The Asian Voice

Malaysians should embrace the world, not narrow community interests: Sin Chew Daily

Following the establishment of the Asean Community, Malaysia is set to expand its influences in the region.
Following the establishment of the Asean Community, Malaysia is set to expand its influences in the region.PHOTO: ST FILES

Malaysia stands a chance to have strong ties with the US and China. However, leaders have been cautious and indecisive due to psychological and political considerations.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang's visit has opened up a whole new world of business opportunities for Malaysia, and we expect foreign direct investment from China to also increase steadily.

This has come as a big relief to the Malaysian economy which is now suffering from sluggish growth, but will we be able to make the best of the opportunities lying before us?

Following the establishment of the Asean Community, Malaysia is set to expand its influences in the region.

As a matter of fact, both the United States and China have been eyeing the potentials of Malaysia.

The US needs Malaysia to wage its anti-terror war in the region and President Barack Obama has hoped to put the TPP into practice before his term ends.

China, meanwhile, sees Malaysia as its most trusted friend in the Asean region, and has therefore forged a full strategic partnership relationship with the country.

Premier Li Keqiang said candidly during the recent Asean-China summit that his country had always seen Malaysia as its prioritised ally in Asean.

Mr Obama has visited the country twice, and Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Malaysia two years ago.

The Malaysian government should have made good use of such opportunities to exploit the huge global marketplace, luring more investment funds from both the US and China.

Unfortunately, psychological and political considerations have caused our leaders to become unnecessarily cautious and indecisive.

Take for example, we have been wishy-washy when it comes to extending visa exemption facility to Chinese tourists, citing national security excuses.

However, we appear to be excessively positive when it comes to US visa waiver, not to mention the Agreement on Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PCSC) signed with Washington so that we will soon be included in the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

You might still remember that Chinese Ambassador Huang Huikang was summoned by Wisma Putra soon after he visited Petaling Street after the Sept 16 rally.

On the contrary, no political leaders seemed to voice up against Mr Obama's meeting with civic leaders, including Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, on the sidelines of the Asean summit, in addition to raising the highly sensitive transparency and corruption issues with Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mr Obama also said during a dialogue with some 500 Asean youth leaders that government policies should be fair to every citizen, including individuals with unusual sexual orientation.

I am not trying to say that we should protest to the US over Mr Obama's apparent intervention in our domestic affairs, but that everyone deserves the right to criticise or comment on things which are not right.

Ambassador Huang indeed has his right to speak; so does the US president. However, our government officials must never hold double standards and respond differently to criticisms by different individuals.

We must voice up if the government has indeed done something not quite right.

Our leaders must be firm in their stand to safeguard the country's interests, and go all out for things that are beneficial to the nation and her people, undeterred by any political consideration or other factors.

Mr Li announced that China would extend up to 50 billion yuan (S$11 billion) of Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) to Malaysia, and will continue to purchase our treasury bonds at market prices in order to help the country grow its capital market while stabilising the bond rate.

China boasts not just capital fund but technology as well, and it is now up to our political leaders and government officials to overcome their psychological barriers to entrench our strategic partnership with Beijing.

Similarly, if the Trans-Pacific Partnership helps expand our trade and competitiveness, by all means the government should ratify the agreement. Unfortunately our political leaders are still worrying whether bumi rights and electoral votes will be affected instead of looking at the bigger picture.

The so-called national interests should also encompass democratic values championed by Mr Obama.

As the President has said, a country will fail if this issue is not effectively addressed, no matter how rich it might be in natural resources.

Our leaders must clearly identify what is meant by national interests.

We have squandered decades of our time beating around the same old issues; it is now time for us to walk out of our illusionary realm to embrace the real world outside.