In defence of Mat Sabu’s ‘18-wheeler’ diplomacy

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Mohamad Sabu has reached a small milestone. He was in New York City between Sept 23-29, one of the longest trips ever by a Malaysian defence minister, and among the few to attend the United Nations General Assembly so soon after his appointment to cabinet.

The length and the early trip to the United States are key, even if it is his 10th visit in the last four months, from the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore – during which he emphasised the centrality of Asean and the importance of the ‘Mahathir doctrine’ – to his visit to Lebanon in June.

To those not in the know, southern Lebanon is one of those delicate areas where conflicts could erupt at any given time. Malaysian peacekeepers are there to help maintain some semblance of order as part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil).

Malaysians blue helmets have always been deeply respected. Be it in Congo in 1962 or Somalia in 1989, Malaysian soldiers have always been at the forefront of peacekeeping efforts.

Infamously, the book and movie Black Hawk Down got its details wrong. It wasn't just the Pakistani blue helmets who retrieved the American rangers trapped in the fire fights in the centre of Mogadishu, Malaysians also saved the day.

Tariq Chaudhry, a UN diplomat, has always tipped his hat to the bravery of the Malaysian soldiers.

His doctorate thesis on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at Cambridge went as far as accrediting the Malaysian armed forces in maintaining the peace in Bosnia after the Dayton Agreement in 1995.

Mat Sabu is aware of this glowing legacy. He celebrates them, and is able to hit it off with Dr Mahathir Mohamed precisely because both agree peace is something which Malaysia can do and has done the world over.

Mohamad also believes that wars are a blight on humanity. One should avoid such aggressive behaviours. This is again a position not unlike the view of Mahathir, who also hates wars.

Just yesterday, Mahathir hinted that Malaysia is looking into following Japan’s constitution which prevents the country from entering armed conflicts....

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