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MALAYSIA IN ASEAN: FOREIGN POLICY ON NON-TRADITIONAL

SECURITY ISSUES

AFTER MAHATHIR ERA

NAIM BIN MUKTEE @ MUSA

2012/2013

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

Security divided into two types. The first, known as traditional security whereas the

second type refers to non-traditional security. The traditional security defined as

military threat from State A to State B. Basically, it is driven by a state actor which

has declared war on another country that presumably threatens the latter’s power. At

this level, military components such as military leaders, soldiers and heavy weapons

are involved. In that sense, the traditional security issue consists of elimination of

threat through war. The classical examples of this are the War World I and II, in

which states tried to solve domestic threat through the use of weapons.

Unlike traditional security, non-traditional security refers to scenario from

social and political economic aspects that constitute a threat imposed on a state or a

region. This threat may have capability to weaken a state’s capability in the area of

economic capacity, political survival and cultural heritage. Thus, the existing threat

could be from a state as the prominent actor in international relations or from an

organisation or small groups which is regarded as a non-state actor. As such,

unpredictability and a complicated situation are the two aspects associated with non-

traditional security. In order to protect state’s survival, weapon was not the answer.

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Instead, diplomacy, political alliance, regional cooperation, and counter policy have

been often used by states in international relations. While terrorism became a major

threat in the region, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia has signed an Anti-Terrorism

Pact on May 2002 to boost deterrence activities. This was another kind of effort made

by the states pertaining to protecting human security concern.

In this study, non-traditional security issue is regarded as the non-independent

variable and also as the tool to evaluate state’s roles in dealing with it. Malaysia was

among the founders of ASEAN in 1967, and is actively involved in several areas of

cooperation. From the early days of ASEAN, Malaysia, without doubt, had

contributed to the peace and security of the Southeast Asia region vis-a-vis the

security issues faced by some ASEAN Members. Unlike many other regions, the

threats to security in the Southeast Asia region had not always involved military force

since ASEAN was founded. ASEAN members signed the Treaty of Amity and

Cooperation (TAC) on 24 February 1976 and established the ASEAN Regional

Forum (ARF) in 1994. The TAC, on one hand, provides the six fundamental

principles or norms of ASEAN members, which serve as a guide on their state-to-state

action;1 while the ARF, on the other hand, implicitly became a strategic platform for

ASEAN to facilitate and encourage the Asia Pacific countries to address security

issues faced in the Southeast Asia region, in particular, and in the Asia Pacific region,

in general, through dialogues and without intervention.2

1
This refers to the six core norms: sovereign equality, non-use force, peaceful settlement, non-
interference, mutual respect and tolerance, peaceful coexistence. For more detail, please refer to
ASEAN Secretariat. 1988. Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. ASEAN Documents
Series 1967-1988. Third Edition. Pp 39-42; and to Haacke Jurgen. 2003. ASEAN Diplomatic and
Security Culture: Origins, Development and Prospects. Routledge Taylor& Francis Group. Pp 7.
2
Simon Sheldon W. 2007. ASEAN and Its Security Offspring: Facing A New Challenges. Strategic
Studies Institute: US.

2
Thus, war has been regarded as an unpopular approach to resolving security

issues in the region. As pointed out by Rizal Sukma, “none of the ASEAN countries is

now worried about the possibility of going to war with one another”.3 Yet, military

threat is still a focal concern for ASEAN members. However, for Malaysia, military

threat is not responsible for shaping much of its foreign policy in the context of

Southeast Asia region. In the recent times, Malaysia concern has changed along with

the changing international environment where Communism no longer threatens its

security or sovereignty. Throughout history since ASEAN the founding till today,

Malaysia’s role has been dominant in the area of non-traditional security issue. In

order to understand this role of Malaysia, multilateral channel and bilateral approach

are the keys of this study, the focus will be on Malaysia’s participation in ASEAN as

individual country and its roles in preventative diplomacy.

1.1 Significance of the Study

This study will add to the diversity of studies on Malaysia foreign policy,

especially after Dr. Mahathir Mohamad era. Under Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, most of

Malaysia foreign policy studies intensively focused on Malaysia diplomacy which

was related to economic policy and cooperation with ASEAN members, and also Dr.

Mahathir’s approach towards international politics consisted of “iconoclasm” which

was comprehensively touched. For that reason, this study would contribute to

understanding Malaysia’s activities on non-traditional security issue in Southeast Asia

3
Rizal Sukma. Globalization’s Impact on Threat Perceptions and Defence Postures in Southeast Asia.
In Ho Joshua et.al. 2009. Globalization and Defence in the Asia Pacific. Routledge Francis&
Taylor.pp, 96

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under the two Prime Ministers after Dr. Mahathir, i.e. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and

Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

Meanwhile, this study is also significant in evaluating and understanding

Malaysia’s roles since the aftermath of Communism ideology in Asia region. Threat

had changed. Thus, Malaysia’s concern and motivation subsequently changed towards

ASEAN members. On this background, this study looks at a new direction of

Malaysia’s roles and also at understanding Malaysia’s approach in addressing the

current threat from non-traditional security issue. It also contributes to distinguish the

substance of Malaysia’s soft diplomacy after during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and

Najib Tun Razak eras. In that regard, therefore, this study also provides new features

in Malaysia’s future approach in dealing with non-traditional security matters. As

such, this study is also significant to those who are interested in Malaysia’s foreign

policy, especially with regard to new ideas on how Malaysia should approach new

threats in this complex world.

1.2 Research Questions

This study, will try to answer five questions, namely:

1. What non-traditional security issue which was of prominent concern to

Malaysia after the collapse of Communism ideology?

2. Why Malaysia’s approach in addressing non-traditional security issue has

changed from “one policy for all” to “separate policy for a different issue”?

3. What are the motivation pertaining to and the principle of Malaysia’s

approach towards non-traditional security issue after Mahathir era?

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4. Is that ASEAN important to Malaysia’s survival in the context of non-

traditional security?

5. Why Islam became a source of Malaysia foreign policy goals and strategy

after Mahathir Mohamad era?

1.3 Objective of the Study

This study devotes to explore and evaluate Malaysia roles in international

politics, especially relating to non-traditional security issue in the Southeast Asia

region during the Abdullah Badawi and Najib Tun Razak eras. Therefore, the

objective of this study is to understanding the real concern for Malaysia’s leaders and

society in terms of security matters. In this respect, Malaysia’s political ideology and

society have crucial roles to construct Malaysia’s action in dealing with the unseen

threats from various aspects. Culture, political fragmentation, and geographical

strategies have defined Malaysia’s national interest. Along with that, this study also

emphasises on exploring and evaluating Malaysia’s approach, whether it has been

successful or faced with difficulties from a range of challenges from its neighbours

and non-state actors in the region. At the same time, there had been innovations on

Malaysia’s approach in addressing all issues confronting its national sovereignty. In

that regard, this study also tries to archive the objective of Malaysia’s new approach

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which has been used to counter any possibility of threat posed especially in the “era of

informal threat”.4

At the same time, this study shall also compare the scenario, approach and

policy motivation that had been made by the different leaders. In this regard, the

study will try to evaluate the changing political environment at the regional as well as

the domestic level. The analysis shall start with the highest threat scenario such as

communism, the environmental issue etc where there is the possibility of negative

impacts encountered by respective countries in Southeast Asia. Perhaps, these would

give clear scenarios when comparing the situations faced by the different leaders in

Malaysia.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The study is basically focused on the non-traditional security issue prevailing in

Southeast Asia since 2004 when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi assumed the position of the

Prime Minister of Malaysia. In view of this, the focus and scope of this study are

linked to three aspects, : non-traditional security, Malaysia within the ASEAN and

Malaysia’s diplomatic activities in Southeast Asia region.

(a) Non-Traditional Security Aspect

Generally, non-traditional security is about human security rather than state

security. Humans have so many interests pertaining to their lives such as food,

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United States of America used term the “Era of Terrorism”. Academically, the terms faced difficulties
to prove who are the terrorist and what kind of action that can be regarded as terrorism. The US
National Security failed to define these two issues when it declared the war on terror in 2003. To be
fair, I used the terms the “era of informal threat”, where the threat comes from unexpected events. For
example, free trade agreement can produce great and sound economy, but to some extent it is, perhaps,
daunting the national economy in the long term. Similarly, with international criminals/crimes.

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environment, rights, living condition, education, incomes, health, wealth, welfare,

prosperity etc. In principle, a human being needs to satisfy his requirement for a good

life thereby requiring the state where he belongs to protect, expand the needs of its

peoples and maintain consistent stability within itself and the region, as well.

Therefore, non-traditional security is all about human security prospects. 5 This study

shall first identify the human security situations in Malaysia in order to get a clear

scope. For Malaysia, the main concerns related to human security are the energy

crisis, issues on environment human rights dogma, transnational crimes and extremist

groups.6 This study will attempt to explain particular issues with reference to current

examples.

(b) ASEAN and Malaysia’s Commitment

From the beginning of its formation, ASEAN has been a crucial regional

organisation for Malaysia terms of security matters. For the purpose of this study,

Malaysia’s involvement in the setting up ASEAN will not touch. However, in order to

be clear on Malaysia’s position in ASEAN cooperation, this study will explore on its

participation in and commitment towards ASEAN based on crucial issues that are

related to the country’s security dimension. In other words, , this study focuses on

issue-based participation of Malaysia in ASEAN from historical perspective and, in

order to get the full scenario, this study shall discuss briefly selected prominent issues

affecting Malaysia during the era of Tun Abdul Razak to Dr. Mahathir.

Then, detailed explanation on Malaysia and ASEAN interconnection in various

areas of cooperation will be covered, starting from the time of Abdullah Ahmad

5
Some scholar used the terms “man-made issues” and “natural disasters”. See, Rashila Ramli. et al.
Towards a Modified Approach to Human Security in Southeast Asia- A Perspective from Bangi.
Pertanika Journal Science & Humanities, Vol.20, No.3.(2012),pp. 577-588.
6
Most of the features given are basically based on what Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia
pointed out in its website. See www.kln.gov.my/web/quest/md-overview> 18 December 2012.

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Badawi to Najib Abdul Razak tenures. In this context, the analysis on ASEAN be in

an inclusive manner. Generally, it will refer to how Malaysia had effectively brought

its national interest into multilateral cooperation and made sure that it could be

achieved. In order to be clear on the political process, it is quite important to look at

the efforts made by Malaysia that reflected his political will in Southeast Asia region.

In other words, what kind of agreement that has been ratified by Malaysia under

ASEAN events and also Malaysia commitments that already taken place in ASEAN

umbrella. Such action is important in order to reveal whether ASEAN as organisation

still serves as a corner stone to Malaysia foreign policies or rather as stepping stone

on Malaysia foreign policies strategy.

(c) Malaysia’s Preventive Diplomacy

Threat is not static. It could exist at domestic/national, international or regional

level. ASEAN, being in Southeast Asia was the only one of organic organisation that

could manageable the region effectively to maintain stability and peace. Malaysia as

strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia, realize the potential roles of

ASEAN to contain spill over effect poses by respective neighbouring countries.

Having on such background, the scope of study will be focused on Malaysia

diplomacy activities towards other ASEAN members or ASEAN itself in terms of

security aspects.

The Asia Pacific region is quite important in this respect since the ASEAN

Regional Forum (ARF) established by ASEAN in 1994 also include several Asia

Pacific countries. In this regard, the ARF roles emphasize on maintaining stability and

prosperity in the region through conflict avoidance and settlement of conflicts through

peaceful means. Along with that, Malaysia’s diplomacy can be regarded as preventive

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diplomacy, especially so after the Mahathir era. After the end of the Cold War,

Malaysia actively contributed to stability in the region through peaceful means, by

taking measures to avoid conflicts which could escalate into military conflicts. In this

case, in the eyes of Malaysia’s policy makers, it would be better to preserve stability

by avoiding conflict rather than by resolving conflict that already occurred, thereby

unnecessarily enhancing tensions among involved parties. As has long been observed,

ASEAN members has refused to formal discussions or dispute settlement meetings to

any conflict faced among its members due to the non-interference policy. In other

words, the “ASEAN Way” of dispute settlement has been individually adopted by all

ASEAN members which prefer to resort to using informal or frank discussions among

them. For that reason, Malaysia’s diplomacy is focused primarily on actions which

could contribute towards enhancing prosperity and peaceful environment in the

region, regardless of whether these are done through formal meetings or informal

discussions on bilateral or multi-lateral basis.

1.5 Limitation of the Study

The limitation of the study consisted of 3 aspects which are generally based on

the contents and time-span of the study. Since the study seeks to evaluate ASEAN as

an important platform to Malaysia’s human security diplomacy by particular eras, it is

irrelevant to touch all aspects with regard to ASEAN and Malaysia participation in the

organisation. A clear understanding of the time-span and contents of the study will

enable easy management of the study limitation.

The first limitation is the limited in depth discussions on the initial stage of the

formation of ASEAN and Malaysia as one of founders. It’s not necessary for the

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study to introduce and evaluate the establishment of ASEAN and also Malaysia’s

interest and concerns before the Mahathir era. This is because the study is not

intended to Malaysia political interest in ASEAN, but rather to differentiate the

changing of threat environment between the pre- and post-Mahathir era. In order to

understand the polarisation of threat perception it is necessary to focus on major

issues that were of concern to Malaysia in the Southeast Asian region during different

times. This would give an understanding of Malaysia’s prominent national interest

that would test ASEAN’s credibility. Thus, the limitation of study is that it only

focuses on the prominent issues and national concerns in the international threat

environment before and after Mahathir’s era.

The second aspect is that since the study pertains to non-traditional security

issue, therefore traditional security issue will not be touched. After the Mahathir era,

some scholars viewed that both forms of security are somewhat related to each other.

They argue that, in theory, a military threat is a major threat to any nation that

probably can harm economic development due to increasing expenses on the military

and subsequently lowering economy development and surge social unrest. To this

group of scholars, traditional threat eventually can lead to development of non-

traditional security threat. Unfortunately, this assumption does not make any sense in

the context of Southeast Asia since Communism which actively threatened the region

by military capability no longer exist in this region.

The end of Communism hegemony has subsequently reduced military threat

in the region. Although this does not mean that military threat is absent in every

ASEAN members, or perceived as the last threat likely to be faced by ASEAN

countries it could be considered that military threat is not a major threat to the states

in Southeast Asia. Thus, the relationship between traditional and non-traditional

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security issue will be ignored in this study. Instead, the study will just focus on non-

traditional security issue, which will be looking at the Southeast Asia region as a

whole and the Asia-Pacific region, as well, that may undermine Malaysia national

security concern.

The third is the limitation of time-span of the study. As mentioned earlier, the

study will focus on Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Abdul Razak leaderships

separate from Mahathir era. The question arises as to why the study span involves

Mahathir era which is separated from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Abdul

Razak eras, thus reflecting a separation of leadership regimes in studying Malaysia’s

foreign policy on human security? There had been a clear change of environment

since Mahathir took the office as a prime minister in 1981. At that time, the Cold War

era still continued to spread it’s impact in Southeast Asia. This is not a new issue to

the region since Malaysia became a member of the Anglo-Malaya Defence

Arrangement (AMDA) that was devoted to destroying the prominent enemy at that

time – the communist, in the region. This situation continued to undermine ASEAN

member political survival at home. However, beginning in early 1991, the Communist

threat ceased through peace agreements and provocative action against communist

insurgency.

After the end of Cold War era, Malaysia, under Mahathir, faced another threat

from the West through democratization and capitalism which was regarded as new-

colonialism to the newly independent countries like Malaysia. Again, this is not a new

scenario for Malaysia since during Abdul Razak era the country adopted a policy so-

called as “economic nationalism”. Malaysia was strongly attacked by the developed

countries on this policy as they wanted to exert monopoly on their economic

resources. It could be seen that, the Mahathir era was relevant as a stepping point to

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understand the evolution of threat towards Malaysia’s sovereignty. When Mahathir

decided to step down as Malaysia’s Prime Minister in 2003 and Abdullah Ahmad

Badawi took over as Malaysia’s fifth Prime Minister, the threat was changing.

Unlike Mahathir’s and his predecessors eras, the threat came basically from states

where the sources of conflicts originated from increasing animosity between them

such as Konfrontasi 1963 and Vietnam War. However, after the Mahathir era, the

international security situation, as triggered by the 9/11 incidence, saw states devoted

themselves to shunning non-traditional security issues affecting their survival. In this

context, religion-based extremist groups were regarded as a new threat to the nations.

In short, threats had emerged driven by non-states actors that hardly threaten

the states status-quo. With this background, there had been a different situation

confronting Malaysia’s position domestically and internationally. The same situation

was faced by Malaysia during the Tunku Abdul Rahman till Mahathir era in which

states still posed as a real enemy, whereas during the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi era

Malaysia was facing a new threat known as “informal threat” which was mostly

driven by non-state actors. According to Peu Ghosh( 2009), “non-states actor refer to

political movement, national liberation movement, activities of ethnic, religious or

some ideological minority group. Their activities have great impact on the actions of

the states”.7 Therefore, any political movement or minority groups were have

intention to poses threat to the human being classified as a non-traditional threat.

