Foreign Policy: The Larger Division Among The Pakatan

Ali Cordoba, World Futures Online

The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition force in Malaysia has showed very little interest for foreign affairs, concentrating its efforts mostly on national and local issues. Besides the Party Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), the two other member parties of the PR seems lacking in ‘foreign policies’.

The exception in the Party Keadilaan Rakyat (PKR) of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader of Malaysia, is that its supremo is known to be pro-Turkey. Being pro-Turkey means a pro-U.S. stance on many issues.

The absence of a strong foreign policy direction within the PR is a sign of an impending crisis between the three party alliance. With the cacophony reigning withing the PR on its foreign policy, it is clear though the grouping is bound to profess a pro-U.S. line of conduct. The division within the PR resolves altogether about a core foreign policy that has yet to be devised.

The PAS has demonstrated against the U.S. for its attacks against Muslim nations. it has also showed its opposition to Israel’s violence against Palestinians and the Gaza Flotilla. It condemned the murder of Osama Bin Laden on a ‘humanitarian’ basis, refusing to take position against the U.S. ‘terror’ policies. It also failed to take concrete position on the Libya war though it did lambast the U.S. and the West on Iran. On the Libya war, most of the opposition parties were rather compliant to Nato’s actions. The PAS is however totally blank about China, Australia, Japan and issues that affects the region directly. The main issues here are the Malacca Straits, the Spratly crisis and the American attempts at controlling the South China seas. For the PAS, these are subject that should not be taken into consideration by its ‘Dewan’ or assembly. It refuses to comment on the Myanmar situation though in private, it assists the Myanmar refugees. But it does not have any idea what to do with Myanmar’s rogue military junta and would probably support an ousting of this regime!

The PKR participated alongside the PAS in some street demonstrations about the Gaza Flotilla. This does not demonstrate the Party’s foreign policy as it does not really have one. Nevertheless, it is clear that the PKR is not anti-U.S. or anti-West. Does that mean it is lenient and even collaborative with the Western powers? Its close relations with Turkey is the answer. Turkey is a full fledge Nato member state hence the PKR was never against Nato’s attack on Libya. This is an indication of some of the PKR’s foreign policy decisions it may take as a regime.

The other major question is whether the PKR is pro-U.S.? This can be stated due to Anwar Ibrahim’s relations with the Americans and the Turks. His opponents have accused him of being a U.S. ‘lackey’ but this may simply not be true. Altogether, the PKR is not against the Turks role in the Syria crisis and its bombarding Iraqi Kurds. One wonders whether the PKR will impose a foreign policy that leans towards the West. The tendency within the PKR is pro-U.S. The only thing that may differ between PKR leaders is that some of them are not in favor of any militarization of the South East Asian region. But this altogether does not mean the PKR has a foreign policy statement that is worth its weight. As for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), its close ties with China in particular does not make it a ‘leftist’ group. Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang, has very close ties with Hong-Kong (hence with China).

China is investing ‘billions’ in construction projects in Penang. This has upset the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). The DAP has ties with Thailand and Singapore and is supported by pro-Capitalist Malaysian Chinese citizens. The DAP profess a rather ‘socialist’ approach – with welfare state policies – and calls for a redistribution of wealth in Malaysia. This altogether does not turn the DAP into an anti-U.S. or anti-West force in the country. The DAP does not have a clear cut foreign policy stance as this party’s politics is engrossed with national issues. One its leaders, Karpal Singh, is more immersed in ‘anti-Islam’ diatribes rather than be concerned with the future of the nation! Fan Yew Teng was the only person who had an idea what foreign policy was about. Unfortunately, he passed away this year.

As a matter of fact, the entire region should be concerned by the PR’s lack of ‘foreign Affairs skills’. it is true to state that the PR would easily align itself with the ASEAN and its policies. This is not indicative of an intelligent foreign policy line for an opposition group bound to form a future regime. Would the DAP voice its opposition and threaten to leave a PR regime if the PAS forces the government to ally with Iran or Saudi Arabia? Will the PKR reject PAS’s close relationship with Iran for example? Or will the PAS slam the tables if the DAP proposes closer ties with China, Thailand? The PR’s entire foreign policy or lack of it will throw the country in dissarray. On the other hand, the PR offers no real solution to the immediate problems affecting the region. Most of the leaders of the PKR, PAS and DAP have little experience when it comes to ‘foreign affairs’. This is a major setback for the PR. Once in power, such a setback will reveal itself and it will be damning for the nation altogether. Nonetheless, the fact that most of the PR members are U.S. and Western educated, it is clear that the opposition is not anti-West.

On the Malaysia-U.S. trade negotiations, most of the PKR or the PR is willing to ‘negotiate’ a better deal. There is no question of a ‘no deal’ even if the Americans impose their will in the end. There is altogether no way for Malaysia to get a pro-Malaysia deal in such negotiations with the PR being one eyed about the U.S. crimes across the globe and its real intents.

The PR is totally clueless with regards the current push by the U.S. and Nato to control the Malacca Straits. It has no idea at all on the move by the U.S. to re-open its former bases in the Philippines. it is as blind on the Spratly and South China Sea crisis as it is on the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region. The PR has said nothing or little on the region’s interest in nuclear energy and this in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. In any of these cases, there are no clear policy statement from the opposition group. What we have seen so far are statements by individuals supporting ‘revolutions’ in the Middle East. While other individuals showed pure innocence on major issues, such as Malaysia’s joining the U.S.-Nato in ‘war games’. Being Malay-Muslim majority parties, the PAS and the PKR are naturally ‘frightened’ of China’s growing role in the region. What make the Muslims fearful of China is the possibility that Beijing plays a more important role in Malaysia.