Afghanistan, Rohingya among Foreign Affairs Ministry’s focus this year

Saifuddin urges Malaysian NGOs to be more proactive in assisting the Afghans


THE Foreign Affairs Ministry will continue to highlight the plights of Afghanistans and Rohingyas.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said the ministry had been working hard in recent years and looked forward to working closely with other ministries and international organisations to address these issues.

In his speech during the opening ceremony of Wisma Putra’s AGM, Saifuddin said the ministry is committed to maintaining peace and stability, especially amid the still-looming threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In regards to Afghanistan, he said Wisma Putra maintains the stance of not acknowledging the ruling Taliban government and is committed to helping its people.

“Based on the discussion with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, our position is not to rush in recognising the Taliban government but we must be ready to assist the people of Afghanistan if they seek our help,” he said.

He also urged Malaysian NGOs to be more proactive in assisting the Afghans.

“We have allocated US$100,000 (RM419,000) to assist the people of Afghanistan, and we would like to see NGOs to be more active in helping them as well,” he added.

On the issue of Rohingya refugees, he said Wisma Putra is working with the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees on how to best manage the situation.

“Rohingya refugees’ education, in particular, is important to us. Hence, alternative learning centres can be implemented with international funding.

“We are also working with other countries to find solutions for these refugees,” he added.

In regards to the ministry’s focus areas this year, Saifuddin said the focus will be on looking for emerging economic opportunities and trade agreements.

Bangladesh, for example, has moved up in ranks to become a developing country.

“We must be well aware of this development and navigate our course accordingly,” he said, adding that former Soviet countries and Caspian Sea states have also emerged as potential markets for Malaysia.

Cyber security and the digital economy are also among the ministry’s focus areas this year, where it is looking to strengthen cyber security capabilities to protect national interests.

Health diplomacy is another area that Wisma Putra is looking to develop, beyond vaccine procurement and production to include public health measures such as hygiene and sanitation.

Saifuddin also stressed that Malaysia’s commitment to co-existence and peaceful relations between nations.

“This is Malaysia’s offer in multilateralism, generally in discourse on moderation and Islamophobia.

“Our attachés in various embassies around the world are tasked with working closely with their host governments to ensure that our message is heard loud and clear,” he added.

Saifuddin added the UN Sustainable Development Goals as an important agenda for the ministry to work towards.

“Our role includes explaining the importance of poverty eradication, peace, prosperity, justice and partnership for the people. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve these goals.

“We should also acknowledge Malaysia’s good works and share them with the world. We should be modest, but we must be proud of what we have achieved,” he concluded.