SEVERAL quarters in Umno and non-governmental organisations (NGO) are now scrutinising Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s security policy and strategy, especially concerning the socioeconomic position of the Bumiputera and the national identity of Malaysia’s plural society.
These groups also accused the new government for allegedly marginalising the Bumiputera’s socioeconomic interests, undermining the dignity of the Muslims, and sidelining Malaysia’s identity security.
They expressed their predicaments in an emotive and provocative manner to the extent of becoming counter-productive and may subvert the country’s racial unity and religious harmony.
These groups are not aware that Dr Mahathir had managed Malaysia’s security from 1981 to 2003, guided by a philosophy which combined the country’s political stability and economic prosperity as its thrust.
In defining this philosophy at a security convention in 1986 (ISIS National Security Convention, July 15, 1986), Dr Mahathir had said:
“National security is inseparable from political stability, economic success and social harmony. Without these all the guns in the world cannot prevent a country from being overcome by its enemies, whose ambition can be fulfilled without even a single shot. All they need really is to subvert people and set up a puppet regime.”
For his research on security policy, this writer sought clarification on the above statement from Dr Mahathir, through an interview on Nov 14, last year. He gave the following answer:
“I purposely emphasise on combining political and economic factors in managing Malaysian security. These factors have wide impacts on Malaysia and its people. If Malaysian politics is unstable, its economic development will be jeopardised. If Malaysian economy is backward, its security will be threatened.”
“As such, the best strategy to manage Malaysia’s national security is through combining political and economic factors as a thrust to its philosophy.”
Dr Mahathir translated this philosophy into national, regional and international security matrices, to guide him in managing Malaysia’s security challenges and vulnerabilities.
The national security matrix was used as a guide in enhancing Malaysia’s core values including “unity, justice, harmony, prosperity and stability”. These values were prioritised with special reference to societal issues described as “dangerous to Malaysia as a plural state”.
“If our government is not serious in handling these threats, the situation in Malaysia could be anarchical with bloodshed and civil strife,” he said.
Dr Mahathir reminded all Malaysians that there would be no peace if the country was torn apart by issues concerning national identity, religions, culture and socio-economy.
Hence, Malaysia’s national security matrix was a guide in combating extremism, radicalism and militancy propagated by Kumpulan Ibrahim Libya, Al-Arqam, Al-Maunah and Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM). It also guided in resolving racial polarisation.
Malaysia’s regional security matrix was a guide to promoting stability in Asean.
It was applied in mitigating perceived threats from Malaysia’s militarisation of Swallow Island in the Spratly Archipelago, through hedging on China, a “low-key” defence cooperation with the United States, and the Asean-way of multilateral diplomacy.
The country’s international security matrix was geared at maintaining Malaysia’s neutrality in the global arena. It guided Malaysia’s move in championing the fate of developing nations and the South-South countries from the backlash of “unfair” globalisation in the early decades of post-Cold War period.
The above illustrated the crux and dynamic of Dr Mahathir’s security philosophy, matrices, policies and strategies, when he was Malaysia’s fourth prime minister. Several recent statements by Dr Mahathir indicated that they are still close to his heart.
Therefore, it is not impossible that these philosophy and matrices will be incorporated into the new government’s security policy and strategy.
The only hindrance is the attitude of some ministers and leaders in the current administration towards national security in a plural state.
This is worrying because they had previous involvements in politics of constitutional opposition. They dissented on several fundamental provisions about Malaysia’s national identity being enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
On numerous occasions — consciously or otherwise — they also had consistently and vociferously contested the Bumiputera’s socioeconomic order defined in Article 153 of the Constitution.
These leaders and ministers must be reminded that Malaysia’s national identity was constructed on the principles of consociationalism, the spirit of social contract, and the manifest destiny of all Malaysians in the post independent era.
Equally crucial, they must accept that affirmative policies on Bumiputera, particularly the New Economic Policy (NEP), are not racist in nature. The NEP it is a “pro-poor” policy to eradicate poverty irrespective of race.
The NEP — enacted in accordance with the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara and the United Nations’ principles of human rights — has never been used to nationalise a single business of the non-Bumiputera. On the contrary, it is regarded as a societal security mechanism to promote national unity and to deter the recurrence of ethnic conflicts.
Therefore, while it is anticipated that Dr Mahathir’s previous security philosophy and matrices will be incorporated into the government’s security policy and strategy, it is also a fair request that politics of constitutional opposition be put to a complete stop by this administration.
The writer was a former member of parliament for Parit Sulong, Johor (1990-2004).