read about the “Operasi Lalang 2.0” or “Weed-Out-the-Corrupt Campaign of the New Regime” at play and in full throttle as in the McCarthyism of our cultural sensibility, as we see more leaders hauled up to be tried for grand theft, money-laundering and for bankrupting and corroding society, we ask: what next in this metamorphosis and game of political karma we are to see?
All these against the backdrop of talks of the third car project, crooked bridge, political-party border-crossings, renewed demands to strengthen Malay rights, postponed promises, and to rebrand fundamentalist Islamic identity in preparation for the challenges posed by the super liberals and the LGBT. What will the new coalition transform into in a country whose political parties are addicted to a race-based ideology?
Then, there is the crucial issue of a newer UMNO and newer BN emerging, with talk of 40 UMNO MPs crossing over to Bersatu. There was also the latest statement by a minister that Ketuanan Melayu will end soon, replaced by the idea of making every Malaysian prosperous. Then the idea was immediately repudiated by another minister, a former Deputy prime Minister in the regime of the Najib Abdul Razak.
I have a sense that the latest developments in the continuing chaos produced in PKR, the seemingly silent DAP in addressing the issues the party once opposed, the talk of a new Indian party, and, of course, the strengthening and enlarging of Bersatu – all this points not only to the emergence of a BN reloaded, a 2.0 version of Malaysia’s race-based politics.
I might be wrong. We shall observe the developments. We may even see more “Kajang Moves”, cross-overs, and more intense struggle for power within and amongst the coalition parties.
The voters in GE14 voted for a new Malaysia. Equal opportunity in education, lessening of race-based politics, abolishing of tolls and whatever that was promised by the then opposition, the “Coalition of Hope” of the Mahathir-led campaign against kleptocracy and the materially, morally and ideologically corrupt regime of Najib.
At least that was the promise which then turned into a primarily false one, leaving the voters feeling lied to and short-changed.
The hope for the non-Malays, non-bumiputera to stop being treated as second-class citizens in the land called Malaysia they and their parents and grandparents, too, toiled for will not be realised after all. The rhetoric of today’s new Malaysia is the same old rhetoric of keeping the status quo alive.
DAP is the New MCA?–The Silent Partner in Pakatan Harapan
This means that there will be no push for the idea of “Malaysian Malaysia” and equal opportunities in education, especially for all non-Malays. Hope buried. When the new coalition has transformed into a newer version of the old politics, the non-Malays can expect another five decades of racialised politics affecting the future of their children.
This is not a grim view of what I see developing. I am sure some of my esteemed readers, too, share a similar perspective of a hope for the triumph of multiculturalism dashing. Unless the Harapan government can, in unison, with consistency and as a policy, state its commitment to make Malaysia a place in which no Malaysian will be left behind.
Where are we heading?
Back to Umno and its sudden death. The talk about more UMNO MPs leaving for Bersatu is of concern for those who voted for hope and for real change.
But what will replace UMNO in this time of a “new Malaysia” in which race and religion continues to be the strongest force for the current regime as well, to continue policies inspired by her own apartheid system of divide and conquer with wealth, power, hegemony, and ideology as the hybrid of authoritarianism, continue to glue the still-cognitively unliberated society?
The question remains: what kind of Malaysian Malaysia do we wish to see? How will a rebranded Umno be an obstacle to this?
The key to dealing with any rot from happening is to educate for change. If the change we wish to see is for a Malaysia for all Malaysians, education, as the only means for a sustainable cognitive, cultural, personal and social progress should be the one taking lead.
When politics continues to travel the trajectory of ethnocentrism and only pays lip-service to multi-culturalism and the restructuring of society through a philosophy of education based on a truly Malaysian reconstructionism, we will fail as a people.
Education needs to step in and correct the political conveyor belt, changing course. As it is now, we are not seeing the Ministry of Education committed to producing such a change to reverse the major aspects of discrimination in the various levels of schooling. The issues of class, caste, race, religion and privilege is not addressed systemically.
Like many, I am concerned with the disjuncture between politics, education, economy, and national unity. There is an unhealthy development in the way party-politics is moving.
Our concerns may turn into fear of yet another wave of chaos as parties and followers and consumers of ideology and real and fake news alike prepare for another general election that will only bring stagnancy, not change.
Where are we heading? What then must we do to drum into the new regime that race-based politics should no longer be allowed to rear its ugly head?
