Speech by Lim Kit Siang on the Foreign Ministry committee stage of the 2010 Supplementary estimates in Dewan Rakyat on Thursday, 15th April 2010:
What did Malaysia gain from Najib’s meeting with President Obama and visit to Washington apart from a photo op and new image projection at home?
Eight years ago, when the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad wanted to wangle a meeting with United States President Bush in the White House, lobbyist Jack Abramov had to be tapped and it cost RM4.6 million.
Eight years later, to wangle a meeting with United States President Barack Obama for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, RM77 million had to be spent to engage publicity consultancy agency APCO.
Let me ask a straightforward question: What did Malaysia get from the US side in the trip of the Malaysian Prime Minister to the United States? Thus far there does not appear to have been much apart from the 40 minute conversation with Obama and some other meetings with US officials. Perhaps the most direct benefit was in terms of a photo op and image projection at home in Malaysia.
Washington Post today in its report about the nuclear summit and about Obama seeking global help in sanctioning, as this to say:
“Obama also met Monday with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia. As a condition for Najib attending the summit, the Obama administration demanded that the Malaysian government adopt stricter import and export controls to prevent the country from being used as a transshipment point for smuggled nuclear materials and technology, officials said. “
Is it correct that Malaysia has succumbed to pressure from the United States?
The Deputy Foreign Minister, in his reply, should clarify this as well as other questions raised by Najib’s visit, including:
i) Caning – the settlement of the Kartika caning issue was crucial and done earlier via diplomatic channels after the US had pulled up Putrajaya sharply.
ii) The trafficking issue statement which was raised in the Senate was also crucial.
iii) The joining of the TransPacific Partnership. This was a recognition de facto that an FTA could not happen, but the Malaysians are staying at the table. I understand that the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States, Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis is pushing for a mutual investment agreement, but this is not going to actually benefit much.
iv) The Iran issue was from the US side of critical importance. It would appear that Malaysia will allow some checks on the flow of capital from there. This was crucial for the US. This could impact on Petronas.
v) Agreement to work with the new Obama non-proliferation framework, in short to get a personal meeting, the Malaysians delivered on many fronts.
The Prime Minister delivered a speech at the Seminar on “U.S.-Malaysia Relations: Looking Ahead at Key Pillars of Cooperation” organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC & Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
This is the comments from a Malaysian who had heard the Prime Minister’s speech:
“I am left underwhelmed by this oration. There is nothing about vision or even a coherent theme. It is essentially a rehash of recent pronouncements and a repetition of slogans many of which are either stale or hardly of interest to an audience in Washington DC.
“The first part, the so-called international part, is largely silent about the state of the global economy, something that should be of concern to a small open economy such as Malaysia. There is nothing about global financial re-engineering that is needed. He could have easily made mention of the G20 and how it is attempting to bring about a transition to a more equitable global system of economic governance. What role does Malaysia wish to play; what does it propose to contribute? He could have taken the high road by wishing to call for an open trading environment and to urge that the big powers do not slip towards protectionism. While lamenting the failure to agree on a FTA, what alternatives are there? What does Malaysia seek? How will it move forward?
“Mahathir would have used the occasion to bash the West to catch the headlines for the wrong reasons. Najib should have attempted a very different approach by being bold in arguing the case for reform both globally and domestically.
“The second part of the speech is rather wishy-washy. All those abbreviations are fine but where is the substance. What are the means that will be employed to get to the goals and to escape the “middle income trap”? He missed an opportunity to elaborate on a whole slew of issues and failed to address the skeptics. No attempt was made to counter the bad press Malaysia enjoys as regards human rights, the breakdown in the rule of law, the perverted judicial system and the increasing intolerance. He did not attempt even in a modest way to assert that Malaysia aspires to remain a moderate Islamic state contrary to what the international media project. He could have mentioned the Inter-Faith dialogue that is planned.
“This is not the speech of a reformer or a visionary leader. It is more the speech of a bureaucrat who is somewhat lost and is fumbling after a year in office. Alas, APCO has failed him by not guiding him to speak about issues that are high on the list of friends of Malaysia.”
Finally, let the Deputy Foreign Minister explain whether the ridiculous launching of the Malaysia-United States (Congressional) Caucus in Washington for yesterday had gone on as scheduled or postponed as I had suggested so that we do not become an international laughing stock.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor