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Remarks by Chinese Ambassador is an extraordinary occurrence

The issue of the remarks by the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang over the threatened “red shirt” rally in Petaling Street is an extraordinary occurrence.

The Chinese Embassy’s denials notwithstanding, the incident is surely a sign of the failures of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s leadership that foreign powers now see fit to intervene in our domestic political

It is clear and unvarnished proof that Malaysia’s reputation—once the exemplar and champion of the developing world—has been seriously tarnished.

It is true that Dr Huang’s comments perhaps stepped outside the boundaries of what was appropriate for a diplomat.

China—via its envoy to Malaysia—appears to be signalling that it now sees itself fit to state its position on the affairs of other nations.

We hope therefore that the People’s Republic will henceforth likewise be more receptive to international comment on various issues of concern in their shores, including over the treatment of its pro-democracy activists, as well as the Uighur Muslim and Tibetan peoples.

Nevertheless, it has to be conceded that the opportunity for Dr Huang to make such remarks would not have existed had the Najib Razak government shown more leadership, principle and firmness on the “red shirt” saga.

As it is, various leaders in the administration and the ruling UMNO party issued contradictory and downright mendacious statements on this sorry affair, including the Prime Minister himself.

There is a real risk that the vacuum of leadership that currently exists in Malaysia will leave us vulnerable to more foreign interventions of this kind. Malaysia needs principled but also credible leadership if it is to maintain and recover its position in the international stage.

Moreover, our hypersensitivity to international criticism must cease, especially when it comes to human rights and politics.

Our misplaced obsession with the principle of “non-interference” that has dictated Malaysia and ASEAN’s foreign policy more often than not leads the nations of Southeast Asia—despite pious talk of regional integration—to bury their heads in the sand rather than confront serious problems with supranational consequences.

At any rate, our so-called desire for “non-interference” has never stopped us from commenting on international issues such as the fate of Palestine. Malaysia was among the first Commonwealth nation to criticise the Apartheid Policy in South Africa.

We repeat, Malaysia needs principled but also credible leadership if it is to maintain and recover its position in the international stage.