(Petaling Jaya, Friday):
The Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
should make a ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday as to why
within a week, Malaysia had suffered two major reverses detrimental to
efforts to promote Malaysia as an attractive international investment and
tourist destination – the United States blacklist as one of the 15
“terrorist-risk” states from October 1 and Canada’s imposition of visa
requirement for Malaysian visitors from Tuesday
without any notice whatsoever.
So far, the Government, through the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid
Albar and the Malaysian High Commissioner to Canada, have protested against the
Canadian revocation of visa
exemption for Malaysian visiting Canada as discriminatory and “anti-Muslim”,
with Hamid saying that Malaysia will keep up the pressure on Canada to lift the
visa requirement, but it has maintained a strange silence on the US blacklisting
of Malaysia as one of the 15 “terrorist-risk” states from October 1.
Both the Canada revocation of visas for Malaysians and the US blacklisting of
Malaysia as one of the 15 “terrorist-risk” states are unwelcome and
unfriendly measures, but there is no doubt that it is the latter US action which
would have a greater adverse repercussions in branding Malaysia internationally
as a “terrorist” state with all
the detrimental impact on
Malaysia’s international image and as an attractive destination for foreign
investments and tourists.
The Canadian measure, going
against the spirit of the Commonwealth, had
put Malaysia in the company of 145 countries whose citizens are required to
obtain visas to enter Canada, while the US measure had narrowed Malaysia to a
group of 15 “terrorist-risk” countries in the company of countries which the
US have openly labeled as “terrorist-sponsoring” states!
This is particularly unfortunate and unacceptable as only last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had specifically told the United States Vice President Dick Cheney when they met in Washington that Malaysia does not like to be branded as a terrorist state or as having links with terrorists or any such profiling.
Abdullah had also told Cheney that Malaysia should not be viewed as a terrorist nation merely based on reports that say certain people in Malaysia had links with terrorist groups abroad and that actions taken by Malaysia in tackling the terrorism threat were evidence of its firm stand against terrorism and terrorists.
Unfortunately, Abdullah’s words had fallen on deaf ears, as when Cheney met him, the Bush Administration had already taken a policy decision to blacklist Malaysia from October 1 and lumped it in the group of 15 “terrorist-risk” countries warranting the special screening by US Immigration of visitors from the country, treating them like common criminals where they would be finger-printed, photographed and tracked.
The government should conduct a deep “soul-searching” as to why Malaysia had suffered these two major reverses, which would together undermine the 2003 Budget strategy to achieve a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of between six and 6.5 per cent for next year by making Malaysia even more unattractive to foreign direct investments (FDI) and foreign tourists.
In the past few years, Malaysia has been steadily losing FDI inflows, with FDIs plunging from RM9.4 billion in 1999 to RM6.7 billion in 2000, RM1.1 billion in 2001 and RM3 billion in 2002. In contrast, FDI in Singapore last year climbed by 59 per cent to US$9 billion or RM34.2 billion – i.e. more than ten times the FDIs into Malaysia.
The Malaysian Government should explain to Parliament why it had failed to convince the US and Canadian governments the unfairness of their recent measures which had the effect of branding Malaysia as a “terrorist state”, and whether this was in any way related to the “929 Declaration” by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on September 29 last year that Malaysia is an Islamic State and the escalating UMNO-PAS competition to out-Islam and out-Islamic State each other in disregard of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the social contract and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State, whether UMNO Islamic State or PAS Islamic State.
Furthermore, the government should invite MPs for a comprehensive debate not only as to how Malaysia could convince the United States and Canada to revoke the two unwelcome and unfriendly measures, but prevent other countries from following suit in treating Malaysia as a “terrorist state”.