7
Ghosh Peu. 2009. International Relations. PHI Learning Private Limited: New Delhi. Pp, 71.

12
By this explanation, obviously, the Mahathir era can be regarded as a separate

stage in the context of threat to Malaysia. From this point, the time-span of the study

can easily be fixed. The tendency of the study is, therefore, to focus more on the

period after the Mahathir era, i.e. from 2004 till 2013, which is suitable to explore and

evaluate a human security threat. Nevertheless, security situation during the years

previous to 2004 will also be touched randomly and without going into detail. The

purpose will be only to get the different situations that can help to build the

hypotheses of the study.

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CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Recent Findings

In the study, “recent findings” refers to researches which were done during the

period 2005 till 2012. This include findings published in books and journals. For this

study, the literature review was based on findings published in two books and two

journals.

The most recent writing with regards to Malaysia’s foreign policy related to its

role in ASEAN is a research done by Johan Saravanamuttu in 2010.8 In his book, the

author explored a new dimension pertaining to Malaysia’s foreign policy from the

time of Tunku Abdul Rahman till the early Najib’s time. This comprehensive book

provides a new dimension in three aspects, viz.: alignment, neutralism and Islamism.

From this, the author argued that Malaysia’s foreign policy approach, either in the

context of traditional or non-traditional security, was “alignment” during the period of

Tunku Abdul Rahman, “neutralism” during Tun Razak leadership and

“Islamism”during Abdullah Badawi’s leadership when the ex-Premier announced his

Islam Hadhari approach.

8
Saravanamuttu Johan. 2010. Malaysia Foreign Policy The First Fifty Years Alignment, Neutralism
and Islamism. Southeast Asia Studies: Singapore.

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For each approach, Malaysia, without doubt, had used different diplomacy in

order to safeguard its national survival. In this regard, particularly during Abdullah

Badawi’s tenure, the author extensively discussed Islamism in the national context

when the government was facing apparent denounce by the opposition parties. The

absence of explanation as to how Islamism policy relate to Malaysia’s foreign affairs

matters in protecting its national interest in the context of non-traditional security

provides an opportunity for this study to explore and evaluate the role of Islamism in

containing the emergence of extremist groups after the 9/11 incident. From here, the

study frequently used the Islamism policy which marked Abdullah Badawi’s era to

reflect continuity in foreign policy in curbing the spread of threat to Malaysia’s non-

traditional security.

Since the study touches on Malaysia’s participation in international politics in

Southeast Asia, in aiming to manage its national interest, various authors in a book

edited by Abdullah Razak Baginda in 2009 provides impetus to the study to explore

further on Malaysia’s efforts in overcoming various issues in the Southeast Asia

region.9 The main arguments contained in this book tend to point out that Malaysia

had been successful in overcoming various threats to the nation and the region such as

communism, terrorism, militant groups and piracy. For instance, during the

communist threat, Malaysia’s diplomacy, through the ASEAN process, tried to

neutralise the situation by making the region free from nuclear weapons which had

Abdullah Razak Baginda.(ed) 2009. Malaysia’s Defence & Security Since 1957. Malaysia Strategic
9

Research Centre.

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enabled Malaysia and the rest of the ASEAN member states to protect their

sovereignty and status quo.10

This background helps the study to understand the different situations faced by

Malaysia during the period from 1967 till the Mahathir era. By having such

information, it enables the study to clarify which approach had been taken by

Malaysia in ASEAN, as well as in the Southeast Asia region, to protect its national

interests. As had been observed, the threat had changed as occurred in the recent

times, where Malaysia under Mahathir had strongly combated extremist and militant

groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah and Moro Islamic Liberation Front

(MILF).11Realising the change of threat, the study explored the evolution of threat in

terms of scale and, at the same time, the approach taken by Malaysia during and after

the Mahathir era.

It would assist to distinguish Malaysia’s diplomacy by different perceptions of

threat with different leaders. By so doing, it would give clarification with regard to the

focus of Malaysia foreign relations since the formation of ASEAN. Yet, the threat to

Malaysia is not only from the terrorist groups, but it is more complex, especially

during this era of globalisation. Hence, the study has added another form of non-

traditional threat. More frequently Malaysia has been facing crucial issues such as

drug trafficking, energy crisis, primary commodities price problem, and intra-states

problems in Cambodia, Southern Thailand and the Philippines.

Malaysia is located in the heart of the Southeast Asia region and, logically, the

country pays special attention to regional security issues that may likely affect its

10
See, Nathan.K.S. Malaysia Foreign Policy: Evolution of Strategic Interest in a Changing Domestic,
Regional and Global Context. Abdullah Razak Baginda (ed). 2009. Malaysia’s Defence & Security
Since 1957. Malaysia Strategic Research.pp,73
11
Jatswan S.Sidhu. Malaysia Defence and Security since 1957: An Overview. Abdullah Razak Baginda
(ed). 2009. Malaysia’s Defence & Security Since 1957. Malaysia Strategic Research Centre.pp, 14-19

16
security identity- stability and moderate society. Malaysia’s stability depends much

on the stability and peace in the Southeast Asia region. Thus, Malaysia’s concern is

focused on regional security issues such as disasters, human trafficking, drug

trafficking, illegal arms trafficking, maritime piracy, energy crisis and minor conflicts

which it needs to overcome in order to protect Malaysia’s survival.

Therefore, ASEAN apparently seem to have determined Malaysia foreign policies for

the century. As we have seen, as argued by Ranjit Singh, after a decade, after facing

numerous threats from various aspects Malaysia’s foreign policy direction had

changed and tended to focus on ASEAN as the cornerstone that determined the

success of Malaysia’s foreign policy in terms of traditional security aspect.12The study

has added Ranjit Singh’s idea to see whether or not ASEAN still remains as the focal

concern of Malaysia foreign policy in curbing non-traditional security threats.

Another study that probably had helped to develop a new idea in terms of

Malaysia’s recent national interest was the work done by Patricia A. Martinez in

2005.13Her study explained and explored the crucial policy adopted by Abdullah

Badawi, i.e. Islam Hadhari or Progressive Islam, aimed at eliminating poverty, and his

openness policy. The basic argument made by the author was that these policies had

to his political victory, especially in the 2004 General Election where the governing

political party, Barisan Nasional (BN), obtained a great victory. However, eliminating

poverty and putting Malaysia in the right track to uphold Muslim rights and condition,

was not just a domestic effort, but in order to make it successful, Malaysia’s

participation at the regional level in all aspects was also necessary. Hence, Patricia’s

12
Ranjit Singh. Malaysia and Regional Security. Abdullah Razak Baginda (ed). 2009. Malaysia’s
Defence & Security Since 1957. Malaysia Strategic Research Centre.pp, 79
13
Patricia A. Martinez. Malaysia in 2004: Abdullah Badawi Defines His Leadership. Southeast Asian
Affairs, 2005.

17
works help the study to look at the Islam Hadhari approach from the external point of

view in the context of its effectiveness and significant achievement. For the first time

in Malaysia’s political landscape, a new scenario had emerged during Abdullah’s

leadership, in that was greater freedom in terms of the media, parliament and

opposition party behaviour.

This situation had shaped the demands of Malaysia’s society. Safety and social

political rights, as well as economic rights, had increased. Thus, in this regards,

Abdullah’s tenure of leadership was faced with non-traditional security issues, which

were, generally, driven by the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) issue,

poverty and extremist groups which became a focal concern for Malaysia’s society

eventually determined the Abdullah leadership’s direction. As the author did not

explore this issue, this study has attempted to explore Malaysia’s national interest

during Abdullah’s era vis-a-vis the country’s participation in ASEAN and Southeast

Asia region in the effort to solve and manage non-traditional security issues while

grappling with national and regional challenges.

With regards to Najib’s era, academic works in 2011 by Khadijah Md.Khalid in

her article, “Malaysia Foreign Policy under Najib”14, she had effectively discussed

and evaluated the differences and similarities between Najib and Mahathir on their

diplomatic approaches to Malaysia’s foreign policy. She had carefully distinguished

Najib’s current foreign policy from that during the Mahathir era based on personality

background and ideology. According to Khadijah, Mahathir’s approach to Malaysia’s

foreign policy was influenced more by his educational and historical backgrounds,

whereas Najib conservative personality background affected his political behaviour

14
Khadijah Md. Khalid. Malaysia Foreign Policy under Najib. Asian Survey, Vol.51, No.3( May-
June/2011)pp. 429-452

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domestically and internationally.15Najib’s conservative personality refers to him as

son of Abdul Razak, the Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, during whose time there

had been the struggle to protected Malaysia’s survival in terms of the needs for

infrastructure development and enhancement of economic prosperity.

Najib declared the national motto “1Malaysia” and “People First, Performance”. Now

which have become sort of a mantra and sources for his administration to adhere to

either as a public policy or foreign policy. Khadijah summed up that Najib’s foreign

policy was more economic-oriented than that of his immediate predecessor, Abdullah

Ahmad Badawi.16The author, Khadijah, has provided an important point for this

study, i.e. increasing economic development to meet national ambitions, “People

First, Performance Now”. Here, attempts to explore in detail the relationship between

domestic and external implications of “1Malaysia”.

15
Ibid.,pp,433
16
Ibid.,pp,440

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CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.1 Data Collection Methods

As this study deals with exploring a nation’s foreign policy which consists of

many concepts and interpretations, the Berg’s qualitative approach17 has been adopted

for the collection of data and information. In this regard, the data and information for

this study have been collected or gathered through observation and survey.

3.1.1 Observation

Basically, the study observation focused on Malaysia regional diplomacy from

early ASEAN formation to 2013. The aim was to evaluate Malaysia security concern,

roles and effort in ASEAN in order to solve the threat. However, not all issues are

touched on this observation. Hence selective issues may be made. It depends on issues

17
Berg. Bruce L. 2004. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Science. Pearson Education. pp,
15-16.

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such as non-traditional security issues, human security diplomacy, Ministerial

Meeting that Malaysia involved and bilateral cooperation among ASEAN member

states in areas of security, counter-terrorism, energy and environmental. Meanwhile,

observation at national also could be made. It tended to look through the roles of

society, they needs, political leaders ambitions and national policy that related to the

non-traditional security issues. By so doing, it would help to understand the Malaysia

national interest with different Prime Minister. By understood the national interest, it

assists to look at diplomacy approach and its principals that has been made by

Malaysia policy makers. In sum, observation devoted to gain findings on Malaysia

national interest, diplomacy approach and priorities of foreign policy. To put in the

track, the observation provided two crucial sources; primary and secondary sources.

a)Primary Sources

In this study, data and information were collected from primary sources which include

speeches made by political leaders, Malaysia ambassadors and documents such as

Malaysia Foreign Affairs Journals, books written by former Malaysia ambassadors

such as Number One Wisma Putra, ASEAN documents and also government reports

on particular events or meetings.

(b) Secondary Sources

Data and information were also collected from secondary sources. For this

study, secondary sources refers to mainstream newspapers, government or public

reports, news magazines, articles in journals, newsletters, other documents, and

books. The data and information referred to were those which were useful to support

the arguments made in discussing the findings of the study.

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3.1.2 Survey Methods

In order to ensure correct interpretation, data and information, as well as

comments, speeches or arguments made by policy- makers or politicians must be

compatible with Malaysia’s or ASEAN’s actions, decisions, national policies and

outcomes. Where the arguments are in opposition to policy makers’ or politicians’

statements, the result obtained from the survey were examined through rationalisation

and context. This was because the continuity, similarities, and reasonable facts are

crucial elements in the interpretation process and are important in avoiding biasness.

In this approach, a structured survey has been used. The questionnaire, however,

differed from one respondent to another based on their background. The respondents

were contacted through mail, telephone and personal interview. So far, survey has

been done. Most of survey provided only a few questions to avoid respondent

unwilling to answer. For instance, survey to respondent from Malaysia Permanent

Resident to ASEAN and Secretary of Malaysia Permanent Resident in ASEAN

constructed in two questions with same questions in order to comparing they

arguments in the same issues. By so doing, enable to get credibility of findings.

Contrary, questionnaire more related to testable process of study hypothesis by asking

on opinion and comments to experts and former Malaysia ambassadors.

3.2 Data Analysis Techniques

Since the study tended to understand ASEAN roles in Malaysia foreign policy

after Mahathir Mohamad era, the study techniques comprises historical approach,

22
political comparison, and analysis ASEAN roles. In historical approach will going to

elaborate Malaysia participation in ASEAN, the major threat faces by Malaysia and

its effort. From this, the data will compare Malaysia political leader attitude, foreign

policy goals and strategy and the evolution of national interest. In fact, the study will

evaluate the sources of threat in different era. In this regards, ASEAN could be

analysis whether or not ASEAN still become cornerstone of Malaysia foreign policy

strategy. In that sense, the study used case studies, descriptive approach and analysis

content.

3.2.1 Case Studies

This study comprises of three case studies.

 The first was the case study on the crucial concern of Malaysia on non-

traditional security issues relating to five areas, namely energy crisis,

environmental matters, human rights dogma, transnational crimes, and

extremist groups. These aspects were studied considering that Malaysia

had strongly focused on the potential threats arising from these areas due

to increasing complexity of security aspect which could be harmful to

the nation.

 The second case study involved evaluating Malaysia’s national policies,

the substance of its foreign policy, Malaysia’s actions in regional fora, as

23
well as the achievements made and the outcomes of these policies and

actions.

 The third case study was on the role of ASEAN, as a regional

organization, as the strategic platform for Malaysia in bringing its

national interest into regional the sphere.

3.2.2 Descriptive Approach

The results or the findings of the case studies were described as extensively as

possible which include historical perspective of each issues, especially when

distinguishing the different interest of Malaysia by different leaders at different times.

These descriptions were done based on careful interpretation of information and data

from valid documents and commonly known facts pertaining to a particular scenario

or security issues faced by Malaysia, including those involving ASEAN.

3.2.3 Content Analysis

Since the study focuses on primary resources, content analysis is necessary

which encompassed examination and interpretation processes based on

rationalisation, strategic thinking and context. In other words, to reduce bias during

24
examination, it was ensured that coherence and continuity from one fact to another

prevail in order to support one argument for each finding.

CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS OF STUDY

4.1 Introduction

Southeast Asian region was the forefront of Malaysian security outlook.

Southeast Asia can was once regarded as Malaysia’s “14th state”. Thus, any potential

threat or economic opportunity in Southeast Asia automatically affects Malaysia’s

foreign policy in terms of ASEAN regional cooperation. This indicates the

significance of ASEAN towards Malaysia in terms of policy implementation in order

to fortify the country’s position domestically. However, after Mahathir’s era, ASEAN

no longer became a cornerstone of Malaysian foreign policy, but rather with limited

role due to the changes of threats, the lack of ASEAN commitments and more of a

political elite orientation. To understand deeper on this matter, it is relevant to

25
describe Malaysia’s participation in the region since the founding of ASEAN in 1967

from a historical standpoint.

4.1.1 Malaysia’s role in Southeast Asia before Mahathir’s Era

In the context of security matters, Malaysia played a crucial role in developing

“securitization” in Southeast Asia through addressing the main threat. During that

time, the states’ perception towards each other dominated traditional threat. The real

danger faced by ASEAN members was an external form of threat. External threat

came from super power rivalry to consolidate their power in the region. The threat of

the Cold War era was that it developed animosity among ASEAN members which

sought to protect their sovereignty and independence.18

Southeast Asia had three superpowers hovering over it, especially after the

United States of America (USA) normalised its relation with China in 1972 that

subsequently brought China, USA and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as

the superpowers had their influence in the region. ASEAN tried to avoid being seen as

partisan to any one of them. In this context, Malaysia played an important role since it

was aware of the potential instability in the region politically, economically and

socially. The first step taken by Malaysia was its proposal of a neutralisation policy in

the region in 1974. Neutralisation policy has sought to reduce China’s influence 19 in

the region due to the political implication in the Indo-China crisis that affected

neighbouring countries in particular Malaysia’s national identity survival and

18
Ahmad Moktar Selat. New Directions in Malaysia Foreign Policy: From Tunku to Abdullah Badawi.
In Ruhanas Harun (ed). 2006. Malaysia’s Foreign Relations Issues and Challenges. University of
Malaya Press. Pp,14-17
19
Acharya, Amitav. 2001. Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the
Problem of the Regional Order. Routledge Francis& Taylor.pp,54

26
population imbalances were related to human security. This concern began since

Vietnam was divided into two different political ideologies which increased the

potential to invade Thailand, and then Malaysia.