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
October 23, 2018
“David Cameron is a former PM. He not only has the right to offer his solution but a duty. If he is to earn the right to a hearing, however, he must first find not only self-knowledge and courage, but an un-English seriousness of purpose he has evaded all his life.”–Nick Cohen
John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have warned of the dangers of Brexit. But where is the former Prime Minister who called the referendum that will blight Britain for as far ahead as anyone can see? Whatever happened to that likely lad? David Cameron doesn’t want to talk about it, one of his friends tells me. “He doesn’t defend the referendum, but won’t say he made a mistake either. Europe is like a family scandal. We know what’s happened but we don’t say a word: it’s his no-go zone.”
At a personal level, the consequences swirl around him. I may be exhausting your capacity for compassion but the smallest of the casualties of Brexit has been the good fellowship of the Chipping Norton set. Naturally, the Cotswolds’ wealthy Leavers are grateful. But Cameron must resent them. He must know that he has been the useful idiot who succumbed to the demands of Rupert Murdoch’s Rebekah Brooks, a member of the local nouveau gentry by virtue of her converted barn, in the crashingly stupid belief that no harm would come from his surrender.
Invitations to “kitchen suppers” from Remainers, however, can only include Samantha Cameron’s name – if, they are extended at all. Tania Rotherwick invited the Camerons to her pool at the magnificent Cornbury Park estate before she split from her husband and Cameron split Britain from Europe. She is now particularly contemptuous, I hear.
Cameron’s memoirs were meant to be published this month but have been delayed until next year. The early signs are ominous. A book has to be coherent if it is to find a readership: its opening must prefigure its conclusion. As described in the publishing press, Cameron’s effort will have no consistency. He will tell the story of the formation of the coalition, his contributions to economic, welfare and foreign policy, his surprise victory in the 2015 election and then – as if from nowhere – the conventional memoir will end with the author carelessly deciding he will settle the European question, without planning a campaign or preparing an argument and, instead, launching a crisis that will last for decades. Nothing will make sense. Nothing will hang together. It’s as if a romcom were to conclude with serial killers murdering the cooing lovers or Hilary Mantel were to have aliens invade Tudor England on the last page of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy.
The book Cameron cannot write would accept that his political battles and achievements were as nothing when set against his decision to appeal to the worst of the Tory party. It would begin with Cameron honouring the decision that won him the Conservative leadership in 2005. He would confess that he should have known better than to pull the Conservatives out of the centre-right group in the European parliament and align them with Law and Justice, the know-nothing Polish nationalists who are reducing their country to an ill-governed autocracy. The manoeuvre was pure Cameron: tactics above strategy; appeasement instead of confrontation.
The pattern continued throughout his premiership. He thought he could buy off the right by refusing to explain the benefits of EU membership to the voters. At one point in 2014 he threatened to leave the EU. He then turned around in 2016 and asked the public to believe that leaving would be a disaster and was surprised when 17.4 million men and women he had never treated as adults worthy of inclusion in a serious conversation ignored him.
If he were being honest, Cameron would admit too that Brexit ought to bring an end to a British or, to be specific, English, style that is by no means confined to the upper class, but was everywhere present among the public-school boys who ruled us.
I mean the ironic style that gives us our famously impenetrable sense of humour (which we will need now the rest of the world is laughing at us). The perfidious style that allows us to hide behind masks and has made England superb at producing brilliant actors for the West End but hopeless at producing practical politicians for Westminster. The teasing style of speaking in codes that benighted foreigners can never understand, however well they speak English. The cliquey style that treats England as a club, not a country, and allowed Jeremy Corbyn to say that Jews cannot “understand English irony”, however long their ancestors have lived here.
The deferential style that allowed one Etonian to lead the Remain campaign and another to lead the Leave campaign and for the English to not even see why that was wrong. The life’s-a-game-you-shouldn’t-take-too-seriously style that inspired Cameron to say he holds “no grudges” against Boris Johnson now the match is over and the covers back on the pitch.
The gentleman amateur style that convinced Cameron he could treat a momentous decision like an Oxford essay crisis and charm the electorate into agreeing with him in a couple of weeks, as if voters were a sherry-soaked don who could be won round with a few clever asides. The effortlessly superior style that never makes the effort to ask what the hell the English have to feel superior about. The gutless, dilettantish and fatally flippant style that has dominated England for so long and failed it so completely. The time for its funeral has long passed.
