Displaying items by tag: Peace and Security

Thursday, 06 May 2021 08:23

5-Point consensus for stability

Lasting peace, security and stability have always been the core tenets of Asean from the outset. It is with great belief that the objectives can be attained through a non-interference principle and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.

In the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Asean 2025 adopted in 2015, leaders of all Asean member states reiterated the ZOPFAN concept of Southeast Asia as a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality. The idea was agreed upon by the five founding member states of Asean, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, in November 1971.

The much anticipated Asean Leader's Meeting 12 days ago has simply continued reaffirming Asean principles towards a peaceful, secure and stable region. The chairman's statement, nevertheless, set the record straight, diplomatically and adhering to the principles of mutual respect among member states, that the region must be socio-economically and politically in harmony and prosperous.

Amid all the preambulatory statements, from managing and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic to strengthening external relations with countries such as China, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom, the most sought-after statement lies in the final two. They are Asean's stance towards the political turmoil of its member state, Myanmar. With a lot of media fanfare, the audacity of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who staged the coup in February, to attend the meeting, made the meeting look cynical. However, the statement on the situation in Myanmar signified Asean's priority of having a rules-based community in which its people enjoy human rights, fundamental freedoms and social justice, values of toleration and moderation.

Furthermore, the situation in the Rakhine State, Myanmar, which exacerbated during 2017's military crackdown, is also singled out in the statement. Ironically, Min Aung Hlaing was accused of being the architect of the atrocities that saw more than half a million Rohingys displaced. Instead, the very same person was reported in the meeting as having heard the concern of other states and even considered the points raised as helpful.

Therefore, coupled with the Asean's non-interference principles that hitherto has prevented any substantial progress, particularly on the Rohingya issue, the statement would always be perceived with scepticism, albeit the good intention that it aspires towards.

The five-point consensus attached with the statement shall serve as ignition in ending the political saga in Myanmar. The five-point consensus started with a call for the immediate cessation of violence, although calls for the release of political detainees were not explicitly included. Secondly, a reconciliation process through constructive dialogue should take place, through, thirdly, the mediation of a special envoy of the Asean chair with the assistance of the Asean secretary-general.

The fourth and fifth point ask for the safe passage of humanitarian aid and the visit by the special envoy to the country.

The role of a special envoy in facilitating reconciliation and democratisation in Myanmar is not something new. Despite falling short on many occasions for any meaningful outcome, such a mission provides a glimpse into how the junta could be approached and how national reconciliation between opposing parties should be carried out, as penned by the former first UN Special Envoy to Myanmar, Tan Sri Razali Ismail.

The importance of this five-point consensus could not be overemphasised towards guaranteeing lasting security and stability in the region. This is evidenced in the influx of refugees from Myanmar, mostly of Rohingyas, to neighbouring countries. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2019 reported that Myanmar is the fifth-largest source of refugees globally, with 1.1 million have been displaced. More than 742,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh, 120,000 are internally displaced in the Rakhine state, about 153,000 in Malaysia, and about 93,000 in Thailand.

Myanmar's internal crisis at this scale needs swift action to avoid more bloodshed as reports emerged that clashes continue to erupt. The five-point consensus needs to be hastened to prevent the crisis from escalating further, thus, jeopardising the security and stability of the region. Perhaps on a more serious note, the Asean Troika should be activated to address this urgent situation for an effective and timely impact on regional peace and stability.

The writer is a research officer at Parliament of Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Wednesday 05 May 2021

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2021/05/687903/5-point-consensus-stability

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 13:21

Syria: The price of resistance

Few nations in recent decades have been targeted by a superpower the way the United States of America has subjected Syria to various forms of attack. Apart from military assaults and acts of political subversion aimed at overthrowing the government in Damascus, the US has also imposed crippling economic sanctions upon Syria, sometimes regarded as the crucible of human civilisation. These sanctions which intensified in the last few years have impacted adversely upon a huge segment of the population. They culminated in the Caesar Act of 2020 which prohibits any country or entity from engaging in any economic activity with any firm or institution in Syria. For transgressing the Act, the violating party can also be subjected to punitive action by the US.
 
The wide-ranging sanctions would be one of the primary causes of the humanitarian crisis confronting the Syrian people today. Many of them are in dire need of the essentials of life. Making ends meet has become a major challenge for even the middle-class. It must be emphasised that before the mainly orchestrated unrest beginning in 2011, the government was able to provide for the basic needs of the population and managed one of the best-run health services in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) that provided free medical care to the poor and marginalised.
 
 
The media has also distorted the first bombing of the Biden administration on 25th February 2021 against a militia in Syria allegedly backed by Iran. Most newspapers and television networks claimed that the bombing was in retaliation to a February 15th rocket attack in northern Iraq by that Syrian militia which killed a contractor working with the US military. Since the US bombing took place on Syrian territory, the Syrian government rightly condemned it as a violation of its territorial integrity. China and Russia also condemned it from the perspective of national sovereignty. The western media as a whole side-stepped the sovereignty issue and instead presented the US bombing as a response to Syrian-Iranian aggression. Both Syria and Iran denied any involvement in the February 15 rocket attack arguing that they sought a period of calm to encourage as it were the Biden administration to restore the earlier nuclear deal with Iran which president Trump had unilaterally aborted.
 
But the Western media’s agenda against Syria is so heavily skewed that it will not entertain any other interpretation of the US’s military action. The power of this biased agenda became even more blatant recently when the media ignored completely a huge scandal involving the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria in 2018. When the OPCW published its final report in March 2019, some OPCW inspectors involved in the actual investigation raised fundamental and substantive questions about the report’s conclusions. These questions cast doubt about the claims of Western governments and the Western media of Syrian government involvement in the chemical attack. The inspectors wanted their views heard by the OPCW management which refused to grant them a hearing. Instead it chose to publicly condemn the inspectors for speaking out.
 
It is because of the unbecoming conduct of the OPCW leadership that five of its former inspectors and the first Director-General of the OPCW Jose Bustani decided to express their deep concern in a public statement recently. The statement has also been endorsed by outstanding public figures such as Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk and John Avery Scales. It is telling that the statement has received so little attention from the media.
 
If news that is favourable to Syria within the context of the geopolitics of WANA is blocked out of the media, it is because those who dominate the region want it that way. The US, Israel and their allies do not want the truth about the interplay of politics and power in WANA to be known to the people. It is because Syria which is linked to Hezbollah and Iran has been consistent in opposing the hegemonic power of the US, Israel and their allies in WANA that it has had to pay such a high price. It is a price that the triumvirate of resistance is prepared to pay because it cherishes the independence and integrity of the citizens of WANA and the people of the world.
 
Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)