Open Letter to KL NAM Summit, which is meeting under false pretenses, on Five Points to make NAM relevant again so that it could begin the process of revitalisation

Open Letter
to 114 Heads of State or Government/Delegation to the 13th Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Kuala Lumpur
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday):


Heads of State or Government or Delegation,
13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit,
Kuala Lumpur.


Dear Head of State or Government or Delegation,

Re: Five Points for consideration by 13th NAM Summit to make NAM relevant again so that it can begin the process of revitalisation

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia for the 13th Summit of the Non-
Aligned Movement (NAM) with the theme "Continuing the Revitalisation of NAM".

The 13th NAM Summit is starting on a completely wrong footing, as NAM leaders are meeting under false pretences. In fact, the theme of the 13th NAM Summit captures vividly what is fundamentally wrong with NAM showing the vast differences between the Kuala Lumpur NAM Summit from the historic Bandung Conference 48 years ago.

The theme is an euphemism - begging the question as to how there could be "Continuing the Revitalization" of NAM when there had been no "revitalization" in the first place for over a decade. But it would be impolite, impolitic and undiplomatic for Malaysia to set the theme of the 13th NAM Summit as "Revitalise NAM", as it would be construed as a reflection on the failures of previous NAM Summits and previous NAM Chairs which included Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Pastrana-Argango and Suharto.

As a result, diplomatic language and nicety take priority at the expense of a realistic and frank re-appraisal of the failures of NAM, which is the only way for the largest organization of nation states after the United Nations to regain its authority, credibility and legitimacy on the world stage to exercise the type of influence enjoyed by the Non-Aligned Movement in its early years and decades.

The 1955 Bandung Conference was the repository of the hopes and dreams of the overwhelming majority of mankind five decades ago to regain human dignity and worth, national independence and sovereignty by breaking the chains of colonialism, subjection, poverty and dispossession and asserting their inalienable right to determine their own destiny unimpeded by any foreign influence or domination.

The 2003 Kuala Lumpur NAM Summit, in contrast, evokes neither hopes nor dreams for a better life for the masses of humanity in the 114 member nations for it is just the latest in a series of NAM Summits for over a decade which was only a talk-shop, "full of sound and fury signifying nothing" - and even worse, a closed club of rulers to protect their vested interests against the aspirations of their peoples for justice, freedom and good governance, even to the extent of lending support and solidarity to cruel, brutal and corrupt leaders like President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

This Open Letter asks the 13th NAM Summit to address five issues which will go a long way to make NAM relevant again to the hopes and dreams of their peoples in the 114 - to be increased to 116 - member nations, so that NAM can begin the process of revitalization in deed and not just in hot air, viz:


1. Will NAM start off after the 13th Summit with a lame-duck Chair

The first question it should address is whether NAM will start off after the 13th Summit with a lame-duck Chair. A lot of high hopes have been placed on Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that under his leadership in the next three years, when Malaysia is chair of NAM, the 116-nation movement could be revitalized.

What is generally not realized is that Dr. Mahathir's tenure as Chair of NAM would be a very brief one, as he would have to relinquish this position when he steps down as Malaysian Prime Minister in October this year - passing the NAM baton together with the Malaysian premiership to his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

This was in fact what happened to Nelson Mandela. He became chair of NAM after the 12th NAM Summit in Durban, South Africa in September 1998, but when he stepped down as South Africa President in June, 1999, the NAM Chair was also handed over to the new South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

The NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur should consider whether it should make an unprecedented change to the NAM mechanism to offer the chair of NAM for the next three years to Dr. Mahathir instead of to Malaysia as the host country, so that Mahathir will continue as NAM Chair even after he steps down as the fourth Malaysian Prime Minister in October this year, and the problems which would arise from such break with NAM tradition, such as:

  • Whether this is acceptable to the host nation, as this will inevitably be an adverse reflection on Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the successor Prime Minister to Mahathir; and
  • Whether without the office of Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir could be effective as Chair of NAM as he does not have the full clout of a government behind him, which is only possible if the Chair is the head of state or government of the host country - especially with the traditional opposition in certain influential quarters in NAM to the establishment of any permanent secretariat.


2. War Against Corruption

One tradition the 13th NAM Summit must break if NAM is to find new relevance to begin revitalization is to devote a special section on war against corruption in the developing countries.

