Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Wednesday, 14th April 2010:
Call on Najib to appear before Parliament when he returns to face MPs on his visit to United States
I have received the following assessment of a Malaysian in Washington on the visit of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which raises many important questions.
The following is the assessment:
Assessment of a Malaysian in Washington on Najib’s visit to US
It is difficult indeed to make any serious assessment as there has been hardly anything substantive on the subject in the US media. All we have is what the Malaysian media are reporting. That said let me share some thoughts for what they are worth.
My reading is that much is being made of this visit. First and foremost, the Ambassador aided and abetted by the Malaysian media that is in tow, is painting a picture that is very sparing of the truth. For instance, they have made out that Najib was only one of two Asian leaders that met with Obama – the other being Hu Jintao. The truth was that Manmohan Singh and Gilani, the PMs of India and Pakistan , were there individually for sessions of between an hour and half and two. It would appear the Malaysian spinmeisters have redefined the borders of Asia in a revision of geography with the sub-continent not being part of Asia. Perhaps this is the input provided by the experts of APCO! Then there is the business of lunch with Vice President Biden – if our news media are to be believed, then Najib was the sole guest. The truth is stranger as he was one of a dozen leaders who lunched at the VP’s residence according to the NY Times.
As to the substance of the chat between Obama and Najib, the Readout issued by the White House is a pretty good summary according to those in the know. I have yet to see it reproduced in the Malaysian media. A close reading indicates that Najib virtually gave away the store with nothing substantive in return. For instance, he agreed with the US position as regards the need to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Remarkable indeed given that our Ambassador in Vienna was one of 5 that voted in favor of the Iranian position just a few months ago. This is a major shift in policy and it disassociates Malaysia from its conventional OIC and NAM position. Then there is the business of the Strategic Goods Act which was rushed through Parliament. This was under considerable pressure from the US after Malaysia stood exposed for trading in embargoed goods with Iran. Najib was also forced into admitting that Malaysia was taking action to curb human trafficking after having been listed in a recent Senate report that heavily criticized Malaysia. In terms of Malaysian aspirations and support for its positions, little was reported. For instance, no mention was made of the desire to revive the failed Free Trade Agreement; nor was there even a token mention of the Palestine issue, a subject close to the heart of the Government. Were these issues raised? Significantly, neither the Embassy in Washington DC and nor the entourage accompanying the PM have yet put out a Malaysian version of the Readout. They have been largely concerned with issuing feel good releases with photos without addressing the substantive outcomes of this multi-million dollar junket.
Beyond what is contained in the White House Readout, I gather that the US side raised a number of issues including the canning of women who deviate from Islamic practices, growing racial polarization, the Anwar trial etc. Thus, the Malaysian side has been put on notice.
An overview --- this was probably a good visit from Najib’s personal view as it raised his profile. He is seeking legitimacy as he struggles in the domestic context against a resilient opposition, a badly split coalition and a party that is increasingly turning right, led in that direction by Dr. M. The visit may gain him some personal momentary advantage. However it does not resolve the critical challenges he faces. More fundamentally, the visit demonstrated the lack of leverage he has at his disposal. He appears to have obtained nothing of substance from the US administration; this in turn will signal the US business community which will take note and act negatively in taking investment decisions in the near term.
Let wait to see if this assessment will be contradicted in the days ahead.
In view of many important issues involved, including those of policy and principle, I call on the Prime Minister to appear before Parliament when he returns to face MPs on his visit to United States to give full accounting of the results of his trip.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor