Malaysia should stop being the only country other than Iraq to advocate
the use of the oil weapon unless there is a Cabinet decision, parliamentary
vote and national consensus in view of its far-reaching consequences both on
the national and world economy
by Lim Kit Siang
Friday): The informal meeting of the
Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) held in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday
secured even greater world attention than the 13th Non-Aligned Movement
(NAM) Summit which preceded it because of the announcement by the Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that members of OIC were
considering using oil as a "weapon" to fend off an attack on Iraq.
Mahathir said: "Some say it might cause a lot of repercussions,
but if we don't think about it we may not be able to exert some influence in
He added: "There was no consensus about using the oil weapon. There was only
consensus on thinking of the possibility of using the weapon."
Mahathir's statement after the OIC informal meeting was the second time in
four days to gravely upset non-Muslim Malaysians who strongly oppose any
US-led unilateral war against Iraq - the first occasion being his speech at
the inaugural NAM Business Forum on Sunday describing the imminent attack on
Iraq as "evidence of a war being waged by the West against Muslims".
If the impending second Gulf War is reduced into a war by the West against
Muslims, what then is the position of the non-Muslim Malaysians or indeed
the tens of millions of people in the West who had demonstrated two weekends
ago in over 600 towns and cities worldwide against any US unilateral war
against Iraq, not because it is a war against Muslims but a threat to
international peace, law and order by a hegemonic hyperpower defying
international public opinion.
The latest disturbing statement by Mahathir has raised among thinking
Malaysians the question why Malaysia should be the only country other than
Iraq to advocate the use of oil as a weapon against the United States - and
pushing this proposal even more forcefully than Saddam Hussein!
Is Malaysia's best national and international interests served by being
regarded as a serious, rational and responsible player in the global arena
or by trying to be seen as even more radical than all the other Muslim or
oil-producing states apart from Iraq in advocating the use of the oil weapon
against the United States?
This is not the first time that Mahathir had publicly advocated the use of
oil weapon against the United States. It is at least the third time in the
past four months, the first time at an Islamic convention in Malacca early
last October and the second time at a news conference in Islamabad on
October 19 last year during his visit to Pakistan.
Mahathir's return to his pet subject on the use of oil weapon against the
United States, close on the heel of his insensitive pronouncement of the
looming war in Iraq as a war by the West against Muslims, is not in the
national interest - especially after Malaysia had unfairly acquired the
international perception as a "terrorist centre".
Malaysia should stop being the only country other than Iraq to advocate the
use of the oil weapon unless there is a Cabinet decision, parliamentary vote
and national consensus in view of its far-reaching consequences both on the
national and world economy.
Unlike his speech on Sunday, Mahathir's statement after the OIC informal
meeting had immediate international repercussions.
Firstly, there was instant dissociation from Mahathir's statement by the
other OIC nations, starting with Kuwait, whose Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd
al-Sabah told the Kuwait News Agency that he did not see the OIC calling for
an oil embargo.
Sheikh Ahmad said: "Using oil as a weapon would have serious consequences on
importers and producers on the political, economic and social side. This may
make matters worse and hamper honest efforts to resolve the Iraqi crisis
through diplomacy by forcing the Iraqi regime to co-operate fully with
This was followed by Saudi Arabia whose Foreign Minister Prince Saud
al-Faisal told reporters in Jeddah that "Saudi Arabia no longer considers
oil as a weapon but a resource to be used in the country's national
interest" and "dismissed Malaysia's call for an Islamic oil embargo as a
means fo pressuring the West to prevent a war".
Secondly, with oil prices rocketing up to almost $US40 a barrel in New York
for the first time since the first Gulf War 1990-1991 and fears of looming
oil shortages, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is
signaling that its members may raise output to lower crude oil prices which
has shot up to 12-year highs.
Oil ministry officials from Qatar and Kuwait have said that the group, which
supplies a third of the world's oil, will consider increasing production for
a second time this year when it meets on March 11.
OPEC secretary-general Alvaro Silva Calderon said in Dubai yesterday that
the group "won't use oil as a weapon" if war breaks out in Iraq. He said:
"We manage oil in the economic field, as an economic fact, not as a weapon
He said the OPEC countries have around 4 million barrels per day of spare
capacity. "We are ready to put this amount on the market if necessary."
Parliament is reconvening on March 10. One of the priority items on its
agenda is to take a stand on whether Malaysia should continue to be the only
country other than Iraq to advocate the use of the oil weapon.
The government should present a White Paper on "The Question of the Oil
Weapon" as a basis for a full parliamentary and national debate on the
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National