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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Hadi throws a spanner in the works of Biden-Muhyiddin ties

 

The swearing in of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the US has inadvertently exposed a major difference in the diplomatic stand of parties in Malaysia’s ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin congratulated Biden, but Muhyiddin’s key ally in the ruling Perikatan Nasional, PAS, took a completely opposite stand, dismissing Malaysia’s largest trading partner as oppressors of Islamic nations.

In his congratulatory message, Muhyiddin told Biden that Malaysia was looking forward to strengthening its partnership with the US under his leadership.

“Malaysia hopes to continue and expand its existing partnership with the US on various issues and global fronts, including fighting the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that he looked forward to meeting him personally.

It may sound diplomatic and one that most countries usually do but the reality is that Malaysia needs the US more if one cares to look at our trade figures. The superpower comes in after China and Singapore as our main overall trading partners.

In terms of our supplies, again they are the third highest on the list. US goods imports from Malaysia totalled RM168 billion in 2019, up 3.1% from 2018. In addition, the US foreign direct investment in Malaysia was RM43 billion in the same year.

Obviously PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang must have forgotten that we have a RM200 billion annual trade with the US when he lambasted the new US leadership as one that will continue with its “same chess game using countries as its pawns.”

But most importantly, Hadi made the populist statement ignoring the fact that he was the government’s special envoy to the Middle East, appointed by Muhyiddin. He did not mince his words, throwing caution to the wind.

“The change of the US leadership from Donald Trump to Joe Biden is unlikely to change its foreign policy towards Muslim nations. Biden himself was a supporter of Israel’s previous policy and intervened in the affairs of Islamic states,” said Hadi.

“It includes invading Afghanistan, ‘extinguishing’ Kurdish tribes along the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In addition it was a proponent of proxy wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, dividing Iraq, and besieging Iran and threatening all countries that did not want it,” he said in a strongly worded Facebook post.

Hadi said although Biden may choose a softer diplomatic approach, the US would continue doing things as it wished.

“That is also the US political reality…the chess board and chess pieces remain the same, only now they are different players.”

We all know that PAS plays quite an influential role in the PN government, with all of its 18 MPs made ministers, deputy ministers or chairmen in GLCs. They control three states too. Going by their own targets and ambitions, they are aiming for a much stronger hold on the policies of the nation.

So one can’t help wondering if Hadi’s statement, whether true or otherwise, will be taken seriously given his Islamic credentials and scholarly standing in the Muslim world. This is especially so when many Malaysians take his exhortations and statements as gospel truth.

Coming at a time when the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported that Malaysia saw a sharp 68% decline in FDI last year while FDI in Southeast Asia only decreased by 31% with the Philippines’ rising by 29%, he may just be sending the wrong signal.

Hadi and some of his PAS leaders ought to remember that we are a secular nation and this will not change in a century, or more. Some of their recent statements received global attention which is not flattering for Malaysia. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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