Malaysia all for peacekeeping, says Tun Dr Siti Hasmah

The Malaysian Armed Forces’ participation in UN’s peacekeeping operations has already earned an international recognition

By NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Malaysia will continue to be on the forefront for peace, in line with the United Nations’ (UN) global campaign to make the world a better place.

As it is, the Malaysian Armed Forces’ participation in UN’s peacekeeping operations has already earned an international recognition.

Prime minister’s (PM) wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali (picture), who is also the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) honorary advisor, said the country’s Armed Forces certainly has its fair share in global peacekeeping, and will continue to serve towards the goal.

“We still have forces in Lebanon, Bosnia and other places right now,  but we will take part when the UN requests for our Armed Forces to participate in their peacekeeping operations,” she said at an essay writing competition’s prize-giving ceremony organised by PGPF and MajalahSains.com last Friday.

She said in 1995, PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sent a group of Malaysian soldiers to participate in the UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

He also urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to help the newly independent European country, following his concerns on human rights’ violation during the Bosnian War in October 1993.

Since then, both countries have established relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognised by Malaysia as an independent country.

Sarajevo City Center, Bosnia. In 1995, PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sent a group of Malaysian soldiers to participate in the UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. (Pic: Bloomberg)

Dr Siti Hasmah said she is grateful to the peace that now exists in the country, and hopes that the same could be spread to other places.

“It’s a good thing we are a peaceful country. This is a topic that is close to the hearts of Malaysians,” she said.

To date, Malaysia has participated in almost all peacekeeping missions conducted by the UN such as in Congo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Namibia, Somalia, East Timor and Lebanon.

In her speech, Dr Siti Hasmah also reminisced about her trips to provide humanitarian aid in Iraq.

“I was asked for a favour by my husband to visit Iraq…and I said, I have been doing you favours for all these years. He asked me to validate what we were seeing on the television and what we read in the newspapers during the economic and trade sanction.

“Another request that my husband made at the time was to not ask to see Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein, but it would be okay if he asked to see me,” she said.

She said when he called to meet her, she saw a sculpture of an eagle that was made of bullet shells from the Iran-Iraq War.

“You see how they treasure bullets and killing people. I also saw the eagle’s face was pointing towards Iran,” she said.

She added that a book will be written regarding this experience, as she was accompanied by a veteran journalist and Sunday Mail former editor Aishah Ali and her photographer.

“She had taken a lot of pictures, but there was not a single picture of Saddam Hussein. We will be writing a story about our trip in Iraq,” Dr Siti Hasmah said.

As for the essay competition, she said she had taken a peek of the essays that were sent in.

“I gave a look at the ‘Science for Peace’ category in English, and wow! I could not read this kind of English, because it was so advanced…I can’t imagine how the judges had to go through all the pieces and choose the best of them, so I also wish to congratulate the judges for their selections,” she said.

She added that she was pleased with the active participation from the public and students.

“The level of interest and knowledge shown by these participants in the subject of peace highlights that peace is an important matter to Malaysians as they strive to better the world,” she said.

Just International Movement for a Just World president Dr Chandra Muzaffar, which is also the “Criminalise War” category chief judge, said while the essays were judged based on the level of knowledge and understanding of the themes, the authors could not be faulted for the lack of coverage on reasons for war.

“Most mainstream international media do not cover or write the reasons why war occurs, but instead report it for what it seems, when there are usually geographical or wealth reasons,” he said.

He said there are plenty of alternative media that provides a different perspective on how these wars happen, but the voice of mainstream media is generally louder.

“Unfortunately, our people too need to change their mindset because they are more drawn to entertainment portals. If it isn’t entertainment, pornography is still the most popular,” he said.

He cited Venezuela as an example, as reported by Al-Jazeera last Friday that President Nicolas Maduro is funnelling cashflow from its oil sales via Russian-integrated state energy giant PJSC Rosneft Oil Co in order to avoid the US’ sanctions to remove him from power.

“The reason why this is happening is really that Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves,” he said.

In January, Washington imposed tough restrictions on Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, which added the struggle on Venezuela to finance imports and government spending.

He said the constant diversion made by Western media makes it easily forgotten that Venezuela is vulnerable due to its reserve.