Complacency Reckless Politics Could Hasten Sabah As China S 24th Province
Al Jazeera reported:
On Monday, the US raised the stakes, saying "Beijing's claims to offshore resources" across most of the disputed seas were "completely unlawful". US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added that the world would "not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire." The title of an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post, The US is finally taking sides in the South China Sea – against Beijing’s claims, sums up Pompeo's statement. On July 6th, US had conducted a military exercise at the South China Seas.
The position taken by US may indicate their interest to participate in the dispute. The cowboy manner of US intervention in international dispute is not something countries in the region look forward as it could flare-up into a full blown war. Malaysia tries had to avoid such possibility through other options.
Foreign Minister, Dato Hishamuddin Hussein tried to playdown the attention with claims there had not been any Chinese ships in Malaysian water for 100 days. That is not sufficiently comforting as it confirmed Chinese ships have been intruding.
His statement was rebuked in Greg Polling's twitter, a Senior Fellow of SoutheastAsiaDC, who claimed Chinese have been patrolling into Malaysian water every single day.
He referred to Hishamuddin's denial on MMO here.
Backing up the twitter, the Auditor General report 2018 claimed that there have been 89 incursion by Chinese ships in Malaysian waters between 2016 to 2019. The report highlighted a lack of coordination between enforcement departments and agencies.
The former defense Minister's reply was rebuked by former Foreign Minister, Dato Anifah Aman as being in-denial or ignorant.
Malaysia had always faced a dilemma in foreign policy in its relation with China and their demand for the 9th dash line. There is no mileage to be gain by a strnger stance with its most important trading partner, wrote Tan Siew Mun on July 16th 2016 on MMO here.
Be that as it maybe, but for Sabahan, China's daily presence in their waters and millitary bases on several man made island in the shoals on the South China Sea is too close for comfort.
Malaysians may concern are the Corona Covid-19 pandemic, post pandemic economic recovery, and politically unstable ruling government. The bigger concern should be the risk of a Chinese incursion into Malaysia but they have taken this lightly.
Hishamuddin's conciliatory statements may be intended to not cause panic to the public. He responded to Anifah with a plea for peaceful settlement but with the wishful hope China will respect international law and conventions.
It is hoped US's recent tough stance may have brought about a change in attitude by the Chinese. SCMP reported a Hainan island based researcher called on Beijing to assess its strategies in South China Seas in relation to Washington.
One can only hope when superpowers have set their eyes on a certain interest.
China ignored the decision by a tribunal at The Hague arising from a suit brought by the Philippines in 2016. The ruling was China has no “historic title” over the waters, and that its line was superseded by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Their own record dispute their claim of historic rights.
China have been making growing military presence in the South China Seas. Given time, god forbid Sabah could be turned into the 24th province of China overnight.
On July 5th, 2020, Chief of UMNO Tuaran, Sabah Division, Dato Abdul Rahman Dahlan enlisted a series of investments from China totalling more than RM50 billion announced by Chief Minister, Dato Shafie Apdal.
While he questioned the failure of previous announcements by Shafie and Yayasan Sabah land worth hundreds of million left in a quandary, Shafie's enthusiasm with China may pose a security threat with increasing China's presence in Sabah.
In his attempt to save his position as Chief Minister and Warisan's position as the ruling party of the state, he and Tun Dr Mahathir pulled of a stunt to propose Shafie as the 9th Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Instead of moving to Kuala Lumpur, he may ended up as one of the many Governors of a Chinese province and making regular trip to Beijing but to take orders without question.
Sabahans and its politicians have been uttering threats of leaving Malaysia. Their dream may come true with Shafie.
Hishamuddin will surely not want that to happen. He has to move his attention away from local political monuvering to let UMNO President do his job and focus on the delicate state of Malaysia's threatened sovereignty to a superpower and authoritarian regime.
Anifah's rebuke is wake up call to make the country's stand clear. His statement as follows:
Press Statement by YBhg Datuk Seri Panglima Anifah Haji Aman on the Recent News Reports Quoting That There Was No Further Enroachment By Chinese Vessels into Malaysia's Maritime Areas in the South China Sea and cara bagaimana kita lakukannya, is between us and the leadership in China”.
I read with great interest the many news reports that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, YB Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussien had stated on 15 July 2020 that since he took over as the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, there was no further encroachment by Chinese vessels into Malaysia’s maritime areas in the South China Sea, and “cara bagaimana kita lakukannya, is between us and the leadership in China”.
I am appalled by the Minister’s statement. He is either in denial or ignorant of the fact. Worst, he is playing politics with Malaysia’s maritime and strategic interests.
It was only in April that a flotilla of Chinese enforcement vessels was sighted accompanying a Chinese survey vessel within Malaysia maritime areas. Further, I was reliably informed that Chinese coast guard vessels were sighted in the vicinity of Beting Patinggi Ali in May, June and July.
As a country that legitimately owns maritime areas in the South China Sea, the Government should not be hesitant to categorically state its objection to any unauthorised activities by foreign vessels within its maritime areas. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs finds it appropriate to issue statement on 25 June and 12 July on the drone and missile attacks towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, surely it would not be too much to expect the Ministry to at least summon the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to register Malaysia’s displeasure on the unauthorised activities by the Chinese coast guard vessels within Malaysia’s maritime areas in the South China Sea.
Malaysia has never recognised China’s claims over its maritime areas in the South China Sea and the Government must uphold the position to ensure Malaysia’s maritime and strategic interests are not jeopardised. Failing to do so is a great disservice to the nation.
Being firm in safeguarding, protecting and promoting Malaysia’s maritime and strategic interests does not mean we need to be confrontational. What we need to do is to ensure full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, and uphold the supremacy of the rule of law in accordance with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
As I have stated many times, we must not be indecisive in defending our rights and interests, and a consistent principled position would stand us in good stead for the long term.
DATO’ SERI PANGLIMA ANIFAH HAJI AMAN
16 July 2020By the way, foreign affairs matter is best dealt at Wisma Putera in Putrajaya and building international relations through developing personal relations.
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