All that glitters is not gold in US-M'sia relationship

Rais Hussin

15 Sep 2017, 4:24 pagi

Updated 3 years ago


COMMENT | In the joint statement for enhancing the comprehensive partnership between the US and Malaysia issued by US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, there was a laundry list of lofty goals.

Among others, the agreement called for a better US-Malaysia relationship on containing North Korea, preventing the growth of the Islamic State (IS), expanding the Fulbright academic exchange programme, enhancing the international maritime order, enhancing the right of overflight, and not excluding consolidating the regional organisations of East and Southeast Asia.

The entirety of the statement, however, ignored five structural realities in Malaysia that make the whole comprehensive partnership statement unworthy of the paper it was printed on.

Structural realities

To begin with, Najib is a leader who has led Malaysia to its secular and religious decline. The alliance of Umno and PAS, for example, is devoid of any moral compass. While Umno supports Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), under Najib's leadership, it supports Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as well, also friendly to PAS.

The Umno-PAS alliance, for the lack of a better word, cannot positively influence Saudi Arabia and the GCC from ganging up on Qatar. Nor can the Umno-PAS alliance advice Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas to stand down in their verbal attacks of the sultans and sheikhs in the Arabian peninsula.

Thus, if Malaysia cannot be a constructive advocate of peace in the Muslim world, how then can Malaysia don the mantle of responsibility of going shoulder-to-shoulder with the US on issues relating to IS?

One should recall that in 2014, Najib praised IS for being a brave and courageous army which Umno should emulate, due to their ability to strike terror and fear in the hearts of their adversaries. To this day, Najib has never renounced that statement, except to say that he was referring to the bravery of IS, not the doctrine that they subscribe to.

Secondly, Malaysia has entered the orbit of Chinese influence both commercially and militarily. On any given week, many illegal Chinese fishing vessels cruise along the coasts of West and East Malaysia. This was admitted by the Minister in charge of National Security in the Prime Minister Department, Shahidan Kassim.

Yet, since Aug 1, 2016 last year, Najib has urged Shahidan and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein not to comment any further on the serious threat of China.

More oddly, the Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; with the most recent berthing taking place just before Trump met Najib in the White House.

The very act of allowing Chinese submarines to break into Malaysian waters, all without the formality of conducting a joint exercise, suggests that Malaysia is now a quasi-alliance of China that is willing to listen to Beijing at every turn. Thus, how can the US-Malaysia relationship serve as a building block of a stronger international maritime order?

Third, US and Malaysia are supposed to enhance the number of Malaysian students in US. Currently, there are approximately 8,000 Malaysian students in US.

But how can more students be sent to the US when all Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) scholarships have been cut down or right-sized? Indeed, how can more Fulbright scholars from the US be sent to Malaysia as future teaching assistants, when there are no resources to help them stay longer?

Similarly, when the Malaysian ringgit has shrunk by some over 20 percent viz the US dollar already, how can more parents send their children to the US?...

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