In this case, the possibility of provocative states behaviour to overthrow

national government through weakening of the social institutions, such as attacking

solidarity of societies and by spreading the ideas of communism, was possible. In fact,

Malaysia, at domestic level, was still facing communism insurgencies would enable

them to manipulate the Chinese in the urban areas by guarantee they rights and

economy property. According to Mohamad Ghazalie Shafie in 1975, “external

support for internal insurgencies or for government combating insurgencies, have the

effect of raising the level of violence and complicating both conflict management and

peaceful resolution”.20

In order to realise the policy, Malaysia started to spread the idea of

normalisation to curb China’s influence amongst all ASEAN member states. The first

action was towards Indonesia, which disagreed with normalization policy with China

due to its relationship with the USSR, which is an ideological rivalry with China.21

However, after considering the importance of regional stability, Malaysia successful

in influencing Indonesia to normalize with China and give way for the declarations of

Zone of Peace Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) (1971) and Southeast Asian

Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (SEANWFZ) (1995) and easily achieve their goals. Both

of these regional policies were made by Malaysia alone. By having common

consensus, it forced Big Powers to respect and guarantee the Southeast Asia region

safe from power fragmentation. Hence, Malaysia’s neutralization policy avoided

20
Mohamad Ghazalie Shafie. The Neutralisation of Southeast Asia. Pacific Community.(October 1971)
21
Naurine Shaun. ASEAN and the Management of Regional Security. Pacific Affairs, Vol.71, No.
2(1998)pp, 195-214

27
ASEAN member states from being divided into two blocs - one side being proponents

and allowing big powers to assist existing regimes whilst the other side strongly

fighting to retain their independence and sovereignty.

Therefore, Malaysia used ASEAN to promote internal collective security in the

region. By implementing the neutralization policy, it would be able to prevent intra-

mural states aggression through equal distribution of power rather than dominated by

one country which may be supported by an external power. Such a step is important

since Malaysia had been concerned with economic development for its citizens after

adopting the New Economic Policy, or “Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB)”, which was to

increase capital capability of the Malays that required government spending to focus

on the economic and social development rather than enhancing military spending and

it’ capacity.22 As pointed out by Michael Leifer with regards to neutralization policy,

viz: “threat might be contained, managed and even eliminated, subsequently national

governments would be able to achieve the goal of economic development”.23

From the social point of view, the communist victory in North Vietnam and

Vietnam incursion on Cambodia had the possibility to spill over to Malaysia which is

geographically near to Malaysia’s borders. Meanwhile, Malaysia, as a country with

predominant Muslim community was afraid that the ideas of communism would

cause turmoil in the country as for Muslims and other religions were against the ideas

of Communism. This was proven when Malaysia placed Islam as the fifth principle on

its foreign policy which reflected an effort to maintain Malaysia Muslim’s identity. In

fact, there was a move of the UMNO/government towards a more Muslim character

22
Ahmad Moktar Selat.,Op.cit,pp,19
Leifer Michael. ASEAN’S Search For Regional Order. In Seng Tan See (ed). 2009. Regionalism in
23

Asia: Critical Issues in Modern Politics. Routledge Francis & Taylor.pp, 137

28
after the May 1969 race riot.24 Partly because, to attracted supports from Malay-

Muslims as majority group since 1969 General Election won by opposition party.

Therefore, the protection of Islam from Communist ideology propaganda also meant

maintaining the power of the regime.

In the context of population imbalances, communist threat has produced a social

issue. Low intensity conflicts occurring in the Indo-China crisis had increased

migration of people to the northern parts of Peninsular Malaysia close to Southern

Thailand and Cambodia, especially to the States of Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu.

It began when South Vietnam was attacked by North Vietnam. As a result, many

South Vietnamese migrated to Malaysia illegally.25 The problem was that most of the

immigrants were Chinese race which actually contributed an increase of Malaysia’s

Chinese population, especially in the above mentioned states which were dominated

by the Malays.26

The migration of Chinese from outside has undermined the Malay domination

and, therefore, threatened their rights as the native society. Politically, the National

Front or Barisan Nasional (BN) since under Tun Hussein Onn, the third Prime

Minister managed to obtain landslide victories in Kelantan and Terengganu in 1978.

In order to maintain power over those states, it was necessary for the national front to

protect Malays rights and privileges by maintaining Malays race domination. In 1980,

Tun Hussein Onn and Indonesia reached an agreement known as Kuantan

Declaration, which aimed to remove North Vietnam domination over Cambodia and

24
Nair Shanti. 1997. Islam in Malaysia Foreign Policy. Roultedge Francis& Taylor.pp, 60-61
25
Johan Saravanamuttu. 2010. Malaysia Foreign Policy the First Fifty Years. Institute of Southeast
Asian Studies: Singapore.pp, 174-175
26
Danny Wong Tze-Ken. 1995. Vietnam-Malaysia Relation During the Cold War, 1945-1990.
University of Malaya Press.pp,126-127

29
also to have legitimate action to send back migrants to their home countries.27

Regarding the Indo-China crisis, Tun Hussein Onn proposed an ASEAN agreement,

namely the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 1976 as guidance for

ASEAN member states in solving problems, disputes, and crisis through negotiation

and consultations to promote stability and peace in the region.28

Based on that, Malaysia had placed its faith on ASEAN in order to create a

conducive environment in the region that would benefit Malaysia’s security. The

success of the neutralization policy had led Malaysia to be the first Southeast Asian

nation to forge diplomatic relation with China in 1974 and, subsequently, this was

followed by the rest of ASEAN member states. It can be argued that, during that time,

Malaysia’s concern was on avoided potential provocative war among ASEAN

member states which might be damaging to Malaysia’s political survival. In this case,

Malaysia was the fellow of the Communist to secure Malaysia at home.

4.1.2 Mahathir’s Era

The absence of communist threat after the collapse of the USSR and also the

formation of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1994 changed the political landscape

of Malaysia and ASEAN. Malaysia’s security situation was not directly threatened by

regime power as before, but rather the social and economic aspects. The main danger

to Malaysia’s human security was basically the unequal relationship between

developed and underdeveloped countries. This relationship produced unequal result,

especially to developing countries which were characterized by primary economic

activities, economic dependent on developed countries, weak economic infrastructure,

and incompetent labor. By having this background, Third World countries faced

27
Ibid.,pp,181
28
Halisah Ashari. Diplomacy and Foreign Relation.>www.parlimen.gov.my/articel. 15 Mei 2013

30
difficulties to compete in the economy market. This weakness constituted human

insecurity in terms of poverty, standard of living and low wage which became a focal

issue at the national level.

For example, in Malaysia, Asian financial crisis which occurred in 1997

reflected the vulnerability of the region’s economy. Attacking the Ringgit Malaysia

(RM) by devaluating it had undermined local market liquidity and economic

activities. During that time, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) incentives in the hotel,

tourism, and agriculture sectors had declined due to the concern of protecting the

RM.29 Almost every part of life including small traders until house hold incomes were

badly affected. Wage was lowered and access of education was relatively low. The

absence of incentive in social spending due to government cut off in order to focus on

economic recovery has delivered unemployment in strategic sector, especially

manufacturing sector.30. Clearly, globalization was the main source of the emergence

of non-traditional issues during Mahathir Mohamad’s era. Indeed, globalization has

resulted in eroding security effect on national resilience. To overcome worst

conditions, Malaysia under Mahathir solved the crisis through changes in ASEAN

economy partnership direction towards China. “We need to embrace China”.31

According to Mahathir Mohamad, ASEAN countries had played economy

cooperation with unequal field and therefore the result is inevitable. ASEAN need to

change its economic partnership. China was one of the good alternatives. Why China?

Why in Southeast Asia?

29
Mohamed Ariff and Syarisa Yanti Abu Bakar. The Malaysia Financial Crisis: Economy Impact and
Recovery Prospects. The Developing Economies,Vol.XXXVII, No.4(1999)pp417-438
30
Ishak Shari. Financial Crisis and its Social Impact in Malaysia. In, Hill Hall and Peng-Chu Yun (ed).
2001. The Social Impact of the Financial Asian Crisis. Edward Elgar Publishing. Pp, 96-99
31
“The White Paper on Relations with Asia is an Opportunity for the
Future”.>www.adelaidenow.com.au< 23/2/2013

31
China provided potential success. It could integrate Malaysia into the world

economy systems which would ensure its economy interest that promises equal

benefit and promising market opportunity.32This also means Malaysia acknowledges,

how regional economy relations with China, would play a role in enhancing national

economic prosperity. In order to overcome the social situation, Malaysia with not

much option left, increased local company capital capability and stipulated economy

activities. Hence, China is important in terms of FDI to invest in Malaysia economy

sector. Malaysian immigration authorities altered the multiple exit permits to allow

businessmen a longer stay in China. At the same time, Malaysia proposed to ASEAN

to have strong partnership with European Union which results to ASEAN-EU

Meeting (ASEM). The Malaysian government also loosened its control by not

insisting that business delegations to China require officials from the Ministry of

Interior to accompany them.33 Providing good environment to Chinese investors is

necessary to enhance business opportunities in Malaysia and therefore increase

economical activities. Malaysia’s refusal of assistance from International Monetary

Fund (IMF) made way for a consistent promising economy trend after 1998. The

abandoned policies refused by Malaysia to assistance had been promising the

consistence of economy trend after 1998.

Meanwhile, Malaysia foreign policy strategy to economy market expansion

depends on ASEAN countries since Malaysia promoting “South-South Cooperation”

to maintain trade equality. The idea trade equality suggested that regional economy

32
Dhillon, Karminder Singh.2009. Malaysia Foreign Policy in the Mahathir era 1981-2003: Dilemmas
of Development. National University of Singapore Press: Singapore.pp 155
33
Kim Shee Poo. The Political Economy of Mahathir’s China Policy: Economic Cooperation, Political
and Strategic Ambivalence. Ritsumeikan Annual Review of International Studies, Vol,3.( 2004)pp,59-
79

32
stability influences national economy prosperity.34 Malaysian economy heavily

depends on trade. Therefore, Malaysia proposed this idea in Southeast Asia to

enhance economy stability in terms of goods and services within ASEAN market.

Such strategy also could reduce illegal migration from Malaysia’s neighbouring

countries and also recover national economy resilience among ASEAN members.

However, most of ASEAN member states still depending on relationship towards

West power that might harm Southeast Asian economy and Malaysia in particular. By

this concern, Malaysia’s effort has led ASEAN to create ASEAN +three and East

Asian Summit which served as strategic platform to Malaysia and ASEAN member

states to gain trade surplus, enhance economy capability and maintain regional

resilience. Malaysia’s regional effort through ASEAN, served as a complementary

policy to Malaysian domestic policy to recover from Financial Crisis in Asia.

Domestically, most businessmen were stuck by the slowdown of economy activities

that increased lay off from 2.8 percent in 1997 to 5.0 percent in 1998.35 As a result, as

reported by United Nations Development Program (UNDP), human costs of the crisis

include continued social stress, fragmentation, domestic crime, streets crime and

suicide have been increased in Malaysia.36

Another impact of globalization is that the increase in maritime piracy.

According to International Maritime Bureau, in the second half of 1998, piratical

activities had increased due to the economic crisis in 1997/1998. Subsequently piracy

as well as armed robbery against ships had increases. The Straits of Malacca and the

34
For instance, Malaysia goods and services trade more depends in Southeast Asia market. When Thai
Baht attacked by devaluation, Malaysia RM automatically affected. See, Wee Victor. “Responding to
the Economic Crisis in Malaysia.” Paper Presenting in OECD symposium on the Structural Aspects in
the East Asian Crisis. Paris, 16-17 September 2007.pp, 2
35
Verma NMP. 2012. Recession and Its Aftermath in United States, Australia and the Emerging Asia.
Springberg: India.pp,xvii
36
Jin Zumkher Hye and Andriesse Edo. Malaysia and South Korea: A Decade After Asian Financial
Crisis. Chulalongkorn Journal of Economic, Vol.20, No.1(2008),pp1-26

33
Sulu region was the most pirate-prone waters in the Southeast Asia region.37

Previously in the 1992, Malaysia has signed memorandum bilaterally with littoral

states such as Indonesia and Singapore to coordinate operations and sharing

information. However, it failed due to the meddling by big powers to provide

technical assistance. Therefore, sensitivities over national sovereignty and mutual

distrust hampered effective cooperation.38 This situation influenced Malaysia’s

foreign policy strategy to tackle the roots of maritime piracy-economic weakness.

Since economic interest was the mutual concern of ASEAN countries, effective

economic cooperation that could restrain piracy activities in the region would lead to

a prosperous region.

In short, ASEAN provides an opportunity to increases national and regional

resilience. By having economic cooperation with China, Japan and South Korea

through ASEAN would promise a win-win situation. Hence, ASEAN ranks as the first

priority in view of its influential role and direct impact on national and regional

security for Malaysia.39Based on Malaysian foreign relations strategy and goals till

Mahathir era, Rajmah Hussain argued that, Malaysia has placed its faith in ASEAN

organization in order to survive. In that sense ASEAN is cornerstone of Malaysia’s

foreign policy goals and strategy.40

37
Eklof Amirell Stefan. Maritime Piracy and Raiding In Southeast Asia: Local and Global
Perspectives. In Chong Terence (ed). 2008. Globalization and its Counter-Forces in Southeast Asia.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies: Singapore.pp,217
38
Ibid.,pp217-218
39
Nathan K.S. Malaysia Foreign Policy: Evolution of Strategic Interest in a Changing Domestic,
Regional and Global Context. In Abdullah Razak Baginda (ed). 2009. Malaysia’s Defence & Security
Since 1957. Malaysia Strategic Research Centre.pp, 70.
40
Rajmah Hussain. 2010. Second Editions. Malaysia at the United Nations a Study of Foreign Policy
Priorities, 1957-1987. University of Malaya Press.pp,44-45

34
4.1.3 Malaysia in Southeast Asia after Mahathir’s Era: The Emergence of

Security Complex

There is two important points in regards of non-traditional security issues after

Mahathir’s era. The first aspect, the sources of security threat has changed. After the

collapse of Communist threat in the region, Malaysia’s non-traditional security was

more dominant in informal threat, was forced or created by non-state actors. As

mention by Ruhanas Harun, the post-Cold War era highlighted the concern of non-

traditional threat to national security.41 Usually, those threats have a higher

interconnectedness in terms of implications. Previously, Malaysia faced threat from

states behavior in the region or globally. Currently, Malaysia no longer confronts

situations like that, however is threatened by people, extremist groups, global

warming, and transnational crimes. Threats like these, out from government control.

In sum, the source of threat was not only caused by globalization, but also multiethnic

society, history and socio-cultures.

Secondly, new principle diplomacy and foreign policy strategy emerged. The

evolution of security influences Malaysian foreign policy strategy. Since Tun Abdul

Razak till Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, Malaysia’s diplomacy or foreign

policy strategy developed through conservative terms. It refers to post-colonial

ideology that encompasses political emotions, national identity, protected

independent, sovereignty and religious or ethnic nationalism. In contrast, after

Mahathir Mohamad, foreign policy strategy and diplomacy principles constructed by

innovations involved Islamism and moderate. In this case, Malaysia is addressing one

policy, non-traditional security by separate policy and mechanism and not “one policy

Ruhanas Harun. The Evolution and Development of Malaysia’s National Interest. In Abdullah Razak
41

Baginda (ed). 2009. Malaysia’s Defence & Security Since 1957. Malaysia Strategic Research Centre.
Pp, 55

35
to all” as Malaysia did during communism threat before. The question which arises

now would be is why there was a change in approach?

It changed because of two reasons. First reason was the nature of threat. Before

and during Mahathir’s era, there were only communist threat and big power rivalry to

facilitate their power in the region. State as the rational actor attempted to prevent

communist threat. The aim was clear, to protect national identity and stability. To

reach that level, Malaysia used ASEAN to led multilateral security and created regime

security such as code of conduct, treaty of amity, neutralizations policy and so forth.

However, after Mahathir Mohamad’s era, state is not a prominent source of threat.

Indeed, in the current situation, sources of threat came from globalization, non-states

actors, emerging superior society, history and multiethnic society. To deal with such

sources, one policy couldn’t afford to address all threat due the different causes,

implications and characters. Therefore, foreign policy strategy approach has been

renewed.

The second reason was the role of leadership attitude. Tun Abdul Razak, Tun

Hussein Onn and Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership skills were influenced by

conservative norms since Malaysia was a newly independent country, the leaders

intensively focused on protected sovereignty, national reputation, national identity,

ethnic nationalism and regime survival. It created political emotions. These characters

were responsible to determine Malaysia’s policy strategy. To protect the DEB spirit,

Tun Abdul Razak declared economic nationalism in order to avoid Transnational

Cooperation (TNC) to monopolize Malaysia’s economical resources. Mahathir’s

education background constituted his attitude and ideas. 42As a medical doctor, his

42
Wain Barry. 2009. Malaysian Maverick Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times. Palgrave
Macmillan.pp,22-24

36
approach was based on “prevent a disease to save the important organ method”. In

short, he solved the threat based on ‘a doctor point of view’. Mahathir’s personality

influenced his policies in order to reduce unequal relations between First and Third

World countries cooperation.

Unlike his predecessors, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Tun Abdul Razak

provide a new attitude. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in 30th ASEAN Ministerial

Meeting, “I sincerely believe it does not harm our cause if we seek to renew and

indeed reinvigorate that kindred spirit of close collaboration”.43 This reflected souring

globalization in the era of informal threat, innovation approach on foreign policy

strategies were the answers.

