PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Najib Razak says Malaysia needs a clear break from past approaches as the country’s foreign policy should be about building partnerships that benefit the nation and people.
Opening the biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association of Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) here today, Najib stressed that national interest should always come before personal political interests.
“We, in Malaysia, believe in reaching out to other states, regardless of political ideology and systems, while maintaining an independent, non-aligned and principled stance in regional and international affairs,” he said.
Malaysia, however, did not believe in foreign intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, he said.
“We are firm that the days when imperial powers could tell others how to behave, whether politically, economically or culturally, are over,” he said.
Alluding to a past leader, Najib said Malaysia had decided that its foreign relations would no more be characterised by caustic words and barbed comments and, instead, be moderate in its approach.
“This will allow us to reclaim the centre and promote mutual understanding. It is a priority at the national, regional and international levels,” he said.
Najib lambasted the past leader who adopted intentionally confrontational foreign policy positions, perhaps for personal popularity.
In choosing to be different and make a clear break from past approaches, Najib said: “No more insisting on awakening old quarrels or harping on old slights that everyone else had forgotten.”
Najib said developing relations and economic partnerships with other nations was what promoted peace, security and prosperity for its peoples.
“That has been our approach – and we have seen the benefits,” he said, citing the example on how he had worked to deal with legacy issues with Singapore regarding the resolution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 after a 20-year deadlock.
He also drew attention to the fact that Malaysia and Singapore would build a high-speed railway between the two countries to enhance connectivity, economic opportunities and people-to-people contact.
In the Philippines, Malaysia facilitated the negotiations to resolve Asia’s longest running insurgency, he said.
He said Malaysia’s desire to build bridges was not confined to Southeast Asia as the country had built stronger ties around the world with China, India, Russia, the United States, Japan and the European Union, among many others.
He noted that Malaysia also believed in open regionalism and expanding free trade and had signed 13 free trade agreements with other countries.
“Indeed, Malaysian relations with our friends across the continents have never been so warm. And these relationships have borne tangible results,” he added.
Malaysia, he said, was also a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on its own terms without sacrificing national interest.
He said if the TPP went ahead as planned, PricewaterhouseCoopers had predicted Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by up to USD211 billion between 2018 and 2027, and would bring additional investment of up to USD239 billion.
“We believe that transforming our economies, and making sure that our foreign policy is based on increasing trade and ties with each other, is a path to peace, security and growth for all.
“It will lead to a future based on cooperation, and not dispute,” he said.
Najib also said Malaysia would be a partner to anyone that needed help in the fight against extremism and radicalism, both at home and abroad.
“A scourge (extremism and radicalism) that has brought death and destruction to so many countries – amongst them, Commonwealth states – and which has cast the shadow of its blight here as well,” he said.
He said Malaysia safeguarded its vision and practice of moderation by playing a leading role in combating extremism and radicalism, both at home and abroad.
He cited as an example the recently launched Regional Digital Centre for Counter-Messaging Communication in Kuala Lumpur, which will fight the propaganda of Islamic State (IS) and other terrorists by exposing falsehoods and misinformation.
Najib said Malaysia did not wish for hostility with anyone, but neither would it sacrifice its self-respect and democratic process to satisfy countries that seemed to have forgotten that they were living in a multi-polar world.
“It is for nations to govern themselves, and for peoples to give governments their democratic mandate,” he said.
Najib said he made no apology for defending the sovereignty of Malaysia and the interests of its people.
“We in the Commonwealth – many of us from states that were once colonies – should recognise that while larger powers may seek to push us to act as they wish, it is our peoples’ right to choose our own path,” he said.
The Commonwealth is an association of 53 countries spanning Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific and representing 2.2 billion citizens.