One of my doctoral students at Techo Sen School at The University of Cambodia who monitors political developments in Malaysia on a regular basis asked me pointedly what is Malaysia’s Foreign Policy? I asked him back, does Malaysia have one in the first place?
All I see I said is a series of politically motivated actions which are contradictory, inconsistent, self defeating, unprincipled and often unrelated to Malaysia’s national interest. Furthermore, I see my present Prime Minister Najib Razak hoping from one country to another (in recent months between India and China) with a begging bowl to save his own political skin. His Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and other loose cannons in his Cabinet are mere chorus boys including those others in the civil service and ulamakdom.
Wisma Putra’s influence in the making of foreign policy too has been minimal since that role is supplanted by the so-called policy wonks on the 4th Floor, Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya. I expect our Minister Anifah Aman to react defensively with his comments on my blog soon. But he cannot escape the fact that Wisma Putra is today a mere shadow of what it used to be when Tun Muhammad Ghazalie Shafie was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs.
As a young foreign service officer in the 1960s, I was taught by Tun Ghazalie that international relations is about how in the pursuit of its national interest Malaysia relates to and interacts with other sovereign states. basically with members of the United Nations in the realm of politics and security, and geo-economics.We make friends in diplomacy he never ceased remind my colleagues and I. This depends on our foreign policy.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has yet to come to grips with reality that he is immensely unpopular and cannot be trusted to defend Malaysia’s National Interest.
I define national interest as the sum total of the individual and collective interests of Malaysians, that it is about safeguarding or advancing the collective welfare and economic well being of all us, not of a single individual like Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Foreign policy is in reality an extension of Malaysia’s domestic policy; it is about how our elected government protects our security, improves and sustains our aspirations and priorities and addresses our concerns and calms our fears and anxieties. This principle No.1 and that is foreign policy begins at home and defines our relations with other nation states. In turn, foreign policy outcomes have a reciprocal effect on domestic political discourse.
As a nation, Malaysia must see value in an international or bilateral relationship as a way of securing benefits for Malaysians, whether in security, politics or geo–economics. It is an interaction of our wants and needs. And it always involves a give-and-take attitude and disposition. Malaysia must, therefore, aim for win-win partnership that is beneficial, acceptable and sustainable to its united citizenry. This is the second principle.
Finally, a coherent Malaysian foreign policy based a careful calibration of our national interest must receive the continued support of all Malaysians. It cannot be driven by the political survival needs or whims and fancies of our incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak and his cohorts at our collective expense.
The Zakir Naik case is a case in point. How can we as a people accept this Islamic extremist wanted in his homeland India for wanton acts of promoting terrorism, and grant him permanent resident status when thousands of Malaysians born and bred in Malaysia are still stateless. It is not in our national interest to harbor this felon and conceal his whereabouts and deny India its right to bring him to the Indian courts to stand trial.
Mr. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Dr. Zahid Hamidi, you are reckless, unconscionable, and irresponsible. Your job is to protect the security and safety of all Malaysians. It is equally your top priority to locate those missing and unaccounted for because they belong to other religions than Islam. Do that or just resign and fire your Inspector-General of Police. As for our Prime Minister, I say this–your day of reckoning is coming to you soon.–Din Merican
Malaysia, UMNO and Zakir Naik: What is the Game here?
If the controversial Mumbai preacher Zakir Naik is not in Malaysia, then where is he? Is Malaysia distancing itself from the controversial preacher?
A few days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi assured the Malaysian Associated Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Maicci) that Malaysia would not give sanctuary to any fugitive, even if the fugitive happened to be Zakir Naik.
Zahid also informed the delegation that Zakir was not in the country and his exact whereabouts were not known. Zahid pretended that he was not in the know, but surely he was aware of the movements of Zakir.
Zakir Naik is not just an ordinary person, for he has become an infamous person in international circles. He is not just an occasional visitor to Malaysia, but a very very important person with the status of permanent resident.
But the relationship between the Malaysian authorities and Zakir Naik might not be the same anymore. There is a slow but sure attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Zakir. In short, Zakir is no longer a ‘darling’ to the Muslim masses in Malaysia, or elsewhere.
Two warrants of arrest have been issued by the authorities in India for his arrest for alleged involvement in terrorist and money-laundering activities. The Indian authorities impressed upon a Mumbai court to issue the warrants, having provided the necessary evidence of the alleged nefarious activities of Zakir Naik.
Recently, it was only after India sought the red notice alert through the Interpol that Zakir Naik might have realised that India was serious about arresting him.
Malaysia has probably realised that Zakir’s presence in the country and his allegedly incendiary speeches might not be conducive to the long term interests of the country. Zakir single-handedly, through his speeches, caused apparently irrepairable damage to ethnic relations in the country.
Malaysia might have welcomed Zakir Naik earlier, but his presence in the country seems detrimental to UMNO-BN in the long run. Earlier, his speeches might have appealed to UMNO to gain Malay-Muslim support, but this perception might not be sustainable any longer.
UMNO-BN might have lost substantial non-Muslim support in the past, but it is not willing to write-them off yet, considering the general election around the corner.
Zakir is a popular figure in the Islamic circles in Malaysia. However, the changing political scenario could have rendered him a liability to UMNO and others in the Barisan Nasional coalition. Zahid might not say it openly, but he is probably embarrassed by Zakir’s presence in the country.
There is a growing realisation in the official circles that Zakir may have outlived his usefulness.
P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the state assemblyperson for Perai.