Syed Hamid more reactionary than Abdullah Badawi in relations with the Myanmese military junta

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I am shocked by the comment by the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar after his visit to Myanmar that  Malaysia might develop a huge oil palm  plantation in Myanmar and was looking at other investments and  that politics in the  military-ruled state was not its concern.

Hamid had said he held "productive talks" with Myanmar's military rulers on ways to step up investment, but when asked whether he urged the junta to open talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu  Kyi, Syed Hamid replied: "... that is not our responsibility, our relations are with the  government of the day.  It is up to the Myanmar government to resolve its internal situation."

Hamid is  conducting a more reactionary policy towards the Myanmese military junta than his predecessor, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

At least publicly, when he was Foreign Minister, Abdullah had never taken the extreme and reactionary stand taken by Hamid that democracy and human rights in Myanmar were completely of  no concern to Malaysia or other ASEAN countries. If this was the case, why was Cambodiaís admission to ASEAN deferred for a time  although it was open secret that there were ASEAN countries which had opposed any such postponement?

During his tenure as Foreign Minister, Abdullah not only never took the extreme and reactionary position taken by Hamid, in private conversations he  expressed  his sympathies for democratisation in Myanmar including the opening of a dialogue between the Myanmese military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi.

As a member of PD Burma, the international network of political leaders to promote democracy in Burma, I had several discussions with Abdullah when he was Foreign Minister and during the time when he was Chairman of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.  He had told me how attempts were made to try to persuade the Myanmese military junta to open up a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hamidís more reactionary position is most surprising as he was the one who moved the bill for the establishment of the National  Commission of Human Rights in Parliament last August, which was to fulfil Malaysiaís international commitments on human rights.

Knowing full well that the protection and promotion of  human rights have now become the  international commitment of every country,  how can Hamid turn his back to the regional and international concerns about grave human rights violations in Myanmar?

Hamid should explain whether there is now a hardening of the Malaysian governmentís support for the Myanmese military junta in view of the democratisation process in Indonesia, so that Malaysia would not be isolated as one of the few countries left in the region which has refused to undertake economic and political reforms.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman