PM can do more for Palestinians

Kenneth Cheng Chee Kin

The writer is of the view that PM Anwar Ibrahim, as a government leader, possesses the political means to shape foreign policy. – PMO handout pic, October 29, 2023.

IN a democratic society where the right to freely assemble is regularly exercised, people who either organise or attend a protest usually want to publicly express an objection towards a political idea or policy.

A protest is a unique public action usually reserved for those who are powerless or do not possess the political power to undo the action or policy that they object.

For instance, refugees or undocumented migrants organise a protest because they are powerless and sorely lack political representation.

To them, it is perhaps the only form of public action where they hope they could cajole some lawmakers to carry their aspirations into parliament.

Similarly, thousands of Malaysians have taken to the streets at the height of the Bersih movement because they believe they had been denied a more transparent electoral process and wanted the government to answer the call.

In short, it is rare for the government to stage a protest when it has the means to institute change or remedy the cause. It is said when you are in government, action speaks louder than words.

This brings us nicely to the “Malaysia with Palestine” rally at Axiata Arena, which was well attended by 20,000 people who had gathered to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians and demand – and rightly so – the Israeli regime to immediately halt its brutal bombardment on Palestine in the name of eradicating Hamas.

This article does not intend to discredit the Axiata rally nor question the people who had attended the rally in good faith and clearly want nothing more than peace and a Palestine free of oppression and occupation.

After all, in the face of an increasingly hopeless situation in the Gaza Strip, the least that ordinary citizens of the world could offer are thoughts, prayers and urging their respective government to stand up against violence and hatred.

However, the Axiata rally is unique in a way that it was announced by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on his social media.

While officially several civil society groups, namely Viva Palestina Malaysia and Humanitarian Care Malaysia, had organised the rally, even a blind person could conclude that the fingerprints of the government or more accurately Anwar is all over the rally.

Moreover, the fact that the prime minister was the final speaker and had delivered a fiery speech that harked back to his time of being a firebrand Islamist with Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement should also indicate that Anwar has been searching for a platform to showcase his unyielding support for Palestine.

His commitment to a free Palestine is unquestionable but at the same time, questions should be asked whether a protest led by the leader of the government could serve to further the cause of Palestinians.

Unlike citizens who can only make their voices heard through protests, Anwar most definitely possesses the political means to shape foreign policy.

While Malaysia has never and will never be a superpower, the country is still internationally respected and renowned as a moderate Islamic nation.

This obviously grants Anwar a certain international clout to act as a spokesman for Palestine and bridge the gap between countries that may be still sitting on the fence in this conflict.

However, Anwar could lose these competitive advantages if foreign leaders misconstrue his claims of being threatened by United States and Europe.

Even in a conflict where the oppressor and the oppressed have been well established, a head of government ought to act in a more statesmanlike and dignified manner when dealing with the complex world of foreign policy, where a myriad of political interests are often intertwined.

Anwar’s speech could also alienate potential allies when he has openly questioned the silence of the United Nations in this conflict. As a matter of fact, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has been calling for de-escalation and a peaceful resolution amid Israel’s insistence on continuous conflict.

I maintain the belief that humane foreign objectives are only achievable when they are conducted in a quiet and honourable manner where countries are allowed to express their opinions but not bully into submission.

It is worth remembering that the closest Palestinians came to a permanent peace was the Oslo Accord in 1993 brokered by the US.

Both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Authority had acted in good faith and peace agreements were made behind doors before formally announced.

Anwar would do well to remember that and as a prime minister of a country that is united in the Palestinian cause, he can obviously achieve more internationally rather than still trying to win over an already persuaded crowd. – October 29, 2023.

* Kenneth Cheng has always been interested in the interplay between human rights and government but more importantly he is a father of two cats, Tangyuan and Toufu. When he is not attending to his feline matters, he is most likely reading books about politics and human rights or playing video games. He is a firm believer in the dictum “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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