Malaysia’s mav­er­ick for­eign pol­icy

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News -

dis­so­ci­ated it­self with Malaysia’s plan, given the grow­ing re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance in the coun­try dur­ing the past years, but it did not do that.

How­ever, de­spite ASEAN’S good in­ten­tions and in­tense ef­forts by Kuala Lumpur to pro­mote mod­er­ate voices among var­i­ous re­li­gions, the ini­tia­tive has yet to take off. So­cial con­di­tions in re­al­ity re­flect a dif­fer­ent re­al­ity. The truth is Na­jib’s Malaysia is a dif­fer­ent coun­try now. Ev­ery­thing has been politi­cised to fit in Na­jiv’s nar­ra­tives to at­tain his con­tin­ued dom­i­nance.

There­fore, when his For­eign Min­is­ter, Ani­fah Aman, told Philip­pine For­eign Sec­re­tary Alan Peter Cayetano that Malaysia wanted noth­ing to do with ASEAN’S state­ment on Rakhine, Cayetano du­ti­fully ac­cepted it, know­ing full well that Kuala Lumpur’s diplo­matic be­hav­iour was very much linked to de­vel­op­ments at home sur­round­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of the United Malays Na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion. A gen­eral elec­tion is planned soon, and Na­jib is work­ing hard to win votes among the bu­mi­put­era (in­dige­nous Malays).

As ASEAN chair, the Philip­pines con­sulted ex­ten­sively with other mem­bers be­fore draft­ing a state­ment, which said “ASEAN is deeply con­cerned about the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in north­ern Rakhine State” and con­demned the at­tacks against Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces and acts of vi­o­lence “that re­sulted in loss of civil­ian lives, de­struc­tion of homes and dis­place­ment of thou­sands.” It also ex­pressed sup­port for Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment “in its ef­fort to bring peace, sta­bil­ity, rule of law” to the area.

As long as the do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues, Malaysia will con­tinue to do ev­ery­thing it can to shore up Na­jib’s pop­u­lar­ity. His re­cent trip to the US was a per­fect ex­am­ple.

Over 64 per­cent of ASEAN’S peo­ple are Mus­lim. In con­trast with Malaysia, In­done­sia, which is the world’s largest Mus­lim na­tion, has been mod­er­ate in main­tain­ing ASEAN sol­i­dar­ity on this sen­si­tive is­sue. In­done­sia is a demo­cratic coun­try with a pop­u­lar leader, so there is no need to court Mus­lim sup­port.

In­deed, the Rakhine cri­sis also put lots of do­mes­tic pres­sure on In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo to do some­thing dras­tic. That is why Jokowi dis­patched For­eign Min­is­ter Ratno Mar­sudi on a diplo­matic mis­sion to co­or­di­nate ASEAN ac­tions with State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

It helps ex­plain how In­done­sia has shown lead­er­ship on this is­sue.

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