Spying not welcome in Malaysia, says PM

A protester against the practices of US security agenices sits at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 29, 2013. The hearing was on the potential changes to the foreign intellience surveillance act. — Reuters pic
A protester against the practices of US security agenices sits at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 29, 2013. The hearing was on the potential changes to the foreign intellience surveillance act. — Reuters pic

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PUTRAJAYA, Nov 5 — Conducting espionage on any country is unacceptable, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today, as the United States and Australia continue to face global incredulity for spying on friends and foes alike.

Najib said it is against Malaysian policy to snoop on any government, and his administration has since sent protest notes to the foreign missions of both countries.

“On principle, we are against any spying or surveillance on any government. It deals with the sovereignty of our country,” he said at a press conference after attending the national-level Maal Hijrah celebrations here.

Last week, Malaysia’s foreign ministry issued an official protest over the espionage claims against the US and Australia after news broke that both countries had used their diplomatic missions to spy on Malaysia.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said in a statement that he had met with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Perth to convey Malaysia’s position that spying on “close friends” is not done as it could “severely damage” relations.

The ministry’s Deputy Secretary-General Datuk Ramlan Ibrahim also handed protest notes to Australian High Commissioner Miles Kupa and US Deputy Chief of Mission, Lee McClenny, representing the US ambassador to Malaysia, Joseph Y. Yun, who was out of town.

Yun reportedly said recently that surveillance activities carried out by the US worldwide were to identify potential leads on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Australian daily Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported last Thursday that Australia’s electronic intelligence agency was using its diplomatic missions to spy on its Asian neighbours, from their High Commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby and their embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili.

Citing new information disclosed by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer, the Australian newspaper also reported that clandestine surveillance facilities at embassies were carried out without the knowledge of most Australian diplomats.

SMH’s revelations come as Washington DC was left red-faced by global news reports it had been eavesdropping on allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Najib today said the issue that has to be addressed now is the extent of the surveillance that has been carried out on Malaysia by the two superpowers.

“The question is how far spying has been done on Malaysia and whether the gathering of information relates to threats to security, involving anti-terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and transnational crime,” he said.

Snowden, who is currently on the run after leaking thousands of documents related to surveillance activities of the National Security Agency, the US’ largest intelligence arm, revealed that there are 90 electronic surveillance facilities run by the US worldwide, including in US embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Yangon.

A map originally published by Germany magazine Der Spiegel last Tuesday, and sighted by SMH and its Fairfax Media sister publication The Age, dated August 13, 2010, did not show any such facilities in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and Japan, which are the US’ closest allies.

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