A politician who bumped into Cameron said he thinks the referendum result must be respected, but that Britain should protect living standards by going for the softest Brexit imaginable and staying in the single market. This is a compromise well to the “left” of Theresa May and Corbyn’s plans and is worth discussing. Whatever his critics say, David Cameron is a former PM. He not only has the right to offer his solution but a duty. If he is to earn the right to a hearing, however, he must first find not only self-knowledge and courage, but an un-English seriousness of purpose he has evaded all his life.
• Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist
Cambodia’s Foreign Policy stance is now more assertive after the formation of the new government in the Sixth legislature. Prime Minister Hun Sen is determined not to bend to international pressures and intervention, especially with regard to democracy and human rights.
Cambodia is building the foundation of democracy based on its own experiences and strengths. Recently, Prime Minister Hun Sen told Kyodo News in Tokyo that the Japanese model of democracy is more suitable in the a Cambodian context. Early this year, spokesperson of the Cambodian People Party (CPP), Mr Suos Yara, told media that the party’s interest was in pursuing a centrist democracy.
In his remarks at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr Hun Sen stated, “human rights nowadays have become ‘a mission to impose civilisation’ for some powerful nations or, perhaps, as their operating standards as the pretext for the interference under the name of political rights protection”.
Moreover, during his talks with the Cambodian community, when he met them, in Tokyo early this month, the prime minister called upon Cambodians to stand up to defend their independence and sovereignty at any cost – even sacrificing foreign development assistance. He said, “If we Cambodians wish to be independent, we must be brave. I bow to no one”. So, what has made Cambodia more assertive?
At the global level the international system is becoming more uncertain, even anarchic, and the power shift from a unipolar to multi-polar world is in the making. There is no guarantee that a multi-polar world will be more stable. What we do know is that geopolitical risks and uncertainties are high.
In such an increasingly fluid international system – some analysts have argued that the world is entering a new Cold War – Cambodia is forced to be more cautious and determined to protect its independence and sovereignty especially under the framework of the non-aligned movement (NAM).
In his conversations with the Cambodian community in Brussels, Mr Hun Sen declared his intention to revive and lead NAM after getting re-elected in the seventh general election in 2023.
This signals that Cambodian ruling elites predict the world is moving towards a Cold War 2.0 and thus the need for Cambodia and other developing countries to stay independent and united to protect each other’s interests under the framework of NAM.
NAM, a group of independent states that do not want to align with any major power bloc, was formed in 1961 in the context of a heightening Cold War between the two opposing blocs led by United States and the Soviet Union. The then Prince Norodom Sihanouk was one of the founders of the movement. Now, NAM has more than 100 member countries.
At the regional level, ASEAN is thriving to stay neutral amidst a tug of war between China and the US. Some ASEAN member states are treaty allies and strategic allies of the US while other members have close strategic ties with China. ASEAN risks being divided if it cannot forge a united front and takea common stance on external relations.
Cambodian ruling elites are of the conviction that ASEAN is an important shield to ward off adverse impacts from geopolitical competition between major powers.
Aligning ASEAN with NAM will help ASEAN members become more resilient. ASEAN needs to expand and deepen its global networks particularly in strengthening its strategic partnership with global organisations such as the United Nations, NAM, and World Trade Organization to maintain and strengthen a rules-based international order.
At the national level, domestic politics is also evolving fast. In such a transitional period, the risks remain high for ruling elites to maintain the power status quo. The opposition or resistance movement remains active although some of them are quiet. The opposition movement is capable of organising a series of protests against the establishment if there is a leadership compounded with triggering factors. This in turn will lead to political and social instability.
Being aware of the risks, the Cambodian ruling elites have taken measures to counter and preempt future chaos that might be orchestrated by the opposition movement. Therefore, negotiations leading to political reconciliation and between the ruling party and the outlawed opposition party will be slow. Political trust is the main stumbling block of the national reconciliation process.
Within the context of rising uncertainties and risks at the global, regional and national levels, a strong, transformative political leadership is required. Whoever that can lead and navigate Cambodia through such uncertainties will earn public trust, confidence and support. Cambodia’s foreign policy will need to be more flexible and pragmatic in tactics and strategies but firm on core principles and values, which include independence, sovereignty, neutrality, and non-alignment.
Three foreign policy strategies that Cambodia should pursue are the promotion of a rules-based international system, smart implementation of a hedging strategy, and proactive strategic diversification. Building an international alliance against hegemonic power is one of the main objectives of Cambodia’s foreign policy in the new era.
Cambodia will chair the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 2020 and ASEAN again, in 2022 in a rotating chairmanship. These are the two main occasions when Cambodia can play its international role. In addition, in early 2019, Cambodia will launch the Asian Cultural Council, an affiliate body of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, to promote its soft power through cultural diplomacy.
