Malaysia could have taken its stand in Summit for Democracy – MP

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 – Malaysia’s lack of participation in the Summit for Democracy organised by the office of the President of the United States is a lost opportunity and sends a poor signal for the future direction of the country’s foreign policy, said Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Malaysia along with Indonesia and the Philippines were the South East Asian countries invited to the recently concluded summit but Malaysia decided not to participate.

“This is a short sighted and unstrategic move which points to a larger lack of coherence and independent thinking in our foreign policy direction moving forward,” Kian Ming said in a press statement issued today.

“Malaysia should have grasped this opportunity to reiterate our firm commitment to the principles of democracy that have been tried and tested over the past 3 and a half years since the 14th General Election in May 2018. Indeed, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri could have used this opportunity to showcase a new phase of political maturity under his premiership with the historic signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between his government and the main opposition coalition, namely Pakatan Harapan, that includes many elements of political and democratic reforms such as the promise of an introduction of an anti-hoppling law, equal allocations for Members of Parliament, lowering the voting age to 18, increasing the effectiveness of parliament as a means of check and balance to the executive and a commitment to greater decentralisation and autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak.

“Even if he could not attend the event “live”, he could have recorded his official interventions, together with over 90 heads of government, including outgoing President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who emphasized his commitment a peaceful transfer of power to his successor at the end of his term in 2022.”

President Jokowi of Indonesia was invited to share his remarks together with 11 other leaders including newly elected German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the meet.

Kian Ming said that while Malaysia could deliver its foreign policy messages in other ways including during Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken’s first visit to Southeast Asia later this week but “I am sure that (Minister of Foreign Affairs) Saifuddin (Abdullah) is well aware that foreign policy is as much about sending signals about the foreign policy direction of the country in addition to the substantive content that could have been raised by the Prime Minister at the Summit for Democracy.”

“One area of such signalling is with regards to Malaysia’s hedging strategy vis-à-vis the big players in regional geo-politics in South-East Asia. Will Malaysia’s lack of participation in this summit be interpreted by some that we are tipping over to one side in this tricky balancing act?

“Or is this a sign of a directionless government with regards to the complicated area of foreign policy which requires proper coordination and strategic thinking on the part of the decision makers in the Prime Minister’s office and Wisma Putra? Either way, the signs are very worrying for those who are concerned with the foreign policy direction of the country under the current leadership.”