(Kuching, Sunday): Within this one month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had thrice proposed that Muslim states should use oil as a weapon to protect their interests against the West and the developed countries, the first time in early October at an Islamic convention in Malacca, the second time in Islamabad and the third time in Jeddah during his recent visits to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Mahathir’s proposal has caused considerable dismay among significant sections of the Malaysian people, particularly at a time when one of the great challenges of the country should be to restore investor confidence by stopping the sharp plunge in foreign direct investments (FDIs) and to counter the perception in the West which cast the country in the image of a “terrorist state” with grave repercussions for the tourism industry.
At the National Patriotic Congress for political leaders, both government and opposition, yesterday, Mahathir said that whatever their internal differences, Malaysians irrespective of political beliefs and affiliation should always stand as one and unite against external threats and challenges.
DAP fully agrees that it is in the national interest that the Malaysian people must be able to transcend political differences to stand as one against any external threat or challenge, with the Opposition giving full support to the ruling coalition – but this cannot be a blank cheque for the government to take whatever international position it likes without seeking the consent or consensus of the nation and expecting blind support afterwards.
Mahathir’s call, thrice in a month, that Muslim states should use oil as a weapon against the West and developed countries is an important case in point.
Firstly, is this the stand of the Cabinet, Parliament and the Malaysian nation? When did Mahathir or the government seek the consent of the Cabinet, Parliament and nation on this matter?
Secondly, has it become considered government and national policy to egg on petroleum-producing Muslim nations to use oil as a weapon in a confrontation with the West?
Thirdly, is it in the interest of the nation to take such an international stand?
A month after the 2003 Budget presentation in Parliament on October 21, a dark cloud has come over Malaysia’s economic prospects, not only because of the discovery that the world after post-911 is even more dangerous instead of being in safer times with the Bali bomb carnage and the spate of bomb explosions in the region, but also with Malaysia perceived as a “terrorist state” with one country after another in the West warning their citizens in their travel advisories about the risks and dangers of traveling in South-east Asia, including Malaysia.
Mahathir’s repeated call on Muslim nations to use the oil weapon against the West and the developed nations can only reinforce perceptions in the West that Malaysia is rather an unsafe and unreliable country to travel to at this period of intense terrorism-scare, although it is completely wrong and baseless for anyone to equate Malaysia with terrorism or to equate Islam with terrorism.
For this reason, Mahathir should seek a national consensus before continuing to take a truculent position to egg on Muslim nations to use oil as a weapon in a confrontation against the West.
Apart from referring to the Cabinet, the matter should also be presented to Parliament for a full debate to ascertain whether an all-party accord and consensus could be achieved and the civil society, including the various chambers of commerce, should be consulted as well.
I have received reports that of late, Malaysians in the West have found that Malaysia has been identified with two things, firstly as an “Islamic State” and secondly as an “terrorist state”.
It is unfair and incorrect for any foreigner in the West to associate Malaysia with an “Islamic State” and a “terrorist state”, but the former is largely the result of the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional “929 declaration” of Mahathir at the Gerakan national conference on Sept. 29 last year that Malaysia is an Islamic State, while the latter is the result of the growing misperception among certain quarters in the West about Malaysia’s association with terrorist activities, thanks to the spate of adverse publicity about Malaysia in connection with al Qaeda networks and activities, whether before or after the September 11 terrorist attacks last year, the latest being the United Nations Security Council monitoring group report on al-Qaeda.
But the government and the country must address these perceptions, however mistaken or baseless they may be, and it is incumbent on the leaders of the nation not to say or do anything which could only reinforce such misperceptions – such as the repeated call by the Prime Minister that the Muslim nations should use oil as a weapon against the West and the developed nations, before the achievement of a national consensus and accord.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman