Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winding Up Speech at UMNO International Forum 2012 "Conflict and Conciliation of People's Politics - Looking Back or Looking Forward"

Winding up speech
"Conflict and Conciliation of People's Politics - Looking Back or Looking Forward"
By Syed Hamid Albar
on 27th November 2012 at Putra World Trade Centre

First and foremost let me begin by thanking the UMNO HQs and Chairman of the UMNO’s Organising Committee of International Forum Dato’ Ismail Sabri - Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs for inviting me to participate at this august gathering of political parties, scholars, eminent persons and other distinguished delegates from within and outside our region. I am indeed honored and privileged to be here this morning for a third successive year. We can say that this forum has become a constructive platform and a productive theatre for delegates representing various political parties to interact and exchange views on issues of common interest for cooperation and collaboration to our mutual benefits. 

We made significant progress since then. From keynote address delivered by our Hon. Dato Seri Najib which set the tone of the conference on the importance of conflict resolution and conciliation in today’s politics. Then our former premier Tun Mahathir traced the history of Malaysia and on how Malaysia emerge as a nation state through compromise and conciliation. Tun Abdullah also contributed in the forum. I would like to thank each delegate and panellist for their significant contributions. You have shared your individual experiences, values and peculiarities. We are enriched by these exchanges and outcomes of the deliberation or discourse. 

I think, each of the participants and the delegate had given your perceptions and perspectives covering a wide and broad spectrum of political views and approaches as well as initiatives taken in order to overcome conflicts and achieve conciliation in your own environment. Based on the discourse, what is obvious is that there is many common factors amongst us. We also have reached consensus on the need to construct bridges of understanding, trust and goodwill, so that conflict can end, and conciliation attained, for the betterment of mankind in all dimensions of its development, political, economics, security and socio-cultural domains. The option is not for us to look back but to move forward, so that all segments of our societies will reject conflicts and wars as a means of resolving them.  

I believe, the title chosen is not only significant but also timely in today's global situation. Before us, we witness all kinds of conflicts, which are mostly violent in Gaza, Palestine, Syria, Rakhine in Myanmar, Southern Thailand and many others. Almost all of them are in need of conciliation. In these two days forum, we have learned to share and exchange view and perspectives in different context regionally and globally.

There is consensus in this hall that conflict cannot be avoided but most importantly, how we manage and resolve them.  It is the magnitude of disagreements, hostilities or violence that differ one to the other. Many conflict escalation depends on the way the parties involved react or response to each other. 

While, conciliation requires the state of manifesting goodwill and cooperation after being reconciled. The important intent and purport of conciliation is the practice of bringing together the parties in dispute. so that the dispute can be settled through a series of negotiations. As mentioned by MILF Chief, Murad Al-Haj how successful Malaysia played the role as a facilitator in the conflict Southern Philippines. 

Malaysia had demonstrated its willingness to share its model of conflict resolution, in adopting politics of consensus and reconciliation in every aspect of our lives. There is no winners take all or losers lose all. It is a culture of compromise and sharing that we have suggested to this conference. Since independence, UMNO has worked with MCA and MIC to form the Alliance party and after May 13, 1969’s tragedy, the Barisan Nasional was formed to focus on unity and development for all Malaysians.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to outline broad features of conflict and conciliation as discussed in the forum. Why do we face conflict? I believe we all are agreed, there is no single answer to this. Rather, conflict can be context-specific, multi-causal and multi-dimensional. It can be a combination of multilevel factors:

1. Political and Institutional factors: weak state institutions, elite power struggles and political exclusion. The women wing has talked about the empowerment of women, and our youth has recommended new political engagement to avoid being disconnected such as what matters to the youth, patriarchal system is irrelevant, good governance, breakdown in social contract or there is dissatisfaction on corruption issues;

2. Socioeconomic factors: Inequality, exclusion and marginalization, weakening of social cohesion and poverty;

3. Resource and environmental factors: greed, scarcity of national resources (often due to population growth) leading to environmental insecurity, unjust resource exploitation that affects economic growth of Malaysia.

No conflicts are good to human kind. Conflicts erode development – conflict leave fear, trauma as mentioned by PM in his opening remarks. In fact, war is expensive effort as the hidden cost of war has never been accounted for. Violent conflicts erode traditional values and often give bitter experience and devastating effects across many areas. In brief, I would like to mention 6 (six) most significant impacts of violent conflicts and 6 (six) ways in resolving conflict to achieve conciliation:

Firstly, the human toll. Conflict results in loss of life, disablement, rape and sexual violence, displacement and forced migration, the spread of disease and famine. 

Secondly, political governance. Conflicts impact negatively on the rule of law, state capacity, and democratic political process. Corruption and criminality can often take root, and the influence of military actors arise.  

Thirdly, socio-economic cost. Infrastructure, capital stock and household assets are destroyed during the conflict, investment declines, household and national incomes drop. Socio-economic indicators demonstrate the decline in literacy, drop in life expectancy, and increased infant mortality. The collapse of education system and the loss of educated populations (due to death or displacement) which have negative long term ramifications for human capital and economic productivity.

Fourthly, social capital. Conflicts weaken and destroy the social fabric of societies. Conflict disrupt social relation and result in social dislocation, and decline in interpersonal and communal group trust.    

Fifthly, psychological. Experiencing war or violent can be extremely traumatic. Often, there is a feelings of humiliation and betrayal, and desire for revenge. This in turn will perpetuate a cycle of violence when the other side come to power and they may inflict indignities on those who had done the same to them. 

Sixthly, is a regional Impact. Conflict or civil war may have transborder implications including smuggling of arms, drugs and refugees. 

How can we prevent and overcome conflicts? In today’s complex society, we all deal with conflict in our daily lives, at home, work, in personal and business relations socially and politically. Majority of us prefer (if not all) to overcome conflicts fairly without violence and animosity. We would like our differences settled at the least cost and stress to ourselves. 

In this forum, we had discussed means and ways for us to move from conflict to conciliation. Definitely, the conciliation methodology and outcomes cannot be the same in all cases. There is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all”. It has to be tailor-made to suit specific situation and circumstances.

Malaysia has always been a committed mediator and peacemaker. It is in this regard that we were able to play a credible role of an honest broker to find a resolution to the conflict in Mindanao between the MILF (Bangsa MORO) and the government of Republic of Philippines (this is obviously absent in the case of the Palestinian situation). What lesson can be learned from this? The obvious thing is to acknowledge that it is worthwhile to give peace a chance to succeed by avoiding conflicts and accept conciliation. With the spirit of give and take no one loses, our dignity and value can be sustained. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I like to outline the following outcomes of deliberation on how we can create a culture of conciliation and peace. 

Firstly, Creating Space for Dialogue. We should be working with different sides involved in a conflict to help them develop an understanding of what can be done differently. As mentioned by Prime Minister, there should be a culture of peace. We should create opportunity for parties involved in a conflict to come together and discuss the issues. Likewise, we can prevent conflict through creating appropriate space for justice, enhance the culture of peace, freedom, tolerance and solidarity.

Secondly, Dealing With Cross Border Dynamics. We all agreed that war does not respect political or territorial integrity. There is a need to establish mechanism for peace and reconciliation by state or non-state actors. We should avoid foreign military interference in resolving conflicts or civil wars.

Thirdly, highlighting the Importance of Engagements. Without proper engagement with armed groups in a peace process, a sustainable resolution of the conflict is difficult to be reached. 

Fourthly, Improving Accountability and Access. We should improve accountability and responsiveness in dealing with the unmet needs and contested issues that caused conflict. Likewise, we could moderately create better understanding of the challenges and strategies for peace building and governance. There should be an early warning system. 

Fifthly, is a Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. Peacebuilding means putting in place processes that help end violence, address conflict and rebuild broken relationship. While Statebuilding means enhancing governance, state capacity and state-society relationship.    

Final resolution is the Public Participation. Many wars have ended through this process. More inclusive peace negotiations are effective in the long term. In the case of MILF, Malaysia has demonstrated the ability to be a ‘trustworthy / honest broker’ or facilitator – in Southern Philippines peacebuilding. I think, in the case of Gaza they need the assistance from an 'honest broker' or facilitator.

Palestinians feel that the international community had failed to address their grievances and root causes of conflict. In short, we are rewarding the transgressors and punishing the victim. No action was taken against Israel’s failure to respect international law. This needs to be corrected. Democracy in Gaza was not respected by the international community.

The biggest mistake that the Israelis and its supporters made is it’s over emphasis of security as a precondition to resolve the Palestine issue. The root causes of the conflict were ignored. Therefore the conciliation had no chance to begin or succeed for an enduring and lasting peace. As said by the PM in his opening speech, conflicts destroy communities and leave a legacy of fear, hostility and trauma. There is much to be gained through conflict resolution. The tremendous cost of war could then be directed towards development and improvement of the livelihood of the citizens.

I am sure delegates would agree with our PM that it is better to take the cause of prevention of conflicts rather than waiting for it to happen to be resolved subsequently because this is more costly.

From the deliberations, I could recognise all delegates are for peace, freedom and justice which then require all of us to act together to bring a culture of peace in this world which is beneficial to all humankind. We need to overcome intolerance and prejudice. In Malaysia, we have adopted a way to bring everyone together under the banner of ‘One Malaysia’ and globally the ‘Movement of the Moderates’. 

On this note, I would like to end the winding up speech by quoting passages from Jacque Derrida "Only by accepting the “otherness” of others can we live in harmony with them" and Huston Smith "Daily the world grows smaller, it is a flat world. Leaving understanding the only place where peace can find a home". 

Thank you.