4.1.4 Informal Threat

As mention earlier, the informal threat is driven by non-states actors. In this

regard, Malaysia officially listed five non-traditional security issues. It referred to the

energy crisis, environmental issues, human rights, transnational crime and extremist

group.44

a)Environmental Issue

Strongly enough, these issues became government concerns during Abdullah

Ahmad Badawi and Najib Tun Abdul Razak period. Nonetheless, these issues

emerged during Mahathir’s era, but environmental issue has been known as First

43
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, “30th Ministerial Meeting”, Kuala Lumpur.
44
Most of the features given is basically based on what Malaysia Foreign Affair Ministry pointed out
in its website. See www.kln.gov.my/web/quest/md-overview> 18 December 2012.

37
World countries political strategy towards developing states.45 Malaysia as speaker of

the Third World countries against First World roles and demanded that the Third

world countries should be reducing environmental problem by reducing the carbon

spread and therefore industrial policy in the Third countries need to be more

environmental oriented than economy oriented.46 However, those issues were ignored

by Mahathir’s administration. For Malaysia it was a privilege as a developing country

to have its own industrial policy towards economy development that eventually

became necessary to Malaysia due the 2020 aspiration. The 2020 dream was to

achieve a develop nation state in or before the year 2020. Thus environmental issues

were not a focal concern to Mahathir but rather in the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

administration. In this level, issue regarding environmental aspects especially on haze

pollution, global warming and sustainable development were addressed. Addressed

those issues likely important due to the society awareness had increased. The

emergence of “superior society” during Abdullah Badawi forced him to tackle threat

effectively.47 They become the third force within the development of Malaysian

policy. For Malaysia, the rise in temperature due to trapped carbon dioxide and green-

house gases affected the lives of people that included potable water, health, food, and

the well-being of the environment.48 The dilemma was, while Malaysia strongly

pursued environmental protection at home, sustainable development effort poorly at

regional level. Malaysia as pointed out by Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysia Foreign

Minister during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s time, “a stable environment in East Asia

45
Bryant Raymond L. 1997. Third World Political Ecology. Routledge Francis&Taylor.pp, 58-58
46
Malaysia suggested that rich countries should pay for poor countries in order to prevent cut tress for
development, but their contribution is not forthcoming. See, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi speech at the
opening XXIST World Road Congress, PWTC, Kuala Lumpur, 3 Oktober 1999.
47
“Work with Me, Not for Me” indicated the liberalization policy under him. see, Pandian
Sivamurugan, Rusdi Omar, and Mohd Azzizudin Mohd Sani. “Work with Me, Not for Me: Malaysia
under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Asian Culture and History, Vol.2, No.1( 2003-09)pp,97-107
48
Environmental issue>www.kln.gov.my< 15 February 2013

38
is essential, especially for Malaysia, which is situated in the centre of Southeast Asia

and shares borders with most of its ASEAN neighbours”.49

Another aspect is that Malaysia is extremely threatened by those threats while

globalization era stimulated consumer demands on various products which required

exploitation on raw materials and enhance industrial activities that may hamper

environmental aspect. Therefore Malaysia was seeking to overcome those issues with

constructive engagement with ASEAN member states as supplementary effort to the

national policy. Malaysia, therefore, started to adopted environmental diplomacy

towards Southeast Asia countries.

b) Energy Crisis

Malaysia is rich on raw materials such as oil, hydro, natural gas and coal.

Malaysia’s pursue status as industrial economy was brought energy issue as important

aspect. Energy resources related to the economy development, infrastructure facilities

and human needs. In this case, Malaysia intents to protect its interest in regard of

human security, global energy supply and demands.50 More precisely, since middle

class emerged in 1990, government seek to have great sound economy to meet their

interest in order to maintain middle class support.51 The increase in demand for

energy from 13,000 megawatts in 2003 to 20,000 in 2010 forced government to


49
Syed Hamid Albar. 2005. Selected Foreing Policy Speeches. Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign
Relations Press. Pp,57-58
50
Human and Energy security.>www.kln.gov.my< 15 February 2013
51
Singh Hari. Malaysia National Security: Rhetoric and Substance. Contemporary Southeast Asia,
Vol.26, No.1(2004)pp, 1-25

39
explore more on those particular resources.52 Yet, the main energy resource is non-

renewable energy and therefore it became a crisis. The potential threat posed over on

food industry, economy development, environmental degradation, peoples’ standard

of living and health. To this juncture, Malaysia as one of the raw material producers,

tend to balance energy exploration between the needs of economic demands and the

human security concern.

(c) Human Rights

Human rights concern in Malaysia emerged due to external factor. The

international community strongly criticised Malaysia’s human rights condition where

ignored by government. Domestically, human rights issue started to be prominent

since the era Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, his openness elements in terms of

administration, society, and media took places. Therefore the NGO’s and civil society

became crucial force in terms of policy development. Human rights issues in

Malaysia consist social political rights. In this stage, political freedom, press freedom

inequality between races and gender issues were voiced by opposition parties.

Printing Press and Publication Act 1984, University and University Colleges

Act 1975, New Economy Policy (NEP), Police Act 1967, Internal Security Act which

resulted in limitation of political freedom, gender inequality and race fragmentation,

enhance in domestic violence, were opposed by the opposition. They claimed that, all

those acts reflected Malaysia, as a county which abuses human rights. For example, in

NEP, non-Malays claim they had been discriminated in terms of economy and

political rights. Contrary, Malays as majority group controlled economy sector with

52
Abdul Rahman Mohamed and Keat Teong Lee. Energy Policy for Sustainable in Malaysia. The Joint
International Conference on “ Sustainable Energy and Environment”, 1-3 December 2004, Hua Hin,
Thailand.

40
special treatment and have privileges entering higher education institutions.53 As a

result, non-Malays felt most victimized by the affirmative action policy. 54 Meanwhile,

the Internal Security Act and University Act brought the scope of freedom to

limitation and were said to deprive basic human rights to choose a political entity. All

of this input became government concern and transformed into policy. Externally,

human rights issues became a tool for the international community to condemn

ASEAN countries due to the weakness of freedom. In order to avoid meddling from

external power and impose sanctions, which happened to Myanmar and Vietnam,

Malaysia acknowledged that human rights issue is not only related to human well-

being, but more importantly plays a role as a deciding factor in a regime’s survival.

d) Transnational Crimes

Transnational crime is not originally a domestic issue, but rather a regional

problem. It involves illicit drug trafficking and human trafficking. In the context of

drug trafficking, Malaysia is located in the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Vietnam

and Laos are located, and they are famously known as world producers of heroin.55

Therefore, Malaysia has long been used by drug trafficking syndicates as a transit

country along the lucrative demands of lies.56 How a country like Malaysia can

develop human resources, if 45 per cent of its population below 25 years old are drug

addicts? There are many consequences of drug abuse. It is physical, leading to the

53
Wan.A.Manan. A Nation in Distress: Human Rights, Authoritarianism, and Asian Values in
Malaysia. Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, Vol. 14, No.2(1999)pp, 359-381
54
Hock Guan Lee. Affirmative Action in Malaysia. Southeast Asian Affairs, (2005),pp, 211-228
55
Dupont Alan. Transnational Crime, Drugs and Security in East Asia. Asian Survey, Vol. 39,
No.2(1999),pp. 433-455
56
Rajmah Hussain, Op.cit.pp, 248

41
deterioration of body and mind, as well was societal, leading to crime and family

problems. Moreover, it does not only harm the social institutions, but also weakens

the government’s image. It a nutshell, Malaysia is not only threatened regionally as a

transit country, but also to protect the future of a country.

In terms of human security, human trafficking is restricted the freedom of

choice. This issue is also related to the women and children’s rights as most of them

are vulnerable when it comes to smuggling. For Malaysia it is one of the largest

human rights challenges from 2004 till now. Trafficked women were exploited in

prostitution, pornography, bonded labour and sex tourism whereas for children, they

were trafficked for begging, organ trade and drug peddling.57 In 2004, according to

Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi ManusiaMalaysia (SUHAKAM), most who fell victim were

from Indonesia (983 cases), Thailand (137 cases) and Myanmar (22 cases).58

Meanwhile Filipinas, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and China contributed to the sex

industry in Malaysia.59 At the same time, they were also used as labours in the

construction sector, agriculture and as illegal maids.

To make matters worse, it also led to social problems such as street crime and

robbery. This increased black market in Malaysia that also stimulated the bold culture

or budaya kuning within the Malaysian society.60 Malaysia under Abdullah Ahmad

Badawi and Najib Tun Abdul Razak has sought to produce “first class-thinking”

found difficulties since the cultural crisis was worsening. The existence of criminal

and domestic violence committed by refuges and illegal immigrants may force

57
Trafficking in Women and Children in Malaysia, report of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia(
SUHAKAM), 2004.
58
Ibid.,pp.20
59
Diana Wong and Gusni Saat. Trafficking of Filipino Women to Malaysia: Examining the Experiences
and Perspectives of Victims, Government and NGO Experts: Executive Summary, United Nations
Global Program Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Vienna.
60
Ahmad Shah Pakeer Mohamed,et.al. The Phenomenon of Human Trafficking Activities in Southeast
Asia. International of Humanities and Social Science, Vol.1,No.13( 2011),pp, 168-177

42
investors to pull out from Malaysia thereby cause an economic downfall in the

future.61 In fact, it may create financial burden for government to recover social

impact. Therefore overcoming transnational crime is one‘s prominent commitments in

the region to avoid human insecurity.

(e) Extremist Groups

In this issue, extremist groups are divided into two terms. The first term refers

to militant groups. Militant group poses threats in context of Islam practise and ethnic

relationship. In this context, Malaysia became a save heaven for militant groups to

operate, coordinate, and recruit. Militant groups’ goal is to overthrow the current

government, create instability and use Islam as propaganda to verify their actions. Al-

Maunah, Jemaah Islamiah Malaysia (JIM) and Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia

(KMM) were popular example of this term. Their operations in Malaysia might be

stimulated Malays-Muslims society to participate in that kind of activities that might

enhance extremist group in Malaysia political landscape. The reason was Malaysia

Malay-Muslims society divided into two categories. One group supporting

government whilst the other in favour to Opposition party, who claimed to promote

Islamic state and prosperity. Since the JIM and KMM has link with Ulama in Parti

Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) in terms of political ambitions which struggle to combat

government injustice and promote Syariah Law or Islamic Law, it stimulated peoples

to support them.62 Hence the militant group activities may undermine Malaysia

society solidarity. Malaysia as multi-ethnic country where non-Malays are a minority

population, this might cause fear in the ethnic relationships. According to Kana

61
Mohd Na’eim Ajis,et.al. Managing Foreign Workers in Southeast Asia Countries. Journal of Asia
Pacific Studies, Vol.1, No.3(2010),pp, 481-506
62
According to Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, PAS, JIM and KMM had special ties. See example in
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid. Politically Engaged Muslims in Malaysia in the Era of Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi. Asian Journal of Political Science, Vol.18, No.2(2010).pp, 154-176.

43
(2004), “as marginal minority, the Malaysian Christians community faces formidable

challenges in an increasingly Islam context.”63 In fact, they felt that Islamism policy

only benefited only one racial group, that is Muslim then the non-Muslim rights were

upon question.64 In other words, non-Muslim felt they had been marginalise and

feared the government.

The second group is known as guerrilla groups. This group operates at the

regional level. Mainly, guerrilla operations are inspired by separatism, violence and

ethnic nationalism agendas. They were also known as separatist and paramilitary

groups. Guerrilla activities pose direct threat to Malaysia’s sovereignty, border

integrity, and peace. Malaysia’s sovereignty and credibility has been tested in various

occasion. In Southern Thailand, battles between Pattani United Liberation

Organization (PULO) group and government armed forces threaten Muslim society in

Kelantan, Northern Malaysia. Similarly, Philippines guerrilla groups such as Abu

Sayaf Group and “soldiers of Sulu” are still active in piracy activities, entering

Malaysia illegally, and involved directly in smuggling, human trafficking, illicit arms

transfers, drugs trafficking, armed robbery and intrusion activities.65 Indonesia’s

guerrilla groups also contributed to Malaysia’s insecurity. Jemaah Islamiah as a pan

regional guerrilla group in the regions has networking with KMM and JIM in terms of

financial and missions. The spill over effect and Sulu armed forces threat is the

primary concern of Malaysia. This activity has provoked fear amongst people who

live in East Malaysia. On this regard, Malaysia had been deal with non-states actors

were has opposite interest with government as a rational actor.

63
Kana Maria Perpetua.2004. Christian Mission in Malaysia: Past Emphasis, Present Engagement, and
Future Possibilities. Australia Catholic University: Virginia.pp, 103
64
Ibid.,pp 64.
65
Verma Vidhu. 2002. Malaysia State and Civil Society in Transition. Lynne Rienner: London. pp, 91

44
While government strongly against them activities, extremist groups will

protect they own business in order to survive.66 The clash of interest made extremist

groups threat a more complex and difficult to resolve. Having that background, the

extremist group and transnational crimes were prominent concern than other issues in

Malaysia. To deal with such crisis, Malaysia under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,

emphasis on Islam Hadhari in order to promote Malaysia human security and

enhanced national stability. Clearly, Islam Hadhari is an approach that emphasises

development through consistent the tenets of Islam and focuses on enhancing the

quality of life with basic goals: improve the socio-economic Muslim ummah through

generate economic growth and overcome racial polarisation.67

4.2 Islam Hadhari Approach in Malaysia Foreign Policy Goals and Strategy:

Informal Threat as the Case Study

Foreign policy goals and strategies were constructs based on national and

regional issues. Malaysia under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi mostly faced three

prominent issues in international relations and national politics. The first was the 9/11

episode. This tragedy increased the number of extremist groups in national and

regional level. Malaysia was not spared as well. Jemaah Islamiah, Al-Maunah and

Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) were few of militant groups which had the

intention to topple government regime and ethnic relationship through political

instability and spread the idea of Jihad or spiritual struggle. For Malaysia, the huge

66
Kissinger Henry. 2001. Does America Need a Foreign Policy? Toward Diplomacy in 21 st century.
Simon and Schuster.pp, 12-15
67
Khadijah Md. Khalid. Voting for Change? Islam and Personalised Politics in the 2004 General
Elections. In Terence Gomez Edmund (ed). 2007. Politics in Malaysia: The Malay Dimension.
Routledge Francis & Taylor.pp, 145

45
concern was guerrilla groups due to the sovereignty, Islam image and boundaries

integrity in the Eastern Malaysia.

The second environment is about globalisation era. Globalisation means that it

increases the market demand thereby enhances economical activities to meet national

and international consumption that boost economy development. However, while

Malaysia pursuit economy demands, it encourages exploration activities over raw

material and develops more industrial companies that produced emission which

enhance global warming problems. Langkawi Declaration and Rio Summit in 1992

had ratified by Malaysia’s and therefore, his has environmental commitments. To

address those issues Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has adopted Islam Hadhari as tool of

development and progress.68

Thirdly, superior society emerged. This social scenario was new aspect in terms

of civil society. During Mahathir Mohamad’s era, civil society has been controlled by

the government. Most of their activities and rights were blocked through the national

law in various aspects. Instead, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi gave freedom back to the

people, but with responsibility. From that point, superior society emerged and

subsequently influenced government policy and power. The superior society has

played a vital role to constructed human security needs. It can be evaluated through

the nine principles of Islam Hadhari.

4.2.1 Islam Hadhari as a Tool of Malaysia Foreign Policy Strategy

68
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.2006. Islam Hadhari: A Model Approach for Development and Progress.
MPH Printing Sdn.Bhd: Kuala Lumpur.

46
Islam Hadhari is a concept which consist nine core principals. It comprises faith

and piety towards Allah, a just and trustworthy government, free and liberated people,

a rigorous pursuit and mastery of knowledge, balanced and comprehensive economic

development, good quality of life, protection of the rights of minority women and

children, cultural and moral integrity, safeguarding of environment and strong defence

capabilities. The most relevant principal that should be discussed in regards to human

security is safeguarding environment, human rights, free and independent people.69

He argued that those principals became an approach in development of mankind,

society and country.70 The priority is to uphold human security conditions. Islam

provided the strategy terms, such as progressive, just, tolerance, and against

aggression. The strategy had regulated Malaysian foreign policy approach and goals.

At this point, Islam is being presented as a generator of civilization and culture and

not merely as a source for religious inspiration.71 Based on that, Islam Hadhari as a

tool of Malaysia’s foreign policy strategy devoted to reimage Islam condition in the

region and international sphere, balances economy development and uphold human

rights. These elements confirm Malaysia’s foreign policy strategy emphasised on soft

power through pragmatic cooperation vis-a-vis external countries and not aggressive

approach as his tenure before.

