by Malaysian Member of Parliament and National Organizing Secretary of Malaysia Democratic Action Party, Mr. Tan Kok Wai
at Socialist International Asia Pacific Committee Meeting, 10-11 April 2002
 in Manila, Philippines

Peace and security in Asia and the Pacific

The disastrous event on September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington D.C. and the retaliation by the United States against the Al-Qaeda network have created an unstable new political environment worldwide and Asia Pacific is no exception to this threat too. Although terrorist threat have existed in many parts of the world well before 911 attack but the attack on the United States have most far-reaching implications to the world geo-political environment. The United States in its effort to draw in allies to support its war against terrorism have change its priorities drastically and even prepared to tone down its criticism against many authoritarian and undemocratic regime in Asia Pacific that it once condemned.  

The 911 attacks on United States by terrorist have created the impression that the resurgence of radical Islamic movement is posing a great threat to world security and in the same time creating a wrong impression that Islam as a religion promoting violence and Muslims in general are dangerous. Malaysia being a country which have a Muslim-majority population was not escaped from this bad impression of being a terrorist hotbed. This was demonstrated clearly when Malaysia’s name was listed in Time magazine of being one of the terrorist launch pad in Asia Pacific and the unjust ruling by US immigration to tighten visa regulations to all Muslim males travelling to United States including Malaysians. Our party view this stereotype and bias treatment to other peace-loving Muslims as being unfair and unjust and will further divide the understanding between the world’s two great civilisations in particular Muslim and Christianity. Terrorism must not be defined by the yardstick of religions, race or countries and the recent declaration by the OIC (Organizations of Islamic Conference) Foreign Ministers in Kuala Lumpur to condemn all acts of international terrorism in all its forms including State terrorism irrespective of motives, perpetrators and victims is most laudable and timely.  

In Asia Pacific and in particular in South East Asia, the threat of terrorism was given serious attention by governments in this region. The recent arrest of Islamic fundamentalist under the Internal Security Act by the Singapore government and the revelation by the Singapore PM last week of a plan to hijack a commercial jetliner to crash into Changi Airport by a group of terrorist is an emerging trend which was never heard in the past 40 years. In Malaysia, the government under the autocratic Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad have arrested more than a dozen members of the so-called Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al-Maunnah and the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) under the oppressive Internal Security Act, which detained a person without trial. Our party, the DAP maintained our stand that the entire suspected terrorists should be brought to open court and be trial under the existing laws. We required the Government to produce concrete evidence as to convince the Malaysian people and the world about the seriousness of the terrorist threat and not to turn the whole issue into a political capital to clampdown on opposition forces. There is a tendency in the part of the ruling government to link the suspected terrorist to the legitimate opposition party PAS (Malaysia Islamic Party). 

The hypothesis of a strong regional Islamic network which are prepared to use force and violence to realized its objective to set up a Pan-Islamic region comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Singapore and Southern Philippines must not be taken lightly by all concerned parties. We condemned all forms of terror and we certainly would not tolerate the use of force to meet political objective. We believe all political struggles must be fought through peaceful and democratic means to garner support of the people. Hence, in order to safeguard a peaceful South East Asian region and effectively combat the threat of terrorism, mutual understandings in the regional and international framework must be enhanced.

In the final analysis, the war against terrorism will not be won if the root causes of terrorism are not solved. Poverty, xenophobia, economic inequalities in global capitalism and a world order, which dominated by a single power, just to name a few as what we considered as the root causes of terrorism must be addressed immediately. Globalisation must not be seen as only benefiting the rich nations but as a means to enrich poorer nations and fasten the democratisation in authoritarian and repressive regimes. In this regard, we are very confident that Socialist International (SI) has the means to play a very important role in shaping a new geo-political environment, which promote and enhance Global Social Democracy. As a member party of SI, we the Democratic Action Party of Malaysia are committed to uphold the SI values of promoting a peaceful co-existence of people, cultures and religions in a multicultural and tolerant society.