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Defining what is national interest and what is not
Published on: Saturday, April 08, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
The term “National Interest” is very much abused by politicians in government, opposition and senior government officials.

It provides a convenient cover for them to hide their abuses, inefficiencies, selfish personal interest and political interest at the expense of true national interest.

In order to recognise what is national interest, not national interest and anti-national interest, it is necessary to define the term as is commonly understood in the world. National interest can be defined in the following manner:

[a] The national interest, often referred to by the French expression raison d’État (“reason of State”), is a country’s goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural. The concept is an important one in international relations where pursuit of national interest is the foundation of the realist school.

[b] The interest of a nation as a whole held to be an independent entity separate from the interests of subordinate areas or groups and also of other nations or supranational groups.

As Malaysians, we should endeavour to discern what is in our national interest, what is not and very importantly, what is anti-national interest. Nowadays, many political leaders and senior government officials have used the excuse of “national interest” very loosely to justify their decisions and actions without giving the “whys” and “hows” they have acted. In too many cases, they have clearly abused and yet, unashamedly, use national interest to cover up.

How can we recognise when things have been done against our national interest? Easy.

When politicians and senior officials ask the people to “shut up”, “don’t speculate” and very commonly “don’t question”. In an open democratic society, political leaders and officials must be subject to scrutiny at all times, for all issues and their every single action.

They have been elected and appointed to their respective positions by the people.

They should and must be subjected to checks and balances in everything they do, in every decision they make.

Even in sensitive security issues, they should be made accountable to a parliamentary committee like the Senate Committee in USA and Parliamentary Select Committee in UK.

In a true democracy, no one, absolutely no one can be above the law, and all government officials are subject to scrutiny. We must also remember the aged old dictum “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

From the aforementioned two definitions and in the context of Malaysia, we can see that the undermentioned areas are important for national interest.

[a] Compliance of our constitution.

[b] Uphold Rukun Negara which is our national unity philosophy.

[c] National Security.

[d] Economic security. Any breach in these is anti national.

What is not in our national interest? Here are some examples:

[a] Many politicians in government and opposition, for selfish reasons, have been trying to blur and merge their political parties’ interest, personal political interest and worse, their personal/party interest with national interest.

What is really worse is when some of them do not have the intellectual capacity to differentiate these two and begin to believe that their own interest and national interest are the same. These are the type of politicians who think they have the birth right to rule. They think they own the country. Worst, they come under the illusion that they can abuse the country’s money for personal use.

[b] A common abuse is to equate certain investment with national interest.

Not all foreign and domestic investments are good. Many investments, if we care to look at them carefully, are not in our national interest.

An excellent example is the Mamut Cooper mine at the foothill of Kinabalu. For the little that Sabah has gained, we now have the largest hole in Malaysia for all eternity! This cannot be in national interest.

[c] Monopolies, special concessions, special rights and privileges granted to “special persons” or “special group of persons” are not in our national interest. A clear example is the Cabotage Policy and Block Exemption against Competition. These are in the interest of ship owners but definitely against Sabahans’ interest.

Then the last and worst type – anti-national interest. Under this category are

[a] Security and economic sabotage. The issue here are security secrets and critical information that other countries can use to inflict damage on our country.

This should not be mixed up with politicians talking bad about each other within and outside Malaysia.

Criticising the Government is not anti-national. It is all part of the political game they play.

[b] Corruption is pervasive in Malaysia these days. Reflective of the grave situation, even the Sultan of Johor has said he has been approached to “arrange” for state awards.

Corruption has weakened the administration, torn the fabric of our society and above all, will eventually destroy the nation’s economy and political system.

[d] Using religion and race to induce fear and hatred among Malaysian is tantamount to destruction of our nation.

A true and genuine politician will never use them to garner political support. Only politicians who are bankrupt of ideas would do it. It is therefore most assuring that Datuk Musa has come out very strongly that he is Chief Minister for all Sabahans, irrespective of race or religion in his lecture ‘My vision for Sabah’ organizd by Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu on 26th March 2017.

History has been littered with examples when political leaders have failed to uphold, maintain and worst, abuse national interest for personal gain, for personal ambition and position. Look at Hitler, Napoleon.

Millions were murdered and killed. Political leaders who can protect national interest and unite a nation, have become great leaders, forever remembered and immortalized by future generations, like Churchill, Mandela, Tengku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak.

Lacking in clear political ideiology and principles in all political parties, Malaysian politics is being conducted excessively on personal and personality basis.

Every day, we can see political attacks at this low level of political discourse. National interest, the people’s interest have all been but ignored. This is bad. Without a doubt, there are just too many “political wolves in sheep clothing”. Too many fake or brainless political ideologue. Many Malaysian political leaders need to be reminded that this is the 21st century. Malaysians are much better educated than before.

They know and can distinguish genuine leaders with dedications and those who hide under the skirt of natinal interest. They also know political leaders whose records for accountability are bad and whose promises are worthless, especially those who keep saying “I will look into it” or “I have not been informed”.

Useless and/or dangerous leaders often resort to veil their inadequacies in racial and religious bigotries to gain support. The educated Malaysians like leaders who work for their interest and don’t boost about it.

They prefer political leaders who would work first and show results later.

Only empty headed political leaders would boast and brag first with nothing to show – only empty promises.

Sad but true, there are many of them in Malaysia.

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