4.2.2 Extremist Groups Threat as a Case Study

69
Ten Main Principles of Islam Hadhari. The Star, 7 August, 2006
70
Pak Lah: Islam hadhari not a new religion or order. The Star, 7 August, 2006.
71
Kee Beng Ooi. 2006. Era of Transition Malaysia After Mahathir. Institute of Southeast Asian
Studies: Singapore.pp,115

47
According to one scholar, Islam Hadhari can be said to be another effort to steer

Muslims’ mindset back on track.72 That is why in 2006, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

said that “the term, “jihad” should not be misused and should not be misinterpreted to

justify terrorism. Such actions only serve to tarnish the teachings of Islam. Islam does

not permit such violence.”73 To deal with such issues, Malaysia effort divided into

two levels; domestic and regional. Both stages are driven by the principal to neutralise

those groups in order to curb extremist group influences over society and threaten

government power.74 Nonetheless, it does not means that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is

more tolerant to extremism. In other words, “to neutralise the group, remaining

members have to be apprehended”.75

At home, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi released 19 Internal Security Act detainees

with alleged ties to extremist groups (15 al Ma’unah and four associated with Jemaah

Islamiah) and in November his steps up to demonstrated a less punitive approach to

Islamic groups. Such action aims to promote the idea of tolerance and re-image

Islam.76 The increase of militant groups at domestic level usually conducted by

Malaysia’s Muslims could enhance the non-Muslim fear to Islam either as religion or

political entity. Thus, in one corner, Malaysia has responsibility to overcome those

issues to avoid social unrest through eradicating the militant activities. Therefore most

72
Li Jiesheng. Malaysia Foreign Policy in the Post 9/11 era Moderate Islam as a Base with
Pragmatism.>Global-Politics.uk.htm<
73
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.Op.cit.pp,12
74
Gatsiounis, Loannis. Islam hadhari in Malaysia Current Trends in Islamist Ideology,
Vol.3(2006),pp.79-88
75
Syed Hamid Albar, Op.cit,pp 472
76
According to Funston John, such actions aim to lowering the tone of confrontation to PAS and
opposition party. However, it wasn’t truth at all since, during that time, Abdullah administration also
arrested KMM members. To see, Funston John idea, see. Funston John. The Malay Electorate in 2004:
Reversing the 1999 Result? In, Saw Swee Hock and Kesavapany K.(ed). 2006. Malaysia Recent Trends
and Challenges. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies: Singapore.pp,143

48
KMM are arrested under Internal Security Act whose desire to overthrown

government.77

To have strong defence policy, it cannot be based on physical effort to combat

guerrilla groups, but the root causes of the crisis, should also be addressed. It needed

innovation diplomacy approach. In 2005, Abdullah said that, “I believe that we can

address the problem of extremism and terrorism by delivering better and more

widespread development.”78 For this reason Malaysia during Abdullah Ahmad

Badawi placed eradicating poverty, uplifting living standard as overriding priority to

achieve zero poverty or kemiskinan sifar. Without such policy, according to Syed

Hamid Albar, “our people could have been alienated and disenfranchised, creating a

critical mass of discontent, ready to be tapped by would-be terrorist”.79 Such action

reflected that to make sure extremist group have less influence in Malaysia,

government sought to improve Muslims condition and the image of Muslim, not by

promoting conservative ideology, but progressive and beneficial means.

On the other hand, more importantly, those efforts reflected to win the heart and

minds of people as well as militant groups. Malaysia government was optimist to

place Islam, as it should be and put the Jihad in right path. At the same time, it is also

part of government effort to reduce popular support to extremist group. As a result,

support for JI and Al-Maunah operations were reduced and subsequently prevent its

revival.80 Related to that, Malaysia as a save heaven for militant group needs to

prevent or counter any militant activities situated in the national level. In fact, militant

groups have special networking to pan-extremist groups in the region such as JI and

77
Op.cit. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid. Politically Engaged Muslims in Malaysia in the Era of Abdullah
Ahmad Badawi. Asian Journal of Political Science, Vol.18. No, 2(2010),pp,154-176
78
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at the United Malays National Organization Annual
General Assembly, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 20, 2005.
79
Ibid.,pp,489
80
Ibid.,pp,472

49
Al-Qaeda. These concerns lead Abdullah Badawi to take an appropriate response in

regional level.

In regional level, the issue was focused on guerrilla groups that lasted in the

Malaysian border lines. This required collective effort from Southeast East Asian

countries to overcome those threats. However, with limited function, dealing with

non-traditional security issues in the region, made ASEAN as an organization not

strong enough as before during the Cold War era.81 In this case, while ASEAN

member states also faced the same problem, it led ASEAN react as individual

countries to pursuit they own interest. In fact, most of ASEAN countries are still not

cohesive nations and effective states.82 Non-interference principal seems like “mind

your own business” thereby weakened ASEAN solidarity in the region.83 Thus

countries like Malaysia acknowledged that ASEAN is important not as an

organization but as individual countries, the do play an important role. In this

juncture, relationship with Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand is necessary for Malaysia

to combat and overcome threats posed by guerrilla groups.

As regional effort, Malaysia aims to improve the image of Islam and eliminate threat

through respecting other countries sovereignty and peaceful resolution. The real threat

for Malaysia is in the context of guerrilla activities comes from Eastern Malaysia,

especially in Sabah and Sarawak. Realising extremist activities has increased,

Malaysia established Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism

(SEARCCT) in 2003. SEARCCT aims to prevent, manage terrorism situation and

counter pre-terrorism activities. SEARCCT focused on Pre-Terrorism situation,

81
Interview with Khoo Ai In, Phd Candidates in University Putra Malaysia also served as Lecture in
International and Strategic Studies, UM in 2009-2011.
82
Muthiah Alagappa. Is the ASEAN Cornerstone of Malaysia Foreign Policy? The Edge Malaysia,
November 10,2012
83
Ghazalie Shafie. ASEAN, Regionalisme, dan Isu Keselamatan. Pemikir, Bil.27, 2002, January-
Mac,pp 69

50
Training for Trainers, Public Awareness and Education Programmes, Border and

Security Control and Post-Terrorism Situation and Management.84 This effort was

necessary since guerrilla group activities characterized by guerrilla warfare, not static

therefore difficult to deter. The SEARCCT will identify and seek to address the root

causes, undertaking strict and stern enforcement measures and also undertaking

psychological warfare programmes in order to counter destructive influence. 85 In this

case, officers daily will check any militant activities around the region through

various resources such media, government information, and Malaysian Central Bank.

Malaysian Central Bank’s role is to detected money transfer in a huge amount from

Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines or any transfers or situations which could be

considered as financial aid to guerrilla group. “Money trial” seems to increase s in the

region. This effort was successful when JI, a militant group’s operation in Tawau,

East Malaysia was prevented.

In Eastern Malaysia, ASG operated in Southern Philippines threaten the people

of Sabah. ASG’s activities were basically related to armed robbery to shipping,

protecting drug traffickers, piracy and kidnapping. Obviously, ASG’s operation

sparked fear among businessmen, tourist and fisherman in Eastern Malaysia. One of

Malaysia’s businessman was also captured. As a response, Malaysian armed forces

launched Operasi Pasir in 2008 through deterrence activities to the ASG operations in

Jolo, Sipadan Island and Puyut Island. Moreover, some of the guerrilla groups had

protected drug traffickers entering Malaysia.86 The existence of low intensity conflict

in Southern Philippines, has given space to the drug trafficker supplying drug via

Puyut Island in Lahad Datu, and Sipadan from Zamboanga in the Philippines. As a

84
Ibid.,pp,477
85
Ibid.,pp488
86
Stark Jan. “Malaysia Foreign Policies and a New Asian Regionalism”. Working Papers Series, No.48,
February 2007, University of Hong Kong.

51
result, the value of human safety decreased due to the intended threat. 87 In order to

overcome, Malaysia played a role as peacekeeper or mediator when launched

International Monitoring Team in which, Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in

the end of 2003 between Philippines government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front

(MILF) to reduce tension in Southern Philippines. As a mediator, it meant that

Malaysia would become more engaged with both sides in an effort to reconciliation.88

In physiological side, Malaysia’s participation on that event would increase national

reputation as promoting solidarity among Muslims brotherhood in the eyes of

guerrilla groups such as ASG.

Meanwhile, Pattani Liberation Organization (PLO) and Gerakan Mujahidin

Islam Pattani in Southern Thailand were other guerrilla groups in the region. Those

groups were inspired by separatism ideas aimed against Thailand government in order

to apply Shariah law in Narratiwat, Pattani, and Yala. The problem is that battles

between guerrilla groups and Thailand armed forces produced spill over effect into

Malaysia territory in Kelantan. Kelantan became a safe heaven for guerrilla groups

operations in terms of training.89 It hampered Malaysia-Thailand relationship. It also

probably influenced militant groups in Malaysia to give a hand in technical assistance.

To topple guerrilla group’s power, Malaysia and Thailand adopted new strategy

through economy development cooperation with Southern Thailand. As a result, Joint

Development Strategy in 2004 was signed. This cooperation mainly focused on key

areas such as investment, transport and trade. This step was important to develop

Southern Thailand, especially it’s people out of poverty.


87
Human safety refer to the safety of people were related to independent people movement, and they
freedom and prosperity. See, Zarina Othman. “Mainstreaming Human Security: the Asian
Contribution”. Paper Presented at International Development Studies Conference, 4-7 October 2007,
Bangkok, Thailand.
88
Camilleri Rita. “Muslim Insurgency in Thailand and the Philippines: Implication for Malaysia’s
Cross-Border Diplomacy”. UNEAC Asia Papers, No.27, 2008
89
“Malaysia Denies Having Militant Training Base”. The New Straits Times, 17 December 2004.

52
Such action provided a platform to avoid separate movements and tension

between government armed forces and PLO through enhancing human rights needs

and prosperity in the Southern Thailand.90 In the early April of 2004, Malaysia sends

an Islamic lecturer to the south to teach Muslims a moderate form of Islam and turn

them away from militant doctrines.91 It is an effort of Malaysia in order to propagate a

correct understanding of Islam. By doing so, Malaysia could aid fellow Muslims and

push the threat of Islamic fundamentalism [extremist groups] away from its borders.92

However, those strategies faced difficulties after 28 April incident where 107

insurgents Muslim were killed Thailand forced. Thaksin Sinawatra, Thailand Prime

Minister announced “Please don’t intervene,” to Malaysia diplomacy in that area. 93

Although, Malaysia’s effort in Southern Thailand failed to bring peace, but it had

been reduced the degree of violence against the Muslims

In sum, extremist groups were combated to protect human security based on Islam

lens. In Islam, ummah is a very important part within Islam. It emphasizes on

Muslims and non-Muslims prosperity and equal rights. According to Shanti Nair, “In

the management of Malaysia’s foreign policy with respect to Islam, domestic political

priorities have often outweighed the significance of the ummah the global Muslim

community or larger international.”94 Malaysia’s motivation also can be understood

since Malaysia at that time became the Chair of OIC that has intention to uphold

Muslim society around the world. For those reasons, among other thing, Abdullah

90
“Malaysia Pledges to Aid Thai Government in Ending Violent Unrest on Shared Border”. Global
Insight, February 12, 2007
91
“Malaysia Bantu Thailand: Hantar Penceramah Agama, Kepakaran Hadapi Ancaman Militan.”
Utusan Malaysia, May 5, 2004
92
Jieshing Li.,Op.cit.
93
Funston John. Malaysia and Thailand in Southern Conflict: Reconciling Security and Ethnicity.
Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affair, Vol.32, No.2( August
2010),pp.234-257
94
Nair Shanti. 1997. Islam in Malaysia Foreign Policy. Routedge Francis& Taylor.pp,11-15

53
Ahmad Badawi placed Islam Hadhari as main principal in his foreign policy, and

took responsibility and immediate action.

In regards to regional cooperation, counter-extremist groups remained patchy,

and based on bilateral rather than region-wide intelligence links.95 Most of

cooperation conducted among ASEAN individual members and between US and

Australia. This type of cooperation poses two problems. First, it contributed to the

weakness of ASEAN in combating extremist groups. The lack of cooperation between

ASEAN and civil society, in which ASEAN was more of an elite organization rather

than people oriented, produced limitation to Malaysia, in terms of dealing with non-

traditional issues, which were driven by non-states actors. Secondly, it increased the

number of guerrilla groups in the region. To combat extremist groups Malaysia’s has

specials ties with US in terms of military training, financial assistance and strategy.

SEARCCT was financed by US and therefore, the US interest was the first priority

than Malaysia’s national concern. US seek to eliminate extremist groups through hard

approach while Malaysia’s tried to neutralise those threat through soft approach.

Consequently, Malaysia has success to trounced militant groups at home, but failed at

the regional level. The reason was most of extremist groups target is US, and

therefore, Malaysia who had collaborated with US to contain extremist activity in the

region found difficulties due to that cooperation. In other words, Malaysia has work

with enemy.

4.2.3 Environmental and Energy Issues as a Case Study

95
Ibid, pp12.

54
Malaysia is developing country. To become developed nation, enhancing

economy activities to invest in crucial areas such as agricultural, industrial sectors,

infrastructure, oil and gas is vital. Such effort aims to create added value, diversify

economical activities, and maintain competitive economy. In that way, Malaysia

could afford to compete in regional and global market. Innovation and competition

were important indicators in the era of globalisation. This situation forced Malaysia to

explore and extract more raw materials in order to meet economy and development

demands. A part from that, the roles of superior society demanding economic property

rights and living standards forced Abdullah’s administration to enhance equal

economy development.

However, while states pursuit to develop its economy, environmental and

energy crisis came into being. Media and NGO’s particularly environmentalist groups

started to denounce Abdullah Ahmad Badawi policies on economic aspects in which

have potential to harm environment and energy security. Hence, sustainable

development concern influenced Malaysia’s national as well as regional strategy.

Since that, Malaysia launched Bio-Malaysia in 2005 aiming to diversify its economy

and create a better life for Malaysians. In the same year, Malaysia established

biotechnology laws that would help to protect citizens and the environment, called as,

Access and Benefit Law and Bio-safety Law. The Access and Benefit Law intends to

ensure equitable remuneration from biotechnology activities in the country.

Government was committed to reduce dependence on petroleum product through

increase usage of alternative fuels such as bio-fuel and bio-diesel as well as renewable

energy.96 According to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, “consumption of fossil fuel and use

of non-biodegradable materials are some of the biggest contributors to environment

96
Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010.pp, 43

55
degradation.”97 This is the reason for the Bio-Safety Law format. The aim was to

deter international companies and investors, signalling the pre-eminence of economic

interest over environment and human rights concerns.98 This law was more concern

on haze pollution. For several times, Malaysia was affected by haze pollutions by

immediate neighbour such as Indonesia. People were affected health and business

wise. At home, Malaysians, especially civil societies were very particular and acted

against Malaysian plantations involved in illegal forest fire as reported by Indonesian

authority.99

Indeed, this crisis became transnational crisis in the region due to the market

interdependency and geographic factor. For that reason, Malaysia played a vital role

to transfer domestic problems into regional solution. Malaysia had ratified the Cebu

Declaration on East Asian Energy Security in 2007 and also signed the ASEAN

Security Agreement in 2007 that have intention to overcome energy crisis by working

together with ASEAN member states. The aim is to meet Southeast Asian

consumption for energy without depending to countries outside the region. In this

effort, ASEAN member states will share the best practices, technology, investment to

enhance Research and Development R&D, assists less developing countries especially

in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) countries, and to seek alternative

energy. In the same time, Malaysia has participated in Bali Road Map to protect the

97
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at, “Bio-Malaysia 2005”, Putrajaya International
Convention Centre, April 28, 2005
98
Smeltzer Sandra. Biotechnology, Environment, and Alternative Media in Malaysia. Canadian Journal
of Communication, Vol.33(2008),pp 5-20
99
According to Indonesia, 8 were Malaysia companies operate in Indonesia has responsible for those
illegal fire forest. See, “Govt Vows to Prosecute 10 Firms Over Fire Forest”. The Jakarta Post, August
16, 2005

56
environment. Unfortunately, the progress, as Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said “has been

slow and rather unconvincing.”100

Realizing the limitation of ASEAN roles, Malaysia, bilaterally started to

enhance cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and

Singapore in environmental and energy issues. In the environmental aspect, illegal

forest fire in Sumatra led Malaysia to close schools as well as Malaysia largest

seaport, and declared a state emergency in Kuala Selangor and Port Kelang as smoke

severely limited visibility and created a significant health risk. 101 Thus Malaysia

provided Indonesia with fire fighting equipment and fire fighters to enable Indonesia

to curb the spread of forest fire with immediate action.102 Meanwhile, since palm oil

production needs 25 hectares for the region in order to meet regional consumption in

2020, it is crucial to overcome environmental and energy crisis together.103 These

issues represent multiple-crisis in the region. In order to reduce dependence on

petroleum product, Malaysia focused to build oil pipeline project to ASEAN member

states. In this case, Malaysia has 3 oil pipeline projects, Malaysia-Thailand in 2004,

Malaysia-Singapore in 2006 and South Sumatra-Singapore in 2003.104 By this

cooperation, it encouraged Malaysia and other ASEAN countries to use environment-

friendly fuel.105 By doing so, as Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said, “we seek to ensure a

good balance between achieving economy objectives and pursuing social goals.”106

As a result, sustainable development and energy efficiency is maintained. Clearly,

100
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at, “Malaysia Green Forum”, University Putra
Malaysia, April 2010.
101
“Indonesia Fire Blanket Central Malaysia. The New York Times, August 12,2005
102
“Malaysia Haze Points to Regional Problem”. The New York Times, June 23, 2012.
103
Oye Oliver. Palm Oil as Transnational Crisis in Southeast Asia. South-East Asian Studies, Vol.2,
No.2.(2007)pp,81-101
104
Nicolas Francoise.2009. ASEAN Energy Cooperation An Increasingly Daunting Challenge. Ifri
Press.pp,22
105
Ibid.,pp,21
106
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at Invest Malaysia 2006 Conference, Shangri-La,
Kuala Lumpur, Mac 23,2006

57
Malaysia’s strategy to reach foreign policy goals was motivated by Islam Hadhari

which provided pragmatic approach towards equal economy development.

