Malaysia as Peace Ambassador
Capt. Martin A. SEBASTIAN RMN (R)
To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia. This is the successful tagline for a song by Tourism Malaysia to woo tourists to a country with diverse landscape, culture, cuisine, language, race, religion and many more. The foundations of the people called Malaysians are very unique in nature. The inhabitants of the Peninsula and Sabah/Sarawak in Borneo come from varied backgrounds, made even more varied with the large influx of foreigners over the past decade. There have been no major conflicts among the communities besides a short dark episode way back in 1969. Malaysians are known to be affable within and away from our shores. The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) will testify to that. This is because they have served in many parts of the world, rife with civil conflicts. They have had first-hand experience in the Malaysian Model of peace ambassadors, portraying the Malaysian footprint of diversity whilst displaying high standards of morale and courage. The international community often finds it hard to stereotype Malaysians due to the diverse nature, inherent to those called Malaysians. What then are the unique internal foundations that make us who we are?
Prior to the arrival of western powers, feudal lords ruled the Peninsula. In Borneo, the administration of the people was centred around feudal lords and their respective native tribes. The arrival of western powers changed all that. Foreign workers from India and China were brought in to work in the agricultural and mining industries. Eventually these people fused peacefully with the local community and thrived as a society. When these communities were later faced with the communist threat, the British decided to issue identity cards to differentiate locals and the menace. Together, people from different backgrounds bonded as a community and regained peace. Independence and the Constitution eventually brought more power to the people and the land became a constitutional monarchy.
Then came the Federation of Malaysia with the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak from across the South China Sea. Another peaceful transition through a plebiscite conducted by the Cobbold Commission. These new entries were again tested by the communist menace followed by the Indonesian attack on the new nation of Malaysia. The people of Malaysia, now united, dealt with the menace together in security and development operations, which eventually ended in a peace process. From both sides of the South China Sea, the citizens of Malaysia united to work for a progressive nation. Malaysia was a founding member of the Association of South East Asian States (ASEAN), and the quest for Peace that forged the nation eventually became the organisation’s foundation, which Malaysia advocated in the region and the world.
Malaysia welcomed Vietnamese refugees during the height of the Vietnamese war in the 70s. Since then, a number of refugees from war-torn nations like the Philippines, Bosnia, Myanmar, the Middle East and much more have called Malaysia home, running away from conflicts. Malaysians welcomed them with open arms. Many of the refugees have duly returned to their respective homelands, having grown up in the diversity of Malaysia. Today, besides refugees, foreign workers have called Malaysia home as well, making Malaysia a haven for migrants.
Without them realizing it, Malaysians have grown into a society, creating a diverse model not found anywhere in the world. A Malay-speaking Tamil, a Chinese-speaking Kadazan, an Iban-speaking Mandarin are no surprise in Malaysia. To add to this confusion, an Indian-looking Malaysian with a Chinese name and a Chinese-looking man with an Indian name are fruits of the nation that have become a melting pot of cultures.
Malaysians are generally accepted as a peace-loving community overseas. Their ability to merge peacefully is founded on an aptitude centred around inter-personal skills, far surpassing other migrants. The prowess of the Malaysian can be best seen in leadership positions in Multinational Companies (MNC), on the regional and extra-regional stage and in world bodies like the United Nations. Malaysians have carried themselves with vigour, colour and flair, commanding the respect of the international audience. The ability of Malaysians as facilitators in peace processes is a testimony to the Malaysian Model of Peace.
It is imperative that Malaysia recognises this unique ability of Malaysians in a more advanced way. A bid for the Secretary General of the United Nations when the turn of the region comes, would not be out of place.
Malaysia’s exclusive export is investment in peace efforts. Perhaps Malaysia may need to enhance her role in the United Nations. After all, we are paying a hefty sum as a member of the global organization. More Malaysians should be well represented in the inter-governmental organisation. Malaysians should endeavour to be part of peace processes, exporting Malaysian Models of Peace to either lead or undertake the crucial tasks in the quest for lasting peace. Malaysia’s experience in the successful KESBAN programmes (Keselamatan dan Pembangunan – Security and Development ) can be shared with countries coming out of conflict. Malaysian Economic Transformation Programmes (ETP) and Blue Ocean Strategy are viable platforms that will complement the Malaysian Model of Peace in the host country. Rebuilding the broken foundations of nations should be a Malaysian specialty.
It is time therefore, to synergise and put together all the inherent instruments of policy and power to make the Malaysian Model of Peace a potent entity in enhancing Malaysia’s role as the Middle Power for Peace.
Capt. Martin A. SEBASTIAN RMN (R) is a Senior Fellow with the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA). Whilst in service with the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), he served as Desk Officer for UN Peacekeeping Operations for 3 years and served a year as Deputy Chief Operations in the UN Field Mission in Morocco. He attended the UN Peacekeeping Instructor Course at the UN Staff College in Turin, Italy and later served 3 years in the Office of Military Affairs (OMA), Department of Peace Operations (DPO) New York as Strategic Planning Team Leader for West African peace missions. He continues to be active in the study of Peace Operations