STATEMENT BY H.E. DATO’ SRI ANIFAH AMAN, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF MALAYSIA AT THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON THE MAINTENANCE OF INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY: SETTLEMENT OF CONFLICTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA AND COUNTERING THE TERRORIST THREAT IN THE REGION, NEW YORK, 30 SEPTEMBER 2015
Your Excellency Sergey Lavrov – President of the Security Council,
I thank the Russian Federation for convening this meeting. Malaysia welcomes this initiative through which we hope the Council could have constructive and fruitful discussions on the contemporary conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
2. Revisiting underlying causes connected to the seemingly intractable conflicts in the MENA region at this juncture is a timely initiative. The region and affected countries and societies are perhaps worse off today than when those conflicts began.
3. Your call for a comprehensive analysis of the causes of conflicts; for sharing and exchanging views on possible solutions; and for reaffirmation of our common commitment to counter terrorist threats in and beyond the MENA region is, I believe, a useful exercise for the Council. Although the scope is ambitious, we are fully supportive.
4. Malaysia reiterates its fullest condemnation of all acts, methods and practices of terrorism and reaffirms its commitment to combat terrorism in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law. We strongly reject association of terrorism with any race, culture or religion.
5. Indeed, there is no “one-size-fits-all” framework in analysing or addressing the various conflicts in the MENA region. Nevertheless, we may infer some commonalities, to better inform our common efforts in countering terrorism and violent extremism:
5.1. Firstly, due to current political and security instability, countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen are seen as ‘fertile ground’ by the terrorists. Political and security vacuum is exploited by terrorist groups to increase recruitment, expand territorial control, and smuggle in weapons. In those cases, terrorism is not the root cause of conflict but symptomatic of political instability;
5.2. Secondly, the presence of terrorist groups in those and other affected countries has deepened sectarian divisions, thereby exacerbating political and social instability. The longer such divisions fester – sowing discord and fear among the population – the longer it takes for the torn social fabric to heal. Left unchecked, this would further prolong instability and serve the terrorists’ agenda; and
5.3. Thirdly, the pre-existing situation of gross human rights violations and dire humanitarian predicament in the affected countries provides a very compelling narrative for recruitment. While the FTF (foreign terrorist fighters) phenomenon is not new, current scale of their involvement in MENA region conflicts is unprecedented.
6. Furthermore, the terrorist narrative and propaganda, particularly by Da’esh is expertly communicated at a global level through social media and messaging platforms.
7. To illustrate the pernicious nature and effects of such messaging, consider this Mr. President: in Malaysia – a multi ethnic, multi religious and multicultural country which is quite geographically distant from the MENA region – authorities have, since 2012, arrested over 100 persons suspected of linkages with Da’esh; for being or supporting FTFs.
8. As a further example, a 26-year old woman – a doctor – was reported to have left her relatively comfortable middle-class life to marry a Da’esh fighter in the middle-east whom she had never met and whose language she does not speak. She even detailed her experiences as a ‘Da’esh wife’ on social media and encouraged other young women to do the same. In a chilling tweet she said and I quote: “A life without terror is like drinking sea water. It keeps you thirsty and cause you dehydrated.”
9. Against such deeply ingrained extremism, it seems clear to me that the war must be won not necessarily through the force of arms, but through a triumph of mind, of heart and of wills.
10. At the national level, Malaysia has intensified efforts to prevent terrorist groups and cells from operating in-country, particularly for recruitment and fund-raising purposes. In November last year, the Government tabled a White Paper at Parliament on the threat posed by Da’esh and on possible responses.
11. At the same time, existing legislation has been strengthened, including on countering and preventing financing of terrorism. New legislation has also been enacted, namely the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015 and the Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Act 2015 with a view to addressing the FTF phenomenon.
12. One key feature of POTA which I wish to share with Council concerns its provisions on rehabilitation and deradicalisation. The assumption underlying this provision is rooted in the belief that the fight against terrorism cannot be won through force or punitive measures alone.
13. On the social and education front, authorities engage closely with religious and community leaders to nip radicalisation and extremism in the bud, as well as in disseminating clear and accurate information on the true teachings of the various faiths and religions.
14. In terms of capacity for outreach, awareness-raising and research, we are fortunate to have the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism in Kuala Lumpur. Additionally, as stated by my Prime Minister at yesterday’s Summit on countering ISIL and CVE, Malaysia is actively exploring the possibility of establishing a Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communications Centre or RDC3.
15. Malaysia remains convinced that in the context of the situation in the Middle East, the threat posed by terrorism can be effectively addressed by the international community only if it is prepared to take a self-critical and unbiased look at the root causes of terrorism and act to redress the grievances, injustices, and gross violations of human rights.
16. We cannot allow the plight of long-suffering Palestinians living under occupation to be cynically exploited by terrorist groups in their narrative; couched in terms of “good versus evil”.
17. In our view, a just and durable solution to the situation in Palestine is long overdue. At this point in time, prolonged occupation also feeds the terrorist narrative and may also contribute to radicalisation.
18. In concluding, I reiterate Malaysia’s firm belief that in order for the Council to continue playing a constructive and positive role in conflicts in the MENA region, it must find the will to overcome differences and speak in one voice.
19. Malaysia looks forward to engaging with the Council members on the draft resolution which you spoke of earlier. Malaysia remains committed to achieving unity of purpose and of action by this Council.
I thank you, Mr. President.