DAP calls for an all-party roundtable conference before Parliament reconvenes on March 10 to reach national consensus on Malaysia's role as Chair of NAM for the next three years and a blueprint for the revitalization of NAM to make the movement relevant to the 21st century

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Thursday): The Kuala Lumpur Declaration issued at the end the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit on Tuesday called on members to be pro-active rather than reactive on international issues and developments to ensure that NAM is at the forefront of international decision-making.

This is a tall order. It would in fact require a revolution in NAM as the enormous changes required before the high hopes of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration could become reality could be fathomed from the questions:

  • Did the 13th NAM Summit representing 116 member nations representing almost two-thirds of the United Nations with six crucial votes on the UN Security Council have any impact on the question of the looming war in Iraq?

  • Did the 13th NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur make a greater impact than the global people power manifested two weekends ago when up to 30 million people - including around 6 million in Europe - in more than 600 towns and cities around the world protested and marched against war in Iraq?

The 13th NAM Summit extravaganza, which cost over RM200 million of Malaysian taxpayers' money, and the high-sounding speeches by NAM leaders and NAM declarations could not completely camouflage the many signs of ineffectiveness, lack of cohesion and even impotence of NAM, despite the record attendance of 62 heads of state and government, as evident by the following incidents at the Kuala Lumpur NAM Summit:

  • Strong opposition to the revived proposal to establish a permanent NAM secretariat sited in Malaysia in the next three years despite high praises by NAM delegates for the "excellent organization" of the KL Summit and the ringing call in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration that NAM should be at the "forefront of international decision-making";

  • The decision to hold the 14th NAM Summit in Cuba in 2006. Cuba, which hosted the 1979 NAM Summit, will be the second country to host the NAM Summit twice since its formal inauguration in Yugoslavia in 1961, followed by Egypt, Zambia, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Cuba, India, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia, Indonesia, Colombia, South Africa and Malaysia. Despite having 116 members, NAM finds it difficult to get a host country for its Summit. NAM would not have regained its relevance until it has returned to the sixties and seventies when there was a queue of countries wanting to host the NAM summit, as it lent so much prestige and the chance of becoming the Chair of the movement for three years in between two summits.

  • The test fire of a missile by a NAM member country, North Korea, in the midst of the 13th NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur, making a mockery of established fundamental NAM principles of peace, general and complete disarmament.

As Chair of NAM for the next three years, the heaviest responsibility falls on Malaysia to ensure that NAM stop being the anachronism on the world stage in the last decade of the last century and be relevant to the 21st century, and start appearing on the global radar screen as a "mover and shaker" of international events.

Malaysia can only play this role if there is a national consensus in the country committing the country to such an international purpose, as it cannot be achieved on the commitment of one man or one political party.

At the close of the KL NAM Summit, the newly-appointed Chair of NAM, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made it very clear that he would vacate his post in the 116-member movement once he resigns as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia in October.

He said: "I'll be here only until October. The chairmanship is not for the individual, its for the country. So whoever leads the country will get to act as the chairman,"

While no one would question the qualifications of the Prime Minister-designate, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to take over the NAM Chair from Mahathir, the question is whether Abdullah would be able to focus adequate attention on such a global responsibility when his first priority at least for the first few years would be to establish his authority and legitimacy as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

In the circumstances, it is even more urgent and imperative that there should be a national consensus on Malaysia's role as Chair of NAM for the next three years so that it reflects a national will and commitment. For this reason DAP calls for an all-party roundtable conference to be convened before Parliament meets on March 10 to achieve a non-partisan national consensus and to discuss a blueprint for the revitalization of NAM to make the movement relevant to the 21st century.

The all-party roundtable conference should be followed by an National Conference involving all political parties, NGOs, and key players in the civil society on Malaysia's role as Chair of NAM for the next three years, as the virtual exclusion of all opposition political opinion and the Malaysian NGOs from full participation in the formulation of NAM agenda, policies and directions was a major weakness of the 13th NAM Summit.

Three other initiatives that should be acted upon to prepare Malaysia to play a meaningful leadership role as Chair of NAM for the next three years are:

  • White Paper on 13th NAM Summit and Malaysia's role as Chair of NAM;

  • Comprehensive parliamentary debate on the 13th NAM Summit and how Malaysia can ensure that NAM is relevant and revitalized as first item of parliamentary business when Parliament reconvenes on March 10.

  • An all-party parliamentary committee on NAM and a National Consultative Council on NAM..
    Lim Kit Siang


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman