5th November 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
After the recent electoral results in May, I am puzzled when trying to understand the possible outcome of international political scenarios, considering the immediate changes that occurred in the aftermath.
It is worth to note that what happened in Malaysia is very significant to the global’s politics, even though that this country called Malaysia is only a tiny nation without any strengths or influence at the world’s stage. However, we have to admit that despite these limitations, this tiny nation is a no stranger in the world’s history and also political games in the Muslim’s universe.
Human Civilisations were evident in the Malay archipelago region since 40,000 years ago (Holme & Stephanie; 2012), and South East Asia represents about 650 million strong of people, almost close to the amount of population of the whole European nation at 700 million. Malaysia, however, represents just approximately 35 million from the sheer population of South East Asia.
Despite the size, Malaysia has been important (to the world as also) to Asia since the 13th century when Malacca became the most crucial trading hub along the international merchant routes. At that time, no King in this world who does not know about Malacca, and vice versa, that the Sultan of Malacca would naturally take into consideration; any Kings and Emperors in the world, their tributes and diplomatic missions as seriously as possible.
In those days, Malacca would send its best advisors, admirals, and messengers to the mighty nations such as India, China (Chin Empire), Ottomans, and Japan (Ryukyu or Liuqiu); sending tributes, requesting for assistance and strengthening diplomatic ties. Malacca thrived as the wealthiest trading hub in the world at that time, and at some point, prior to the glorious Malaccan Empire between the 13th until the 16th century, Claudius Ptolemy, the most famous Roman, and Greek geographer identified Malaysia as “The Golden Chersonese” or “The Golden Peninsula”.
There were obvious reasons for this identification of Malaysia as the “Golden Peninsula” by the forefathers of geographers, especially when gold and silver were the most sought-after treasures. Malaysia now still remains as the “melting pot” of the world’s culture when Arab meets the East and when the Western ideologies meet the undying Asian cultures. This is the most valuable resource of Malaysia, apart from being rich in other material resources such as tins and fossil fuels.
Therefore, it is almost impossible for the world to ignore Malaysia, despite the fact that it’s insignificant in term of the numbers and size.
Malaysia is born with lucky strings, to begin with. It is almost impossible to dispute its strategic location on the world’s map. Malaysia and Singapore are the most strategically located along the international shipping routes as Malacca Straits connect the Europe, Middle East, India, and Far Eastern seaports. The only tricky fact that we have to analyze is that Malaysia, despite its unprecedented proportion of cultures, races, and religions, still is a predominantly Muslim nation with a fair combined number of devoted Buddhist, Hindus, Christians and other religionists.
When Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan (Coalition of Hope) won the last General Election, the whole world came into a shocking disbelief. Even the Prime Minister of India came to meet Tun Dr. Mahathir at his office in Putrajaya, less in a month after his election victory. Not to mention other leaders like the Brunei Sultan and Singapore Prime Minister who came to see him almost instantly after the result. Then all of the other chess pieces just fell into its places.
No one can deny that Tun Mahathir and his comrades such as Anwar Ibrahim, Azmin Ali and Muhyiddin Yassin were the usual suspects in the past’s international political play. I have painstakingly collected the data from the web when I analyzed the historical events of the past as published in this blog (Chronological Order: 1992-2004 (Bosnia-Serb War, Asian Financial Crisis and The Aftermath) to explain how Malaysia played its role in the past. We have to agree at some point that, Mahathir had almost single-handedly brought Malaysia back from the state of confusion and lack of confidence to the state where they can be morally confident and proud of their own origin. Despite that, he still believes that the struggle to put Malaysia rightly in the world map is not completed just yet, as to what he has envisioned for. He still thinks that the work has far from being considered as “finished!”.
If a nation has enemies, Malaysia’s main enemy is its ambition to become a developed nation (by 2020). There should not be any Muslim nation that can become developed without certain sacrifices; which Malaysians do not want to commit in the past, and probably in the future as well. This sacrifice is called “freedom” and “liberalism.”
Being liberal and free is almost misunderstood as being a hypocrite in the eyes of some Muslim scholars until recently. There is a political divide in the determination of whether advocating liberalism and democratic justice is tantamount to becoming disconnected from the authentic traditions of Islam. The debate continues as I write this article, when the main question remains, whether the politics of clever-strategies to achieve the end meets could approve the dubious methodology towards achieving it?
At the international stage, as time goes by, China and Japan have started to become friends although this was (considered as) impossible before when Pakatan Harapan was just an opposition in Malaysia. Despite numerous talks and forums which saw Mahathir as the leading champion of a Unified Asia, no-one dared to push this concept forward even during the era when Barrack Obama was the idolized figure in Asia. At that time, Asia was labeled as the strategic ally of the United States of America, and nothing more than that.
Malaysia has now grown to become a matured state in a chaotic world of greed, protectionism, and nationalism. Malaysia is a no stranger in the arena of nationalism and protectionism because they have been championing this cause since the day one of the 21st Century. However, there is a downside to this ideology because Malaysia is not a homogeneous country and it has to tackle the dilemma within its own nation, that it is a multiracial and multireligious nation. To thrive, Malaysia must grow while promoting the concept of Unified Asia, as it is almost close to the idea of “The New Malaysia” itself.
A Unified Asia is a concept that can change the future of the world. It has never been the case before, to see how Asians control and become dominant in the international arena. China for example, despite its sheer number of size and wealth, never conquered any other empires outside of China. India defended itself from many great civilizations of the past including the Great Alexander of Macedonia and the Ottomans. Japan, despite their failed conquest during the 2nd World War (as if there will be another World War because nobody name it as the-final-and-the-last World War?), understood the importance of partnership in the area of economy and resources management.
Mahathir and his fellow leadership colleagues know this hence the concept is being remodeled while Malaysia returns to its former natural pathway as being a neutral nation becoming friends to all governments of the world. Malaysia, since the 2nd Century, has been prosperous in maintaining peace and prosperity within its region by promoting this ideology, and then expanded again by Mahathir with a more mature approach. This includes the “prosper thy neighbor” slogan, and “Look East Policy 2.0” diplomatic strategy.
It is also worth to note that Malaysia’s future success does not depend on Mahathir’s legacy alone. It also depends on Malaysia’s cleverness in maintaining its diplomatic ties with the global superpowers including the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, and the European Nations. Malaysia also has to improve its strategic relationship with other Muslim majority powerhouses such as Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Due to its influential stature as the leading Muslim nation amongst the majority of Muslim populated countries, Malaysia is touted to be the champion of a more democratic, fair and liberal society in the midst of opposition from the more conservative minds within the political awakenings.
From this retrospective, other democratic nations are on the brink of change towards a more matured and modern-Islamic politics such as Indonesia which will hold another crucial Presidential election in 2019, and Pakistan, after Imran Khan’s surprising election success recently.
It is very exciting to watch, in particular how Malaysia survive to chart its ambition towards achieving a realistic Vision 2020, which requires not only a strong economy, but a liberal and modern civilization that includes a pragmatic and progressive Muslim citizens as its core resource, and living harmoniously productive with the other races of the world.
Welcome to New Malaysia!