Dr Mahathir returns as voice of 3rd-world nations at UNGA

Recently, the PM describes powerful nations’ imposition of their will on others as an extremely concerning development

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) will likely call for greater participation by third-world nations in international decision-making when he returns to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) podium this week.

In his recent announcement of Malaysia’s new foreign policy framework, the “iconoclastic” leader described powerful nations’ imposition of their will on others as an extremely concerning development, citing events in Pakistan and Jammu-Kashmir as examples.

Dr Mahathir is scheduled to deliver his speech this Friday.

Dr Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid, deputy director at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, expected Dr Mahathir to continue favouring regionalism, speak up on the Palestine-Israel conflict and voice for more equal contribution from developing countries in international decision-making.

“Malaysia will retain its present diplomatic and non-align relationship with multilateral organisations. The country has played well in being the voice of developing countries.

“Dr Mahathir is the champion when it comes to Islam and third-world countries,” Kartini, who is also an associate professor of policy analysis, told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

Since his last appearance in New York last September, Dr Mahathir has shown continuity in Malaysia’s foreign policy by fostering closer bilateral ties with neighbouring states and expanding the country’s role in maintaining equal distance between major powers.

Dr Mahathir has made it a point to visit regional neighbours with one of his most recent trips being to Vietnam — his first in over 20 years.

At the Asean level, he has called on leaders of the 10-member bloc to strengthen ties, while being pressured to take sides in the escalating rivalry between the US and China.

On the economic front, the PM has proposed the introduction of an e-commerce tax in Asean, taking cues from the region’s thriving online businesses and industries.

Malaysia’s third national car is also being developed with the interest to fortify trade activities within the region.

His trips to Japan appear to reflect his intent to be pragmatic on economic ties with China. The same can be said with his trip to Russia on ties with the US, while his meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a glimpse of hope to the Muslim world.

Geopolitics observer Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal described Malaysia’s new foreign policy as more broad-based consultative in nature, rather than a top-down approach — one that is reflective of the country’s position internationally.

“Malaysia under Dr Mahathir has always punched above its weight when it comes to raising the concerns on global injustices.

“Since global inequality has become more acute, non-state actors like corporations seem to have more clout than nation-state bodies and are becoming more bias and favourable to northern players.

“On this, we can expect Dr Mahathir to reiterate Malaysia’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding and honouring the present framework of international order, but will demand for small countries to participate and actively shape decisions made at multilateral bodies,” he said.