4.2.4 Transnational Crimes

Globalisation was the main factor of the existence transnational crimes.

Transnational crimes occurred in Malaysia due to the economic stability and peaceful

society. It encouraged to foreign labour seek job and market opportunity. However, it

created transnational crimes and human trafficking. The question may arise is how it

could happen? Basically there is two reasons; “hierarchical structures” and “loose

networks”. Hierarchical structures refer groups that emerged in low-governance areas

whereas loose networks seem like refer to organization with self-organise and no

higher authority provides orders.107 Low governance in ASEAN countries could be

referred to Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand which criminal

groups somehow involved in political arena in order to protect groups activities such

as drugs, arms, and human trafficking.

In Southeast Asia countries, there have several groups and organisations such as

Preman, Kajahatan and Mamak Gang in Indonesia, Kuratong Baleleng in

Philippines, Jao Phao in Thailand and Binh Xuyen in Vietnam108 operating in the

black market that involves violence and crimes. The problem is Malaysia as

surrounded by those states had use Malaysia as a platform to expanded them business

and activities. Operation in peace and have great sound economy development, made

criminal groups activities are low visibility, flexibility, and have longevity.

107
Noble Ronald. 2010. The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crimes Threat
Assessment. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Press. Pp, 26-27
108
See Shanty et.al. 2007. Organized Crime: From Trafficking to Terrorism. ABC-CLIO.

58
Consequently, this “silent threat” produced insecurity for human security in the long

term. Most of the peoples trafficked comes from Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines

were served in the sex industry as GRO. In 2004 for instance, about 700,000 people

have been trafficked annually for the sex trade alone in Malaysia.109 Worryingly, the

influx of human trafficker especially among women and children, it would increases

criminal activities and spread the budaya kuning in Malaysia. Subsequently

undermines local social norms.110 Thus, Malaysia adopted a legal measure called Anti

Human Trafficking 2007 act to make Malaysia effort battling effectively. Through

these Act, Malaysia has power to prosecute and give jails sentence up of 20 years and

fine up to RM500.000.111 To make the act have significance impact, Malaysia in

2008, launched National-Human Trafficking Council (MAPO) to monitor human

trafficking activities in the region.

This effort is necessary since Malaysia realized that surrounded by the sea and

land was easy steps and cheap route to entering and also trespassed by land due to the

Malaysia share borders with neighbouring countries. In this regards, ASEAN could

assist Malaysia’s. However, solving this issue through intergovernmental cooperation

is not easy desk since non-interference policy prevented to cooperate regionally.112

For that reason, Malaysia sought to solved the problem through bilaterally with

Indonesia under MOU in 2006 but with limited terms, in which only include illegal

migrants from Indonesia and protecting maid rights in Malaysia. At the same time,

109
“Malaysia Makes Inroads in Battling Human Trafficking.” Bernama, February 24,2013
110
However, at this level, it only in the threat perception level, not in the real terms, but the possibility
is there. Interview with Dato Ahmad Moktar Selat, Malaysia former Ambassador, and former lecturer
in IR deparment, UM. 15/2/2013.
111
Ibid.,
112
In fact, several governments have special ties with transnational organised crimes in order to make
ruling party stayed in power. For instance, in Bihn Xuyen, drugs cartel in Vietnam has power to
determine government Junta power, since most of peoples in the rural areas depends on Marjiuana farm
owned by drug cartel to survive. 65% peoples living in rural areas. See, “Urban Poor’s ‘Everday
Struggle’ in Vietnam. The Diplomat Magazine. October 23, 2013

59
Malaysia sent police personnel to the hotspots trafficking such as Malacca Straits and

South China Sea to prevent their route into Third countries.113 Unfortunately, with

Malaysia limited effort wasn’t really produced tangible result. When resolved

transnational crimes at regional, Malaysia human rights abuse poses at home.

4.2.5 Human Rights Concerns

Malaysia perspective on human rights is different from West definitions were

emphasis on the freedom without limitation. Malaysia was diverse in various areas

such as culture, languages, religions, history and race where stimulated Abdullah

administration to defined human rights philosophy in the line of East culture. For

Malaysia, rights should be followed by responsibility in order to respect other people

living within the society. Dealing with that situation, Malaysia attempted to overcome

the root obstacles to human rights issues based on Islam Hadhari principals.

To re-image Islam conditions, uphold human rights was the most necessary. The

roles of superior society had also influenced Abdullah administrations to protect and

guarantee society rights. In this case, Press Act has been amended to give rights to

free press. As a result, Harakah newspaper allowed to re-operates, and for the first

time, massive rally occurred since newspapers has free to speak and gradually

produced liberated peoples. In other side, corruptions crime strongly defeated by

government and most of corrupted political leader charger in courts. This reflected

government transparency, trustworthy, and honest to prevailed social equal rights in

Malaysia.

113
Ibid.,

60
Moreover, to reimage Islam in the region, Abdullah administration actively

promoted equal human rights in Southeast Asia. In Southern Thailand for instance,

Malaysia tempting to think that is necessary to enhance Southern Thailand people

economy capability, so the people will easily can earn money enable them to sends

they children to schools and also reduces they living in the poverty level. 114 The more

they educated, the less they involves in extremist groups. Based on that assumption,

Malaysia sends aid to the fellow Muslim in Southern Thailand through enhance

investment in agricultures as crucial resources for them and also upgrade

transportation condition. In supporting Muslims rights, Tak Bai incident in Thailand

leading Malaysia effort to neutralise the situation were directly affected Muslims

feeling and emotions. Abdullah said, “ this nature can bring a lot of unhappiness and

create anger and animosity among members of community.”115

Hence Malaysia sent Najib Tun Razak and Syed Hamid Albar for consultation

to respect Muslims feeling in Malaysia due to the Tak Bai incident happened in

Fasting Month for Muslims. However Thailand authorities refused to admitted

Malaysia delegations due to the “non-interference” principal. In Southeast Asia,

human rights issue is quite sensitive due to its link with national reputations and

sovereignty. As a result, unable member states to assists and sending humanitarian

assistance. Therefore, Malaysia tried to spread the idea of human rights among

ASEAN members. In 2004, on “Building an East Asian Security Community” at the

Second East Asia Forum, in Kuala Lumpur, 2004, Malaysia stress that ASEAN

114
Experts and political leaders believed that, the emergence of extremist groups in Southeast Asia
driven dominantly by one assumption in which people living in the poverty level have potential to
involve in extremist groups due to the financial supports. See. Vaughn Bruce et.al. Terrorism in
Southeast Asia. Congressional Report Service, October 16, 2009.
115
“Tak Bai Crackdown”. The Nation, October 28 2004

61
security community perspective must be expand to the new challenges faces by states

in the region- human rights issue.

According to Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysia Foreign Ministers at that time, “East

Asian Security Community must also include respect for human rights and

dignity.”116 In September 2007, when Myanmar military junta cracked down on the

peaceful protest by monks and students, Malaysia initially strong denounce junta

administration and suggesting that to release Aung San Suu Kyi without

precondition.117 Such action not only to uphold human rights condition in Myanmar,

but also to places Malaysia good image on human rights, since Internal Security Act

became the central problem of human rights in Malaysia. In other side, Malaysia

proposed East Asian Arms Register aiming to have a forum in the joint lower level

bilaterally that enable ASEAN member states to assist each other in the context of

transnational issues such as environmental problem, natural disasters and epidemics

such as the avian flu.118 It also involved cooperation in water and food security in the

region that could enhance human prosperity.

Obviously, Malaysia effort at regional aims to made Islam Hadhari interests

reachable. Each principal in Islam Hadhari formulated the strategy in order address

different issues in non-traditional threat.119 In that respects, it represents the best

interest of society. The road might be long but the policy goals and strategy had been

took place. Innovation approach produced progressive, responsibility, and moderate

116
Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, Speech at, “ Building an East Asian Security Community”, in the Second
East Asia Forum, Kuala Lumpur, December 6, 2004
117
Hock Guan Lee. Malaysia in 2007 Abdullah Administration under Siege. Southeast Asia Affairs,
2008.pp,187-206
118
Ibid.,pp,100
119
National Mission in Ninth Malaysia Plan, 2006-2010.pp,9-10

62
elements of Malaysia foreign policy strategy. ASEAN Troika120 regulated by

conservative encompasses sovereignty and regime security has produced mutual

distrust. At the end, addressing non-traditional threat only prevailed in the “white

black papers” without further actions. Islam Hadhari interests could not reach in that

way. At this token, it contributed to weaknesses of ASEAN roles in Malaysia foreign

policy strategy.

Abdullah Badawi administration focused on individual ASEAN countries

particularly immediate neighbour. By this strategy, several non-traditional threats

could be overcomes such as haze pollutions, militant groups, human rights and energy

consumptions. Indeed, combated extremist group, protected environmental, uphold

human rights, and transnational crimes is not a short term commitments. In fact,

informal threat couldn’t be settled only in 9 years under Abdullah administration.

After Abdullah Badawi resigned in 2009, Najib Abdul Razak took office and

Malaysia human security diplomacy continues with different approach, but in the

same norms.

4.3 The Development of Malaysia National Interests

In 2009, when Najib Razak became Prime Minister, his announced that

government will committed to followed “People First, Performance Now” where

becomes source of Malaysia national interest development. He said “I spoke to my

hope that our nation would move forward under the theme of “1Malaysia, People

First, Performance Now”, I have emphasised these principal at home, and they are

120
Jurgen Hacke. ASEAN Diplomatic and Security Culture A Constructivist Assessment. International
Relations of the Asia-Pasific, Vol,3. No, 1(2003).pp, 57-87

63
also the principle that will shape our foreign policy.”121 At this stage, Najib said “we

must and reshape our foreign policy priorities to meet changing world order”. 122 . In

other words, Malaysia foreign policy shift in many ways reflected Najib Razak

domestic agenda.123 To understand Malaysia foreign policy priorities, the character of

national interest is the main reference.

Malaysia strongly pursuit status as a developed nation in 2020 by adopted New

Economic Model (NEM) 2010 and Economic Transformation Program (ETP) 2010 in

order to enhance middle income, promoting collective self-resilience and also

protecting people human security in terms of rising cost of living, growing criminal

rates, racial, health services, religious polarization, and corruption.124 Therefore,

“People First” in terms of foreign policy, can be define as an effort towards producing

benefit to Malaysia peoples in areas of income, living standard, environmental

conducive, enhance healthy ethnic relationship and health. Meanwhile, “Performance

Now” referred as strategy to replicate domestic interest into Malaysia foreign

relations. The strategy was known as “Wasatiyyah”, in which neglected “self-

absorption” style to deal with the changing world.125 Since the “People First” mantra

referred towards economic terms and socials needs, the selective security issues

prevail. Malaysia foreign policy strategy, therefore attempted to engage with issues

that could bring economic prosperity and protected socials rights. By that, Malaysia

was no longer promoted collective security identity in the region as Mahathir era, but

rather promoting self-security identity through unilateral channels. While Malaysia

121
Datuk Seri Najib, Speech at, “Malaysia Foreign Policy: Future Direction for 2009-2015”, in Heads
of Mission Conference, Putrajaya Kuala Lumpur, June 22, 2009
122
Ibid.,
123
Johnson Joshua R. Cooperation and Pragmatism: Malaysian Foreign Policy under Najib. Asia
Pacific Bulletin, No.63(June 3,2010)
124
Khadijah Mohd. Khalid. Malaysia Foreign Policy under Najib. Asian Survey, Vol. 51. No,3(
May/June 2011)pp,429-452
125
Wasatiyyah terms actually came from the Holy Quran, in Sura Al-Baqarah.

64
foreign policy concern intensely ties with human security, international environment

characterize by Islam became object as supported brutality, intolerance and terrorism

or extremist and living in the era of interdependency among countries has intensified

human interest instability. To survive, Wasatiyyah provided its ways.

4.3.1 Wasatiyyah Approach of Malaysia Foreign Policy Strategy.

Wasatiyyah mean moderate. Most of recent study misunderstood pertaining on

terms and its approach. Some scholars claimed that, it only related to combating

extremist groups in the region. Khadijah Mohd Khalid for instance, said Wasatiyyah

is talking about moderate global coalition to spearhead effort against extremism or

violence all side.126 The same tone also appeared in Mohammad Agus Yusuff and

Fakhreddin Soltani work when they said “Malaysia foreign policy showed Malaysia

orientation toward tolerance and anti-extremist ideas in foreign policy.”127 Obviously,

Wasatiyyah approach is more than they assumptions. It can be used to social, political

and economy aspects.

According to Malaysia Foreign Ministers, Anifah Aman, “moderation is the

bedrock of our policies, domestic or foreign and it encompasses social, political and

economic aspects.”128 Moderate as a norm in foreign policy strategy mean “collective

good of all”129 without being a bias, sceptical, emotional and provocative towards

whether to states or non-states actors. More precisely, moderation developed through

the sensitivity of religion, faith, culture, practice and experience. Having that

126
Ibid.,pp,436-437
127
Mohammad Agus Yusuff and Fakhreddin Soltani. Replicating of Domestic Security Policy in
Malaysia Foreign Policy. Asian Social Science. Vol,9. No.2(2013),pp.115-120
128
Dato Sri Anifah Aman, Speech at,” Malaysia Foreign Policy: Moderation in Action”. In Malaysia
for the International Conference of the Global Movement of Moderates, January 17, 2012.
129
Ibid.,pp,10

65
background, Malaysia foreign relations was based on “good of all”. Any national

problems related to Malaysia human agenda, it will overcome as “positive epidemics

of our own”130to effect change and meet national interest. Apparently, moderation or

Wasatiyyah would emphasis on rules, constructive engagement, negotiations,

dialogue and extensive discussions. Based on that explanation, moderation could be

adopted in the regional disputes, economy cooperation or others issues. So far,

moderation approach has been often used in the Malaysia human diplomacy. Along

with Malaysia foreign policy priorities, any involvement in regional sphere, Malaysia

devoted to places its human security at higher level by optimistic values.

4.3.2 Wasatiyyah Diplomacy on Human Security

There is changeless on human security issues after Mahathir’s era. In this case,

Malaysia effort to overcome human security threat divided into two scopes. The first

scope, referred to economy commitment that content middle income, cost living,

unaffordable housing. In order to grow middle income, reducing cost of living and

enhance people standard of living, Malaysia strategy primary focuses on having a

strong economic ties with ASEAN as individual countries and partners such as

Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, China and joined Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

by adopting prosper thy neighbour policy.

Secondly, “good of all” principle had played important role to regulate foreign

policy strategy and goals. Emotions and blaming game ignored. This is because

Malaysia intent to minimize social threats such as illegal immigrants, criminal, racial,

130
Ibid.,pp,2

66
human trafficking, maid abuse, illicit drug trafficking, extremist groups and

environment degradation.

4.3.3 Economic Commitments

According to Khadijah Mohd Khalid, “Najib’s foreign policy is perhaps more

economically oriented than that of his immediate predecessors.”131 Obviously, this

argument is true since Malaysia seen globalisation as an opportunity, not as a threat,

to develop nation by emphasis strong economy effort with big economy power in

order to produce a huge economy impact to all players. In fact, the ETP and NEM had

stimulated Malaysia effort to have strong economy policies. This optimistic view can

be proved when Malaysia often forced ASEAN member states to embrace China as a

top ASEAN partnership. According to Najib Razak, “Malaysia also led ASEAN

initiative to accord Dialogue Partner status to China, and in 2010 we pushed for the

creation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA).”132 At the same time,

Malaysia also was the first nation in Southeast Asia establishing industrial park with

China where became an innovative pattern of cooperation between China and

ASEAN organization. Hence, if during Mahathir Mohamad era, Malaysia China

policy implemented in multilateral cooperation, Najib Razak has placed it bilateral

line.

This cooperation has led Malaysia, and China bilaterally open part industrial in

Qinzhou Park, in China, Kuantan Industrial Park and Gemas-Johor Baru rail link

project in 2013 encompasses Malaysia Bumiputera companies such as Rimbunan

131
Ibid.,pp,442
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Speech at, “Official Launch of Malaysia-China Kuantan Park, 3
132

February 2013.>www.kln.gov< 22/2/2013

67
Hijau groups and IJM Sdn.Bhd and China companies.133 Kuantan Industrial Park

provided 8,500 jobs opportunities. For Small Medium Enterprises SME’s would able

to promote they own products with market opportunity. After two months Najib took

office as Prime Ministers, Malaysia has signed “Joint Action Plan on Strategic

Cooperation”, which provided a framework for future bilateral cooperation in 13 keys

areas.134 By this Joint Action Plan, China FDI in Malaysia was RM1.0 billion whereas

total trade between both countries expected to reach RM300 billion this year. This

figure led China become Malaysia top trade partner.135

The areas of cooperation included agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, mineral

resources, wholesale and retail. Most of these sectors had employed a huge labour in

Malaysia and therefore it created a benefit to the increasing the labour incomes. In

fact, Malaysia has success to diversify economic activities and also decreased poverty

to 3.6 per cent this year. In this regards, most of economy projects between both

countries focused in the rural areas where less develop. It tried to narrow development

gap between centre and periphery. Based on that, Malaysia people living standard

could be stabilized. Similarly, Malaysia economy has been moved from an

agricultures country to semi industrial economy. This situation has led Malaysia

Deputy Prime Ministers to said that, “clearly, we (Malaysia-China) can do much to

diversify the pattern...these include oil and gas, high value agriculture, green

technology, financial services and information technology.136 This economic

orientation provided government financial source to inject in the social developments.

