MARCH 7 — When a war breaks out, it is important for us to know about it, whether we are affected or not. In the case of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Malaysia should not take this war lightly because it has or will have a huge impact on us, in the short and long term.
War itself is nothing new. Malaysia has played an important role even since our joining the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2015. With the aggression of Ukraine and Crimea and the MH17 incident, Malaysia has deplored such attacks which are incompatible with international law because it imposes serious human rights violations. We can see how Malaysia has been a driving force in holding Russia accountable by demanding an investigation into the MH17 incident through a UN Security Council resolution that was unfortunately overruled. Russian veto.
Fast forward to 2022, this crisis has evolved from Crimea alone to Russia “expanding” into Ukraine with the help of Belarus. To say that the Malaysian Foreign Ministry has not responded to the attacks of the past few weeks in Ukraine is rather questionable. The ministry originally sent a notice to Malaysians in Ukraine to contact the embassy dated February 14. However, the war escalated and the rescue mission was then carried out on 25 February. On the other hand, diplomatic efforts were made with Malaysia denouncing the failure of the UNSC to resolve the situation and voting for the resolution at the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council.
With such a summary of the timeline of events regarding Malaysia’s response, the questions now arise – whether these responses are adequate enough given our position and conditioning and what could we learn from all of this?
First, Malaysia could have strengthened its identity and values accordingly to respond to the war. From a foreign policy perspective, Malaysia has played the card of neutrality on aggression, but being neutral does not mean being silent. In the past, Malaysia defended the rights of Bosnians during the Bosnian War in the 1990s, which tactically played the card of neutrality while defending human rights. However, in the case of Ukraine, many experts are of the view that Malaysia could have responded better by responding to the need to condemn such actions by Russia from the gecko, rather than waiting for diplomatic negotiations. at the United Nations.
Failure to respond with an appropriate stance could have cost Malaysia’s security in this instance. With growing concerns over Malaysia’s lack of response, this has “allowed” the situation to reoccur in our homeland. This issue can be seen with China’s growing effort to claim parts of the South China Sea and the Sultanate of Sulu claiming Sabah. To recognize our identity and our values, a lesson we can draw is not only to be consistent with what is planned in our foreign policy framework, but also to respond to the concern for internal security.
Besides diplomatic talks, another lesson we can take away is that the safety of Malaysian nationals is the top priority in a war. Although there were attempts to issue press releases to keep Malaysians safe in Ukraine, the wordings could have demonstrated a clear and thorough message to ensure that the Malaysian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine is able to effectively coordinate its emergency plan. It is rather unfortunate that the embassy has to deploy the last resort, ie a convoy without adequate protection. If we had done the rescue mission sooner, the risk would be very minimal and could have been better coordinated.
Malaysian Youth Diplomacy and 67 other youth organizations and individuals have already expressed concern over such a response by also demanding that Malaysians in a neighboring country be evacuated with an appropriate contingency plan. Malaysians who are currently in Russia are also at risk of losing their quality of life, which we have witnessed and which has had a significant impact on them during the many riots in Russia. Therefore, Malaysia should react quickly before it is too late.
In an age where misinformation is easy to make, another lesson we could learn is that government agencies should have reacted more quickly to deny any assumptions or inconveniences that might backfire rather than help the government. Citing claims from news sources indicating their disappointment with the government’s lack of response, this matter itself could have been avoided if Wisma Putra gave frequent updates rather than waiting until the end. Updates do not necessarily mean they should be detailed but informative enough that the media or reporters do not speculate on the situation in the wrong light. In this case, these updates could be communicated directly to civilians in Ukraine and media briefings could be given to the media from time to time when they report the issue in question.
Overall, Malaysia has seen its best days in the field of diplomacy. To say that the current government’s response to the Russian-Ukrainian war is a complete failure is an overstatement. There are several attempts made by Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff to expedite a better response on the matter itself, which is commendable. One of them would be the tremendous efforts made by Malaysia’s diplomats and representatives to the UN during the special session of the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. . Furthermore, I would like to express my gratitude to the ambassadors and diplomats who have worked hard to resolve the crisis on our side, especially with regard to the rescue mission in Kyiv.
As analysts and even our former foreign minister have pointed out, the concerns raised by them are very valid and should have been taken into account when making the decision. By learning these three lessons, young Malaysians hope that the Malaysian government will make a better speech in the following days and in cases where a war affects our nationals.
* Elisa Shafiqah is President of Malaysian Youth Diplomacy, a central movement in the Malaysian diplomatic scene that aims to bring young Malaysians closer to diplomatic opportunities. She can be contacted at [email protected].
** This is the personal opinion of the author or organization and does not necessarily represent the views of malaysian mail.