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Friday, September 28, 2012

Why the US prefers Najib to Pakatan


 
Is the United States really supportive of democracy and fundamental rights or does America’s interests come first? In this 12th May 2008 secret communiqué between the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and the Commander of the Seventh Fleet, it is clear why the United States prefers Najib Tun Razak rather than Pakatan Rakyat to lead Malaysia. And let this communiqué speak for itself.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Malaysia is hardly an ideal democracy, but it can still serve as a reference point for evolving Islamic societies elsewhere. The Malay people, traditionally known for their social tolerance, have become more religiously conservative in recent years, but Prime Minister Abdullah has enshrined the Malay political elite's continued preference for moderation in his "Islam Hadhari" or "Civilizational Islam" policy. Abdullah's key message is that Islam can become a leading world civilization again only if it embraces economic development, education, innovation and tolerance.
Observers are wary of a longer-term trend toward greater divisions between the Muslim Malay majority and other ethnic groups, and religious minorities increasingly complain of growing Islamization, as highlighted by the controversy surrounding Deputy Prime Minister Najib's comments last year that Malaysia is an "Islamic state." Nevertheless, Malaysia has kept inter-ethnic tensions well under control by regional and world standards for almost 40 years.
Malaysia is important to us because it is an economically successful, stable, predominantly Muslim country that, over the longer term, may be able to support us more strongly in places like the Middle East. It is strategically located on the Straits of Malacca, through which one quarter of the world's trade flows, and it borders five of the other nine ASEAN countries. 
Military-to-military cooperation is improving, with 9 US Navy ship visits to Malaysian ports thus far in 2008, 22 visits in 2007, and 23 in 2006. This is up from only five ship visits in 2003. Recently initiated engagement with the Royal Malaysian Navy's developing submarine force has successfully forged a relationship in this critical warfare capability. Our security relationship also finds expression in regular high level visits and counterpart visits. 
Behind the scenes, Malaysia has been a good partner in the war on terror. The overall tone in Malaysian-American relations has improved considerably since Abdullah Badawi became Prime Minister in late-2003, and we seek to translate this into substantive improvements. Bilateral relations eroded under Abdullah's vituperative predecessor Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, but Abdullah brought with him a friendlier style and an interest in projecting a more moderate image, both for himself and for his country.
While the surprise results of the March 2008 election have remade Malaysia's political landscape and severely shaken the ruling coalition, our bi-lateral relations have remained on an even keel. Malaysia is our sixteenth largest trading partner, and many major American companies have invested here. We have increased senior-level exchanges since Abdullah came aboard, for example conducting our first ever Senior Dialogue with the Foreign Ministry at the Assistant Secretary level in May 2005. Malaysia has acceded to the IAEA Additional Protocol, and participates as an observer in PSI exercises. Malaysia has played a positive role in helping to stabilize Aceh, Mindanao, and East Timor.
Malaysia's traditional approach to global issues, which Abdullah has continued albeit at a lower decibel level, remains an impediment to closer bilateral cooperation. Malaysia actively participates in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), often adopting distinctly third-world positions on issues of importance to us. 
Our public affairs environment is also challenging. The Malaysian public is strongly opposed to our policies in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. A strong "post-colonial overhang" also colours Malaysian attitudes toward the U.S. role in Southeast Asia. With Abdullah we have nevertheless been able to pursue a set of broad common interests, and pragmatism generally rules in bilateral security relations.
The bilateral military interaction remains strong; and we, along with Embassies in Jakarta and Manila, are implementing the Regional Security Initiative (RSI) concept through a maritime policymakers' conference in Sabah. The objective is to encourage the three nations to share information, data and intelligence on a national interagency level and tri-laterally to create a common operational picture to enhance their effectiveness in maritime enforcement.  
These visits, and the relationships developed, have fostered strong military-military cooperation between the United States and Malaysia, and have not been adversely impacted by recent leadership changes. Ship visits have significantly increased and received greater visibility. Security-related training sponsored by  the United States for military and law enforcement participants, including Malaysia's new coast guard, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, has also been on the rise.
The Malaysian-initiated coordinated surface patrols and "Eyes in the Sky" program, a regional aerial monitoring of the Straits of Malacca, have been more effective in creating a perception of security than actual operational capability. Malaysia concluded a new 505 agreement in 2006 that will allow us to utilize 1206 funds to put CT equipment into the vulnerable Sulu and Sulawesi Seas border areas of Sabah where terrorists are known to transit. Congress has approved funds for building and installing coastal radars in eastern Sabah and the first sites have been identified and contracted. 
A joint forces command and control center funded under 1206 is planned for this year to functionally link the various radar sites. Malaysia has not signed either a PSI or Article 98 agreement. In general, Malaysia remains open to bilateral cooperation that strengthens its own defense capacity, but the GOM will quickly raise the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity when discussing international security regimes and coordination, such as for the Straits of Malacca.
We have been pleased by the overwhelmingly positive media coverage our ship visits have received, in contrast to the quiet arrivals of past years. The flip side to this is that our visits could attract increased attention from ideological foes on the Islamist right (PAS), and from some mainstream politicians pandering to the conservative Islamic vote. 
Deputy Prime Minister Najib has stoutly defended our cooperation before Parliament, and we do not see that our engagement is under threat. However, we do need to be cognizant of our increased military visibility and sensitive to GOM concerns, particularly with high tensions in the Middle East. The GOM cited concerns about the growing visibility of training in eastern Sabah and, in 2006, decided to review on a case basis proposed training events involving foreign military forces in that region.
In May 2007, Malaysia hosted the annual Bilateral Training and Consultative Group (BITACG) meeting in Port Dickson. BITACG is a forum used to promote and strengthen military-military relations through discussions of bilateral exercises, intelligence exchanges, C4 issues, logistics engagement, and defense cooperation.Malaysia also hosted a BITACG mid-year review in Kuala Lumpur in November 2007.
Additionally, Malaysia co-hosted an annual conference for military intelligence chiefs in the Asia-Pacific region (APICC) held in September 2007. In September 2006, the U.S. Navy initiated annual Submarine Staff Talks, which have been successful in fostering a close relationship with the Royal Malaysian Navy as they develop their Scorpene submarine program.

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