Fourteen of the most corrupt 20 out of 102 nations surveyed in Transparency International's 2002 Corruption Perception Index are NAM member nations, with Bangladesh leading the infamous pack, followed by Nigeria, Madagascar, Angola, Kenya, Indonesia, Uganda, Ecuador, Cameroon, Bolivia, Vietnam, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Guatemala. .

The Durban 12th NAM Summit Final Declaration, a 91-page 512-paragraph document, dismissed the problem of corruption in seven words, asking NAM countries "to redouble their efforts to combat corruption" - which is most scandalous and outrageous.

The KL NAM Summit Final Document should send out a loud and clear message that henceforth, corruption would be one of its top priority concerns, that it would not condone corruption in any manner and would be in the forefront in the war against corruption by establishing its own "Corruption Watch" to monitor the scourge of corruption, including coming out with its own NAM Corruption Perception Index on the problem of corruption in the NAM countries.


3. Ratification of the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court

The 12th NAM Summit Final Declaration in 1998 "emphasized the need to take all possible measures to ensure the coming into operation of the International Criminal Court without undue delay". (para 168). The United States have rightly been criticized for going against the aspirations of mankind to have the world's
first permanent war crimes court to deal with crimes against humanity like genocide by refusing to ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.

However, despite the 12th NAM Summit Final Declaration calling for urgent and immediate support for the establishment of the International Criminal Court, only 39 of the 89 countries which ratified the Rome Statute by February 20, 2003, are NAM members. This means that 75 NAM nations or two thirds of the 114 NAM nations have not ratified the Rome Statute for the establishment of the International Criminal Court - including Malaysia, the host country for the KL NAM Summit.

The KL NAM Summit Final Declaration should reaffirm NAM support for the International Criminal Court and establish a special NAM Bureau to secure the ratification of the Rome Statute by at least the majority of the NAM member nations within the next 12 months and by at least 90 per cent of the NAM membership by the next NAM Summit in Cuba 2006.


4. NAM Human Rights Commission

The 12th NAM Summit Final Declaration 1998 committed all member nations "to provide an effective framework for the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International covenants on human rights and other relevant international instruments on human rights".

Is there a report and review of the status of human rights in each of the 114 member states of NAM five years after this declaration and commitment in Durban, South Africa, including the status of the ratification of the various UN human rights covenants and instruments?

It was only last Monday that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of judges and lawyers, Dato Param Cumaraswamy, condemned the Zimbabwe government's arrest of a High Court judge, Judge Benjamin Paradza, who had previously handed down decisions that were unpalatable to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

Cumaraswamy described Paradza's arrest as "one in a series of institutional and personal attacks on the judiciary and its independent judges over the past two years, which have resulted in the resignations of several senior judges and which have left Zimbabwe's rule of law in tatters".

By arresting a judge a few days before the 13th NAM Summit, Mugabe had shown utter contempt not only for the 12th NAM Summit Declaration in Durban but also for the 13th NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Last June, Amnesty International published a special report entitled "Zimbabwe: The toll of impunity" which documented serious human rights violations by Mugabe over the past two years, including extrajudicial executions, torture, denial of the rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly.

At the end of last year, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum released figures of about 58 politically-motivated killings and over 1,050 cases of torture in 2002 alone.

A NAM Human Rights Commission should be established to protect and promote human rights in the NAM countries to demonstrate that there are adequate and satisfactory mechanism in the developing countries to protect human rights without the need for "interfering busy-bodies" from the West.


5. NAM should declare a Decade of Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law and Good Governance 2003-2013 and establish a high-level co-ordinating committee to implement the Decade in the NAM countries

NAM should declare a Decade of Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law and Good Governance 2003-2013 and establish a high-level co-ordinating committee to implement the Decade in the NAM countries.

The Decade of Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law and Good Governance should have the widest remit, and have sub-themes such as:

  • Free, fair and clean elections;
  • Free, independent and responsible press;
  • Just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary;
  • Accountability, transparency, clean and trustworthy administration as fundamental rights of the peoples of NAM to good governance in their respective countries.

There are many other areas which require reform if NAM is to regain its relevance, credibility, authority and legitimacy but these five specific areas would be a good beginning for the revitalization of NAM.

Yours truly,

Lim Kit Siang
National Chairman,
Democratic Action Party, Malaysia



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman