(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi yesterday asked Malaysia’s neighbours not to encourage or support any activity which could lead to rioting or which is aimed at changing the country’s present government or leadership and asked them not to interfere with Malaysia’s internal affairs.
No Malaysian would want foreign nations whether near or far to incite rioting in the country or be involved in deciding the national leadership, but it is imperative that the Malaysian Government should show that it is sensitive to the widespread national and international concerns about human rights erosions, violations and abuses in Malaysia as recently highlighted by its handling of the the Anwar Ibrahim case.
Just as Malaysia had stood in the international vanguard to denounce human rights erosions, violations and abuses whether in the previous apartheid South Africa, against Palestinians by Israelis, the Serbian genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, rejecting protests that these are interferences with domestic affairs of other nations, Malaysia must similarly accept and be responsive to international outrage about human rights violations in the country.
For the first time in three decades of ASEAN history, ASEAN members have publicly expressed their shock and dismay at the human rights situation in a member country, and however much the Malaysian government dislike these expressions of concern and outrage by ASEAN leaders, including the Indonesian President Habibie and Filipino President Estrada, I don’t think it is possible for the Foreign Minister to make out a case that leaders in neighbouring ASEAN countries are interfering in the domestic affairs of Malaysia by encouraging or supporting rioting or seeking to change the country’s present government leadership.
What the Malaysian government should take seriously to heart is why there is a widening international concern at the human rights situation in Malaysia, not only by leaders of the neighbouring ASEAN nations, but also in the wider international context, whether Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, France, the European Union, the United States or international organisations like the United Nations, the UNESCO, the IMF and the World Bank.
When the US Vice President Al Gore urged the Malaysian government not to stifle opposition, saying he too was troubled by Anwar's allegation that he had been beaten in prison, I do not think the US Vice President had trespassed into the domestic affairs of Malaysia - for if this is the case, then Malaysis is becoming even worse than Myanmar in wanting to cut itself off from the rest of the world.
Gore had said: "I count Mr. Anwar among my friends, and I call on the Malaysian government to provide him complete and immediate medical attention, to investigate this beating fully and fairly, punish those responsible, and take every step necessary to guarantee Mr. Anwar's future safety and security."
There is nothing wrong or improper with such a statement? What is really wrong is why the human rights situation in Malaysia has retrogressed to such a stage as to cause concern to world leaders, including the US Vice President, which clearly does not enhance Malaysia’s international reputation on human rights.
The Malaysian Government must show the world that it is serious about human rights, the rule of law, the freedom of the press and democracy in Malaysia and it should be prepared to present a good human rights image at the APEC Summit in Kuala Lumpur next month and to justify its human rights record to political leaders and NGOs from the Asia-Pacific who would be converging on the Federal capital from the first week of next month.