Members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces ready for deployment on peacekeeping missions. KT/Mai Vireak
There is an urgent need to create a new world order, not dictated by either the US or the European Union or one global policeman. Cambodia can pave the way for a new world that is non-aligned and joined together in the deepest feelings of fraternity and brotherhood.
October 16, 2018
The “liberal world order” created by the United States after the Second World War is an historical anomaly that may be coming to an end, according to the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan in his new book The Jungle Grows Back.
Kagan, who served in the Reagan State Department in the mid-to-late 1980s, is the quintessential foreign policy neoconservative who believes that “the liberal order is like a garden, artificial and forever threatened by the forces of nature.” It can only be preserved, he writes, by a “persistent, unending struggle against the vines and weeds that are constantly working to undermine it from within and overwhelm it from without.”
The “vines and weeds” that threaten it today, according to Kagan, all come from the political Right—authoritarian foreign powers such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea and domestic conservatives who yearn “for order, for strong leadership, and . . . for the security of family, tribe, and nation.”
Kagan views authoritarianism as a greater threat to the survival of democracy than communism because in his view an unenlightened authoritarianism is more consistent with human nature. The United States and the countries of Western Europe, he writes, are retreating to nationalism and tribalism while moving away from the enlightened universalism that has supported the liberal world order since 1945.
He criticizes the foreign policy “restraint” of the Obama administration and the “America First” foreign policy of the Trump administration, yet he acknowledges that both appeal to many Americans who yearn to be a “normal” country and who recoil from being the world’s policeman.
For Kagan and some other neoconservatives, the end of the Cold War changed nothing. America’s global responsibilities remain the same, albeit with different adversaries and more diffuse threats. Those who today counsel restraint, Kagan warns, risk repeating the errors of the 1930s and the 1970s when America’s timidity enabled geopolitical threats to grow.
Kagan worries that as American power wanes in Europe and East Asia, the transformation of the global power structure accomplished by the creative statesmanship of the immediate post-World War II period will end. European geopolitics may return with a vengeance, while East Asian geopolitics will intensify. He even raises the specter of nationalistic Germany and Japan once more acting assertively on the world stage.
Although Kagan decries the “new realism” that emphasizes the limits of American power, it was, ironically, the success of Kagan’s worldview as practiced by the George W. Bush administration that produced the political environment for a more restrained American foreign policy.
The seemingly endless war in Afghanistan and the unsuccessful war in Iraq—waged to implant democratic values and practices in regions inhospitable to democracy—demonstrated for those not blinded by hubris the limits of American power.
In some parts of the book, Kagan confounds more than he informs. China and North Korea, as Kagan surely knows, are not rightist conservative powers; they are leftist communist regimes. Americans, despite Kagan’s claim to the contrary, did not exaggerate the risks communism posed to their way of life. A successful U.S. foreign policy does not require “a belief in the universalism of rights.”
Geopolitical restraint has a very rich tradition in American history—from George Washington’s wise policy of neutrality in the 1790s and his wise counsel to avoid sentimental attachments to foreign powers, to John Quincy Adams’ counsel to avoid going abroad to seek monsters to destroy, to Theodore Roosevelt’s “big stick” diplomacy, to Dwight Eisenhower’s strategic deterrence, to Richard Nixon’s triangular diplomacy, to Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength.”
Those presidents succeeded by husbanding and deftly wielding American economic and military power to support American interests, not by dispatching American troops willy nilly to spread democracy or transform the world. America, John Quincy Adams said, is the well-wisher of freedom to all but the champion and guarantor only of her own.
While Kagan’s worldview contains some elements of Wilsonianism, he also writes persuasively about some eternal truths of international relations that should inform any U.S. administration’s approach to the world.
He understands that it is American military predominance, not “soft” or “smart” power, that ultimately supports the U.S.-led world order. He realizes that the struggle for power is a permanent feature of international relations.
He has a pessimistic view of human nature and notes that policy choices are frequently limited to bad and worse options.He knows that there are no permanent solutions to foreign policy problems and that containing or keeping a lid on trouble is often the best we can do.
He recognizes that a rising China poses the greatest geopolitical challenge to the United States in the early 21st century.
Kagan cites Bismarck and Disraeli, both realists, as the most masterful statesmen in history. He might better appreciate counsels of restraint by remembering that it was Bismarck who wisely remarked: “Man cannot control the current of events, he can only float with them and steer.”