On 6th September 1999, I had issued a statement calling on ASEAN Foreign Ministers to convene an emergency meeting to send an ASEAN Mission to East Timur to facilitate the implementation of the independence referendum and end a new carnage and genocide, but it fell on deaf ears.
I had also warned that ASEAN will lose all moral authority in the international arena if it allows a "Bosnia-Herzegovina" or a Kosovo of ethnic cleansing and genocide to take place within its region.
On 7th September, 1999, I had stressed that as United Nations Security Council member, Malaysia had the greatest responsibility of all ASEAN countries apart from Indonesia to ensure that there would be no Bosnia or Kosovo in the ASEAN backward with another ethnic cleansing and genocide in East Timor following the August 30 vote for independence by the East Timorese.
I said that it was most regrettable that up to then, Malaysia
had failed to play any leading or significant role in the United
Nations Security Council to ensure that Indonesia uphold its international
responsibility to provide order and security in East Timor and that the
international community acted swiftly by despatching an international peace-keeping
force to prevent East Timor from the tragedy of
being the first people to suffer two ethnic cleansings and
genocides for two
On 17th September 1999, I welcomed the "final decision of the Malaysian government to join the East Timor multi-national force" after earlier statements by both the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister that Malaysia would not participate in the Australian-led multinational force to restore peace in East Timor, although Malaysia would be involved in the second-phase peace-keeping mission under the auspices of the United Nations.
I said in my statement: "It is a relief that the Malaysian government had reversed its decision not to join the multi-national force as this will be tantamount to Malaysia abdicating from its international responsibilities and commitments, denuding Malaysia of the right to take the high moral ground in international relations."
I was quite disturbed however that Malaysia was competing with Thailand for the post of Deputy Commander of the United Nations multinational force when Malaysia was only sending a 30-men complement of 17 officers and 13 other ranks and I was relieved when the Prime Minister said on Sept. 18 that Malaysia "would not fight" over the matter and was prepared to accept Thailandís appointment to the post.
ASEAN had failed itself, Indonesia and East Timor in not convening an emergency meeting to discuss a lead role for ASEAN in the East Timor peacekeeping. If ASEAN in serious in wanting to take the lead in the International Force in East Timor (Interfet), and it ought to, ASEAN must collectively contribute the most number of troops as compared to any other single nation.
I commend Mahathir when he spoke of his concern over the "rather heavy-handed" way Australian troops dealt with problems in East Timor. He would have greater credibility if he had been equally concerned about the "rather heavy-handed" way Malaysian police dealt with peaceful demonstrators in Malaysia!