KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31 — Pressed over alleged intimidation over Malaysia's stance on Palestine, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today confirmed that the United States Department of State called up its ambassador in Washington over the matter.
His office also confirmed with the press that Putrajaya had received a démarche notice from the United States on the Palestine-Israel conflict on October 13, while the US Deputy Chief of Mission to Malaysia, Chargé d'Affaires Manu Bhalla, had called on a deputy secretary-general of Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday.
“Despite the possibility of being faced with reprimands or warnings from any party, Malaysia will not succumb to any form of intimidation. The elements can come in various forms and ways, either written or implied.
“For example, our ambassador in Washington was called by the US State Department and pressed about the country's position on the Palestinian issue," he told the Dewan Rakyat during the Prime Minister Question Time session, referring to Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.
“In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also received a 'demarche' from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia to use diplomatic channels to ask one country not to take advantage of the conflict situation by using proxies to get involved in the fighting in Gaza,” he said, referring to Iran.
The US State Department defined a démarche as a "formal diplomatic representation of its official position, views, or wishes on a given subject" which seeks to "persuade, inform, or gather information from a foreign government", or to "protest or object to actions by a foreign government".
Anwar insisted that Malaysians do not need to feel worried and afraid of any form of external pressure, as its firm stance was also shared with 119 member countries of the United Nations (UN) during the Emergency Meeting of the UN Security Council on October 27.
He also expressed support for the Education Ministry’s Palestine Solidarity Week initiative, despite recent concerns brought up over some events glorifying violence and extremism after teachers and students were pictured with replica firearms.
“So I hope we take this opportunity to disclose information to the people. That is why I support the education minister's call to encourage students, not force them, but encourage students to follow the developments that are happening.
“Of course, we have guidelines so that we don't seem to encourage acts of violence or hatred towards their friends, but enlightenment, understanding of what is happening, what is the meaning of cruelty, what is the meaning of oppression, what is the meaning of dispossession," he said.
He stressed that Malaysia is championing the issue from the viewpoint of defending human rights.
“Yes, Malaysia advocates the principle of neutrality, but not neutrality in tyranny, when thousands of children are killed and bombed, not neutral when it comes to human justice.
“Therefore, I urge Malaysians, do not allow this issue to be divisive or boxed. Yes, this issue is rightly close to Muslims, but this issue is close to humanity too. That's why we see countries like Ireland, Brazil apart from Russia and China taking a stand on humanitarian principles,” he said.
Earlier this month, Nazri said Malaysia’s commiseration is only for Palestine and any sane government would never ever sympathise with the oppressive Israeli authorities, after the United States Department of State informed him of its displeasure with Malaysia's stance.
Last week, Islamist party PAS labelled claims made by Anwar that he had been threatened by certain European parliamentarians after speaking up for Palestinian rights in the Middle East as “strange” and “laughable”.
Its secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said Malaysia’s firm stance supporting the Palestinian cause and criticising Israel is well known and is not new as former prime ministers were also very vocal on this issue.