As a result, government could be funded an affordable housing projects in year 2012


133
“Najib Hopes Wen Will Continue to Promote Malaysia-China Relations. The Star, February 20,
2013
134
Cheng-Chwee Khuik. Malaysia’s China Policy in the Post-Mahathir Era: A Neoclassical Realist
Explanation. Working Paper Series. No.244, July 12,2012.pp, 16
135
“China, Malaysia Launch Joint Industrial Park”. China Daily, February 6, 2013
136
“Malaysia should diversify trade pattern and explore China sector, says DPM”. Bernama,22 May
2010.>www.pmo.gov.my/tpm/?frontpage/news/detail/3375< 22/2/2013

68
and 2013 to its peoples. By these steps it would bring Malaysia economy to be more

resilience, could increases middle incomes and enhance social needs.

Without doubt, Malaysia’s China policy devoted to assist Malaysia’s to become

developed nation in the near future by projecting NEM and ETP. Indeed, Malaysia

China policy driven by the assumption that China economy policies was too open,

strong, refused economy orthodox and semi-capitalism orientation would have a great

promise for equal competition among middle nation like Malaysia. This was

important consideration in order to reduces Malaysia economy vulnerability in which

dependent on trade where equal protection is necessary. This is what Malaysia

economy cooperation principal means to “prosperity will beget prosperity”.137 China

as Najib Razak said at Head of Mission Conference in June 2009 with regards to

China roles to Malaysia economy, “is fundamental to our national interest”. 138 By

emphasised on constructive engagement especially with big economy power who’ve

play equal treatment, it make Malaysia voices heard, then it might promises equal

benefit to all stakeholders. This reflected “good of all” norms in Malaysia moderate

diplomacy.

Meanwhile, for Malaysia, sub-regional cooperation under ASEAN projects also

important. However this cooperation has limitation due to the financial resources and

ethnic tensions emerged in these areas of cooperation.139 Even though has limitation,

Malaysia maintained the roles of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippine-East

ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand-Growth

137
“Formulation of Foreign Policy”.>www.kln.gov/web/guest/formation< 23/2/2013
138
Ibid.,
139
For instance, in the area of cooperation between Sarawak and Kalimantan in Indonesia has produced
ethnic tension among peoples. It began when Madura race from Kalimantan, conquered economy
activities in Sarawak hinterland, especially near to Kalimantan. As a result, it lead discrimination and
thereby produced marginalization to Dayak ethnic group. This created communal violence between
ethnic groups in 2001. See, Dayak vs Madura on Youtube.com

69
Triangle (IMT-GT).140 Basically, these project aims to realise the idea of ASEAN

Connectivity and narrowing development gaps among members in ASEAN.141 BIMP-

EAGA for instance, has become a regional food basket and eco-tourism destination in

the Southeast Asia region. Sabah in Western Malaysia, gained more benefit on this

cooperation in terms of market food in Palawan Philippine and diversify SME’s

Sabah business such as restaurant, hotels, lodging houses and transportation

system.142

With BIMP-EAGA project, Sabah becomes a famous destination among

tourists. This led to great business opportunity in terms of demand-supply chain and

manufacturing products to consumers.143 Similarly, it stimulated private sector

activity especially health services to take an opportunity to uphold they services since

health awareness had increases in Southeast Asia region. For instance, Normah

Medical Centres in Sarawak and Sibu Medical Centre become popular places from

West Kalimantan in Indonesia to be treated there.144 Based on that, BIMP-EAGA

would assist local government to uphold health services for local people as well as

tourists in Sabah and Sarawak through modernize health facilities, provided adequate

doctors and staffs and maintained effectiveness. At the same time, by these sub-

regional project, it provided job opportunity, increasing SME productivity, and

develop knowledge and skills to labour and subsequently overcome poverty.

Meanwhile, IMT-GT project poses a benefit in another side of human security

concern. IMT-GT comprises transportation sector, electrical project, and food

140
“Strategic Plan 20009-2015”. Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
141
“Joint Statement Eight Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Philippines East Asean Growth Area
Summit”, Phom Penh, Cambodia, April 4, 2012
142
“BIMP-EAGA Sees Promising Outlook for Food Market. The Star, July 17,2012
143
“BIMP-EAGA & IMT-GT Consumer Fair Kicks-Off”. The News Straits Times, November 30,2012
144
“Trans-boundary Travel for BIMP-EAGA Region is now possible”. The Borneo Post, February 20,
2012

70
productions. Most of these projects are under green technology to ensure

environmental protection such as sustainable developments. It involved 14 provinces

in Thailand including Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani eight Malaysia Northern states and 10

provinces in Indonesia, in which most that areas has shared border with Malaysia

territories.145This cooperation will prevent low intensity conflict and provocative

action by extremist groups since poverty, among other thing, was the main factor of

the existence those groups. It may be contain immediate affect to Malaysia in the

areas of social aspect. As pointed out by Dereck Da Cunha, sub-regional cooperation

reflected a share common capital, business management and common market. 146 In

this situation, the stakeholders wouldn’t have intention to threaten other countries

especially in areas of cooperation since there have common economic interests. In

Southern Thailand for instance, Malaysia and Thailand has joint economy on

investment, trade and transportations. This business venture would increase economic

activities and upgrade border facilities under Custom, Immigration, and Quarantine

(CIQ) to maintain market liquidity and ensure legitimate tourist entering both

countries.147 To some extent, it reduced illegal migrants, drug trafficking, insurgences

activity due to share common business and capital. By this assumption, at least, it

created collective identity among political leaders and society to against inappropriate

attitude to harmful economic cooperation process.

In the economic cooperation, obviously Malaysia was interested in tripartite

cooperation since ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) faces obstacle to

implement AFTA rules and objectives due to the national economy protection,

145
“Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle”. Asian Development
Bank.>www.adb.org/countries/subregional-programs/imt-gt< 23/2/2013
146
Da Cunha, Dereck. 2009. Singapore in the New Millennium: Challenges Facing the City-States.
Southeast Asian Studies: Singapores.pp,137
147
“IMT-GT Meeting on Progress of Projects”. The Edge, September 28, 2012

71
products fragmentation and hidden trade tariff. China, in one corner, was provided an

alternative to make economic cooperation is fair and beneficial.

4.3.4 Social Threats

Social threats related to guerrilla groups, human trafficking, transnational

organize crimes and human rights issues. Malaysia at regional sphere actively

participated to address the fundamental problems that might create a possible threat to

Malaysia at home as well as in the region. To deal such issue, again, Malaysia has

been choose moderation as the best way to survive by adopted humane approach to

approaching human problems in the region.

In the context of human rights, while Malaysia-Indonesia sub regional

cooperation would promise people integration in the both side, it also could produce

tension between them. Partly because they have common cultures and ethnic that

would suppress issues such as Batik, Wayang Kulitand Rasa Sayang song where

Indonesia claimed as belongs to them culture. Malaysia has refused to claim in

UNESCO for Batik and Wayang Kulit or shadow puppet theatre as Malaysia culture

heritage due to the reduced antagonising in much larger and also respect Indonesia as

her immediate neighbour.148 It also a step toward to distinguish between both

countries in terms of cultures enable both citizens understand the political borders

prevail between them. Such step is important since Indonesia as nearly located in

Malaysia borders. For instance, In Sabah, Indonesia workers was smuggling to

Tawau. Indonesia labour, count for 70 per cent estimated at round 1.7 million people

Clark Marshall. “Indonesia-Malaysia Relations: Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Garuda vs
148

Harimau.”Paper presented at “Discussion on Malaysia-Indonesia Relations: Satu Rumpun,Satu Hati? A


Love and Hate Relation”, at Australian National University, August 28,2012

72
in Malaysia.149 Half of million Indonesia peoples work in various sectors in Sabah,

especially in constructions. Indonesia had always threatened Malaysia human security

in terms of territory integrity, illegal migrant, and culture rights.

It making the community faces potential threat to national safety. In one corner,

Malaysia also felt burdened since criminal activities particularly in Klang Valley such

robbery, high profile murders, theft and street violence, mostly done by Indonesians

that produce fear among Malaysian citizens. However, Indonesia ambassador

countered such argument by saying, “if one Indonesian commits a crime, the Malaysia

Government is very quick to react, but a crime involving Malaysians, they are very

slow”.150 This argument refers to Malaysians crime over maid and Indonesia workers

in Malaysia, which has been treated in unprecedented way. For instance, Malaysia

web advertisement post incorrect words in order to promote maid service by saying,

“Indonesia maids now on sale” where made Indonesia Labour Minister denounced

Malaysia government administration by stressed, “this is unacceptable”.151 At the

same line, Indonesia maids had always tortured by its employer that mounting anger

in Indonesia side. With 1.7 million Indonesia labour in Malaysia, the situation may

become worst when Indonesia-Malaysia relations is under tension. In short, Indonesia

labour issue had contributed bad image of human rights in Malaysia such as poor

payment, maid abuse, discrimination, limitation of Indonesia workers mobility, and

racist.152 Although the issues still remains, the first step has been taken by Malaysia

authority through amended Anti-Trafficking in Person Act in November 2010 to

define trafficking to include “all actions involved in acquiring or maintaining the

149
“Malaysia-Indonesia Ties at a Critical Juncture”. The Brunei Times, September 7, 2010.
150
“KL-Jakarta Ties that Can be Maids Better”. The Star, December 18, 2012
151
“Tensions rise over ad that reads “Indonesian Maids Now On Sale”. The Journal, October 10, 2012
152
Huling Alice.2012. Domestic Workers in Malaysia: Hidden Victim of Abuse and Forced
Labor.>www.law.nyu.edu< 23/2/2013

73
labour and services of person through coercion.”153 Such effort showed Malaysia anti-

smuggling and seeks to reduce labour worker rights abuse. In 2011, Malaysia-

Indonesia has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to overcome maid

rights abuse issue and maid services were consists as follow:

i) Working in off day, employers will be gives extra pay.

ii) Indonesia workers shall be protected.154

To avoid tensions, Malaysia also reduced demand to take workers from

Indonesia, instead looking for help in Thailand and Philippines, especially a Muslim

labour to work in Malaysia.155 In the illegal migrant case, Malaysia actively,

implemented a huge number of operations. For instance, in 2010, 6,017 operations

such as Ops Sayang, Nyah 1, Nyah 2, Ops Sapu and amnesty programme combated

undocumented people and sent back to them native country.156 This effort is the pre-

condition to protected Malaysia human safety without jeopardise the Malaysia-

Indonesia relationship that often hate and love relations. So far, maid rights abuse has

been decreasing and Indonesia undocumented person is under control.

Obviously Wasatiyyah diplomacy emphasized on tolerance and “good for all”

as key to promoted peace and prosperity in the region. At the same token, it is also

promoting equal political attitude towards members and enemy. For instance, when

Myanmar criticised by the international community, including several ASEAN

countries due to the human rights problem, Malaysia refused to be drawn into the

153
TIP Report,2011.pp,244
154
“Indonesia Maid Issues Nears Settlement”. The New Straits Times, May 8, 2010.
155
“Malaysia Says Indonesia Maid Deal Delayed; Will Look Elsewhere for Hired Help.” The Jakarta
Globe, July 13,2010
156
Azizah Kassim and Rugayah Haji Mat Zin. Policy Irregular Migrants in Malaysia: An Analysis of Its
Implementation and Effectiveness. Discussion for Paper Series, No.34, December 2011. Philippines
Institute for Development Studies.

74
shame and blame game, instead using constructive engagement by granting of asylum

of minority Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar and also sending Malaysia NGO’s to

assist Rohingya minority group in Myanmar.157

Such effort will prevent human trafficking as well as illegal migrations from

Myanmar entering neighbouring countries like Malaysia where intensified criminal

rates and religion polarisation. Malaysia as Muslims states, religion issue daunting

healthy ethnic relationship with the expansion of Islam influences at home, that

marginalised non-Muslim society in terms of religion practise and freedom of

expression.158 To neutralise the situation, Malaysia accepted Vatican City request to

open embassy in Malaysia. By so doing, according to president of Malaysia Chinese

Association (MCA), “It’s a good start to strengthening relationships between

moderate Muslims in the country and people of the Christian faith. It will augur well

for the future”.159 At the same time, Malaysia also afraid that Myanmar location near

to Malacca Straits could become a zone of violence seems like the waters of

Somalia.160 By adopted soft approach to Myanmar crisis, it would help to calmed

down situation in Myanmar. Apart from that, it also effort to make anti-piracy

measures function effectively. It known as “eyes in the sky”, in which Malaysia

launched this programme where involved surveillance aircraft from Malaysia,

Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand in order to maintain navigation freedom in the

Straits.161

157
“ UNHCR Granted access to Rohingya Refugess”. The Bangkok Post, January 16, 2013
158
See, Sivamurrugan Pandian. Islam Hadhari: From non-Muslim Perspective. Jurnal Kemanusiaan,
No.12(2008),pp 15-22
159
“Vatican to Open First Embassy in Malaysia”. The Choice, January 19, 2013
160
Tanchum Micha’el. The Buddhist-Muslims Violence in Myanmar: A Threat to Southeast Asia.
BESA Centre Perspectives Paper, No. 188, November 28, 2012.pp,1
161
Nathan K.S. Malaysia: The Challenge of Money Politics and Religious Activism. Southeast Asian
Affairs,(2006),pp,151-171

75
Malaysia Wasatiyyah diplomacy provided excellent achievement to contained

threat poses by guerrilla groups. Malaysia play excellent role to peaceful process in

the Southern Philippines as mediator where ended the long issues confronting

Philippines and Malaysia government. As mediator, Malaysia provided the

framework of peace and distribution of power. From this point, it created the sense of

mutual trust and mutual interest among MILF, Republic of Philippine and Malaysia.

This peace negotiation will serve interest in the Western Malaysia security. Malaysia

believed that tension between MILF and Philippines government may threaten

solidarity between federal government and local states in Sabah. Federal government

worried if MILF activities will spread the idea of separatism in Sabah because Sabah

population comprising ethnic Sulu-Muslim that similar to MILF ethnic and culture.

Ethnic nationalism probably emerged. Based on that situation, it easy to propagate

those ethnic groups in order to gained moral support. Hence it might growth the

extremist Islam or separatist group in Malaysia while realising Free Aceh Movement

in Indonesia has been came from Muslim groups in Malaysia. 162 For that concern,

Malaysia through political leverage has influenced over reconciliation process

between MILF and Philippines government by signed peace agreement and

framework for Bangsa Moro in 2012. In this regards, Southern Philippines will have

an economic autonomy and local administration to govern Southern area with

collective action together with Republic of Philippines.163 The emergence of peace in

these area will prevented spill over effect of threat to West Malaysia such as

kidnapping, drug trafficking, illegal migration where undermines human safety for

local people in Sabah and Sarawak. Illicit drug trafficking increases due to the

existence of low intensity conflict that allowing or give a space to the drug trafficker

162
Asiaweek, March 2,2001.
163
For more detail, see, “Bangsa Moros Framework”.

76
supplying drug via Puyut Island in Lahad Datu, and Sipadan from Zamboanga in the

Philippine. In fact some of the militant groups had protected drug traffickers to

entering Malaysia.164This threat has produce insecurity to the local Sabah especially

in terms of healthy ethnic relationships. As a result, the value of human safety is

decreased due to the intended threat.165 In short, “Malaysia Southern Philippine

policies” would contain informal threat towards Malaysia territory.

Nonetheless, geography position in Western Malaysia isn’t a single source of

non-traditional threat. In other word, Malaysia-Philippines has not only shared

common borders but also shared common history, cultures and ethnic. Sharing

common borders constituted threat towards territorial integrity whereas history and

cultures as a source of conflict posed a threat in the lens of ethnic nationalism and

create ethnic assimilation. Lahad Datu intrusion in March 2013 was one of products

of these sources. In this crisis, Malaysia effort as peacemaker in the region has been

tested. Most of Sabah society was not fully integrated. The Tausug ethnic migrated in

the huge numbers to Sabah from Southern Philippines by illegal ways. They bring

they cultures, languages, and style of life where extremely contradict with local

peoples cultures. In fact, most of the Tausug committed to crimes and this created

stereotypes and gradually less integrated.

Moreover, the Tausug also believed that Sabah is under Sultan Sulu powers

based on history perspective and therefore they registered as “Sulu Soldiers” who

desire to place Sultan Sulu power in the special areas of Sabah, especially Lahad Datu

and Semporna. Internal support has brought Jamalul Kiram soldiers intervened

164
Stark Jan. Malaysia Foreign Policies and a New Asian Regionalism. Working Papers Series, No.48,
February 2007, University of Hong Kong.
165
Human safety refer to the safety of people were related to independent people movement, and they
freedom and prosperity. See, Zarina Othman. Mainstreaming Human Security: the Asian Contribution.
Paper Presented at International Development Studies Conference, 4-7 October 2007, Bangkok,
Thailand.

77
Tandou and Semporna due to the Tausug ethnic support. Since then, Tanduo villages

in Lahad Datu had been stormed by known as “Royal of Sulu Soldiers” that claimed

recognition and asking to stop send Sulu society in Sabah to Philippines. But yet,

Malaysia has refused to such claimants. The reason was, by having recognition for the

group as Royal Sulu Soldiers, it means will increase migration from Southern

Philippines in East Sabah that may contribute to the arms trafficking in the Sulu Sea

where becomes a lucrative route to illicit arms trade for supplying group gangster in

Sabah and Sarawak.166 At the same token, Malaysia authority also afraid that Sabah

might become “the second Southern Philippines”, where has separatism vision. To

deal this crisis, Malaysia diplomacy adopted Wasatiyyah approach without

bloodshed.167 As first action, Malaysia authorities give sometimes to intruders to

retreat and Malaysia asking Philippines government to persuade the group to peaceful

withdrawal.168 However, after reconciliation process failed, and only after 8 police

commando died, Malaysia arms forced decided to response through offensive attack.

Along with that, Malaysia announced the comprehensive security approach so called

as Eastern Sabah Security Command as long effort to lasting stability and human

security in Sabah. In ASEAN Summit 2013, in Brunei, none of these threat bring by

Malaysia government, to solve together.

By evaluating such human security issues, it appear that, Wasatiyyah approach

externally suitable to overcomes national threat by maintaining prosperity and peace

in the region without being emotional and bias towards surrounding nations.

Internally, the emerging “People First, Performance Now” had raises the idea of

166
Miani Lino. 2011. The Sulu Arms Market National Responses to a Regional Problem. Institute of
Southeast Asian Studies: Singapore. pp, 65-82
167
“Lahad Datu Situation to be “Solved in the best way”. The New Straits Times, February 21,2013.
168
“ Lahad Datu Stand-Off: Philippines request Malaysia to Extend Deadline”. The Star, February
23,2013

78
human security within Malaysia society thereby constructed different national interest

after Mahathir eras. It marked by self-security identity through promoting a mutual

tolerance which strengthened the values of peace, realistic, humanity, justice and

equality.169 This coincidence, place Wasatiyyah diplomacy more peoples oriented

ambitions. These character had weakened ASEAN roles to influences Malaysia

foreign policy strategy. As a result, it had contributed to Malaysia foreign policy

strategy to focuses on individual countries in ASEAN member states or partners.

CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

5.1 Summary

In sum, over the years, Malaysia threat has been changed. From

communist ideology to the emergence of globalisation had created different eras of

169
“Formulation of Foreign Policy”.>www.kln.gov/web/guest/formation< 23/2/2013

79
security complex, leading to differing national interest from one national leader to

another. This contributed to changing priorities of Malaysia’s foreign policies. During

the eras of Tun Abdul Razak Mahathir Malaysia’s foreign policies priorities were

mostly to secure the country’s position in the region and to protect national prosperity

and unity by containing traditional security which was the prominent threat at that

time. In this regard, ASEAN has become a strategic platform for Malaysia to translate

national concern into regional action. For instance, at home, Malaysia faced

communist insurgency in the 50s and for several years after achieving independence

and racial unrest in May 1969. Externally, it faced the desire of big powers to meddle

in the Southeast Asia region. To avoid this external threat, Malaysia proposed the

neutralisation policy in the form of ZOFPAN, SEANWFZ and Kuantan declaration

for the ASEAN organisation.

Similarly, when Malaysia was affected by the Asian financial crisis in

1997/98 and the lack of transparency in the Washington Consensus, Malaysia initiated

to further expand ASEAN cooperation with its Dialogue Partners - China, the

Republic of Korea and Japan, as well as enhancement of cooperation activities under

the ASEAN-EU Meeting (ASEM) framework. In such efforts, Malaysia, without

doubt, had been successful in promoting prosperity, peace and economic development

in the region. Thus, Malaysia’s commitment to ASEAN has substantially reduced

intra-regional threat to the national security. At the end of Mahathir administration,

Malaysia faced non-traditional security threats as the dominant concern at the regional

and national levels. This trend suggested that challenges were not mainly and

necessarily military in nature as before, but rather the threats to national security were

more complicated and unexpected. In attending to this issue, Malaysia consistently

approach it was through the adoption of “one policy to all issues”, with the

80
assumption that those threats were related to national sovereignty meaning that

viewing them in the broader perspectives.

However, when Abdullah Ahmad Badawi presided as Prime Minister in

2003, the country adopted a foreign policy which clearly gave another perspective of

the evolution of Malaysia foreign policy goals and strategy in the region. Non-

military threats to Malaysia were ever-increasing. At this time, the tendency of

Malaysia foreign policy was no more towards ASEAN as an organisation in

protecting national interests. ASEAN has already promoted curbing transnational

crime, but failed in the level of implementation. Malaysia does not place its faith in

ASEAN anymore, but rather acts individually as a country to determine the success of

its policies at home. For examples, while Malaysia daunted by militant groups in

Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Acheh in Indonesia, as well as the

mounting extremist group activities domestically, it had solved those issues through

bilateral constructive engagement, dialogue, and preventive diplomacy. This effort

means pursued localization strategy to gain significant impact.

In relation to the above, SEARCCT established in Malaysia in 2003 consists of only

Timor Leste as another country from Southeast Asia region, besides Malaysia. At the

same time, in the effort to combat transnational crimes, Malaysia has signed MOUs

only with Indonesia and the Philippines. Similarly, illegal immigrations issue that

prevails in Malaysia has only been addressed in at the bilateral level rather on

multilateral basis. In fact, ASEAN member states do not signed any agreement on this

issue. In the economic context, China and ASEAN individual countries such as

81
Singapore played a vital role to Malaysia economic partnership than the AFTA in

ASEAN cooperation. It more promises economic tangible result than in AFTA.

Based on the above, ASEAN is no longer a” corner stone” for Malaysia

foreign policy, but rather as a stepping point to forge strategic partnership with

individual countries. The reason was clear. During Tun Abdul Razak till Mahathir

administration, ASEAN became a strategic platform in the purpose of balance of

power to distributed power equally among member states since they were confronting

traditional security issues which created a common interest. Countries in Southeast

Asia region, most of them newly independent, therefore this threat created huge

concern to all ASEAN members. In this scenario, ASEAN as organisation could play

deterrence approach and promoted common security aspiration. Although these are

non-military threats, ASEAN could not balance those threats due to national

reputation, lack of commitments, regime survival and sovereignty. With less of

NGO’s participation, while more elite oriented and the conservative approach in

ASEAN organisation, such as the non-interference policy, has been the main point

limiting ASEAN’s role.

In short, if from 1967 to 2003 it was more focused on prospering in

multilateralism170,the post-Mahathir era has been primarily interested on in bilateral

relations with neighbouring countries with promising tangible results rather than in

ASEAN that is still a mere talk shop. For instance, while Malaysia strongly pursues

ETP at home, it also pursues economic cooperation with individual countries in

Southeast Asia, such as with Singapore in the development of Iskandar Malaysia

Project, and with China in the industrial park project. Having such commitment,

170
See, Tham Siew Yean. Prosper Thy Neighbour Policies: Malaysia’s Contributions after the Asian
Financial Crisis. ASEAN Economic Bulletin, Vol.24, No.1(2007),pp. 72-97

82
Malaysia’s diplomacy is not really “activism” as before, but it was influenced by self-

security identity, with suitable and promising tangible results for the country’s human

security. Non-traditional security issue is totally different with military potential

threat. While military threats could be addressed by weapons and arms, non-military

threats couldn’t be addressed in the same way. Hence, humane approach to humane

problem is the valid answer for Malaysia’s concern.

Islam Hadhari under Abdullah Badawi emphasised more on solidarity,

unity and Muslim image, where, after the 9/11 incidence, Malaysia has responsibility

to “correct” the misunderstanding about Islam. Islam Hadhari not only served as an

mantra at home, but it also was an effort to uphold Malaysia human concern to bring a

just economic, equal rights, solidarity among fellow citizens, and prosperity. Thus,

Islam Hadhari played a crucial role to develop Malaysia’s diplomacy approach in

order to meet national interest by maintaining prosperity and peaceful environment in

the region. This approach was continued by Najib Razak after Abdullah resigned as

Prime Minister. Moderation or Wasatiyyah, as it was known, has been promoted by

Najib Razak in the global world as the best way to deal with Malaysia human security

concern in the region. Both approaches were the creation of Malaysia diplomacy to

deal with non-state actors in the era of informal threat and interconnected world.

Using one approach to one issue in mind, moderation diplomacy tried to balancing

equal result to Malaysian and its partnership by maintaining respect, dignity and

equitable manner.

The question arises as to why Islam became a source of Malaysia’s

foreign policy strategy? The study provided two reasons. Firstly, the real threat in of

non-traditional security pertains to militant and guerrilla groups in the region. Some

of those groups devoted to using Jihad as mantra to overthrow or create instability in

83
the government. By using and promoting Islam, it could abstain and produce good

government image in the eyes of extremist groups. Throughout both of Malaysia

Prime Minister post-Mahathir era, there is no suicide bombing happen, nor militant

group threats targeting Malaysia security. Secondly, Islam itself provides the best way

to foster economic development and as a “code of conduct” for government in dealing

with other countries. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak had always said that

Islam provided moderate, progressive, equality, and innovation in the nation building.

5.2 Implications of the Study

By evaluating ASEAN’s roles in Malaysia’s foreign policy, Malaysia

diplomacy approach, and the evolution of threat and national interest, this study

provided 3 three implications. First, ASEAN has played limited roles to Malaysia’s

foreign relation priorities after the Mahathir era. Dealing with non-traditional threat

make multilateralism strategy regarded as has-been. Second, of course, each leader

had different approach, but the uniqueness about Malaysia’s diplomacy after the

Mahathir era was that Islamic norms and practices had conceptualised and regulated

Malaysia’s diplomacy to meet the changing world. It’s not wrong to argue that, the

ulama (Islam spiritual leaders) had dominantly affected Malaysia’s development of

foreign policies. Third, Malaysia is vulnerable to non-traditional security issues in the

region due to her position in Southeast Asia and interconnection with neighbouring

countries. Along with Malaysia position in Southeast Asia, where had shared common

borders with most ASEAN countries indicated that Malaysia was the huge targets of

non-traditional “attack”. In this respect, the source of threat has been expanded to be

more complex. Malaysia’s security complexity comprises sources of threat from

84
globalization, superior society, histories and multi-ethnic roles from which new

features of Malaysia foreign policy strategy emerged. The element was self-security

identity, Wasatiyyah, selective security issues and innovation norms. Thus, it

contributed to the changing of Malaysia national interest where it no longer protects

the middle class, but rather all the classes in Malaysia’s society. In sum, this essay

provides a useful avenue for discussion on issues of significance in Malaysia foreign’s

relation on human security.

5.3 Suggestions.

Malaysia foreign policy literatures of recent times tend to look at

Malaysia’s management of traditional security issues instead of looking at non-

military threat in the era of informal threat. By looking into different situations, this

study would assist to bring an overview on how Malaysia conducted its human

security by adopting different norms of diplomacy after the Mahathir era. Obviously,

the threats on Malaysia come from transnational crimes and extremist groups at home

and from abroad in this region. Thus, further research on Malaysia’s management of

crisis in the region on those particular areas shall be the key concern for the researcher

in the near future. This study is crucial to all who are interested in Malaysia’s foreign

policy after Mahathir era in the context of Malaysia’s diplomacy on human security

and diplomatic approach.

To narrow it down, the study would suggest research pertaining to the

non-traditional security characters. It may be useful and valuable to understand deeper

on extremist groups and transnational crimes problems in Southeast Asia. The

questions which may arise probably would be: What are the causes of mounting

85
extremist group activities in the region? If Jihad pretend as the answer, should

Malaysia worried with this threat? What is the fundamental problem of combating

transnational crimes? Is because of “hierarchical structures” and “loose networks”?

What might be the relevant factor to describe the cause of transnational crimes in

Southeast Asia and can Malaysia succeed in addressing non-traditional threats without

strong ties with ASEAN as an organization? Obviously, this study is crucial to whom

who interested in Malaysia foreign policy after Mahathir era especially, in the context

of Malaysia human diplomacy.

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Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at the United Malays National

Organization Annual General Assembly, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 20, 2005.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at Invest Malaysia 2006 Conference,

Shangri-La, Kuala Lumpur, Mac 23,2006

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Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at, Bio-Malaysia 2005, Putrajaya

International Convention Centre, April 28, 2005

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Speech at, Malaysia Green Forum, University

Putra Malaysia, April 2010.

Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, Speech at, “ Building an East Asian Security Community”,

in the Second East Asia Forum, Kuala Lumpur, December 6, 2004

Datuk Seri Najib, Speech at, “Malaysia Foreign Policy: Future Direction for 2009-

2015”, in Heads of Mission Conference, Putrajaya Kuala Lumpur, June 22, 2009

Dato Sri Anifah Aman, Speech at,” Malaysia Foreign Policy: Moderation in Action”.

In Malaysia for the International Conference of the Global Movement of Moderates,

January 17, 2012.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Speech at, “Official Launch of Malaysia-China

Kuantan Park, 3 February 2013.

“Strategic Plan 20009-2015”. Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010.

Trafficking in Women and Children in Malaysia, report of Human Rights

Commission of Malaysia( SUHAKAM), 2004.

Trafficking In Person Report, 2011.

Joint Statement Eight Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Philippines East Asean Growth

Area Summit”, Phom Penh, Cambodia, April 4, 2012

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Vaughn Bruce et.al. Terrorism in Southeast Asia. Congressional Report Service,

October 16, 2009.

Newspapers.

“Pak Lah: Islam hadhari not a new religion or order.” The Star, 7 August, 2006.

“Ten Main Principles of Islam Hadhari.” The Star, 7 August, 2006

“Is the ASEAN Cornerstone of Malaysia Foreign Policy?” The Edge Malaysia,

November 10,2012

Asiaweek, March 2,2001.

“Malaysia Pledges to Aid Thai Government in Ending Violent Unrest on Shared

Border”. Global Insight, February 12, 2007

“Malaysia Bantu Thailand: Hantar Penceramah Agama, Kepakaran Hadapi Ancaman

Militan.” Utusan Malaysia, May 5, 2004

“Indonesia Fire Blanket Central Malaysia.” The New York Times, August 12,2005

“Malaysia Haze Points to Regional Problem”. The New York Times, June 23, 2012.

“Govt Vows to Prosecute 10 Firms Over Fire Forest”. The Jakarta Post, August 16,

2005

“Malaysia Makes Inroads in Battling Human Trafficking.” Bernama, February

24,2013

“Tak Bai Crackdown”. The Nation, October 28 2004

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“Najib Hopes Wen Will Continue to Promote Malaysia-China Relations.” The Star,

February 20, 2013

“China, Malaysia Launch Joint Industrial Park”. China Daily, February 6, 2013

“Malaysia should diversify trade pattern and explore China sector, says DPM”.

Bernama,22 May 2010.

“BIMP-EAGA Sees Promising Outlook for Food Market.” The Star, July 17,2012

“BIMP-EAGA & IMT-GT Consumer Fair Kicks-Off”. The News Straits Times,

November 30,2012

“Trans-boundary Travel for BIMP-EAGA Region is now possible”. The Borneo

Post, February 20, 2012

“IMT-GT Meeting on Progress of Projects”. The Edge, September 28, 2012

“Indonesia Maid Issues Nears Settlement”. The New Straits Times, May 8, 2010.

“Malaysia Says Indonesia Maid Deal Delayed; Will Look Elsewhere for Hired

Help.” The Jakarta Globe, July 13,2010

“Malaysia-Indonesia Ties at a Critical Juncture”. The Brunei Times, September 7,

2010.

“Tensions rise over ad that reads “ Indonesian Maids Now On Sale”. The Journal,

October 10, 2012

“KL-Jakarta Ties that Can be Maids Better”. The Star, December 18, 2012

“Lahad Datu Situation to be “Solved in the best way”. The New Straits Times,

February 21,2013.

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“Lahad Datu Stand-Off: Philippines request Malaysia to Extend Deadline”. The Star,

February 23,2013

“UNHCR Granted access to Rohingya Refugee”. The Bangkok Post, January 16, 2013

“Vatican to Open First Embassy in Malaysia”. The Choice, January 19, 2013

Holy Quran.

Sura Al-Baqarah.

Interviews.

Interview with Khoo Ai In, Phd Candidates in University Putra Malaysia also served

as Lecture in International and Strategic Studies, UM in 2009-2011. 15/2/2013.

Interview with Dato Ahmad Moktar Selat, Malaysia former Ambassador, and former

lecturer in IR deparment, UM. 25/2/2013.

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