Thursday, October 29, 2009

Criminalise War Conference: Civil society as "the united voice of the people against war" - Mukhriz

After the keynote speech by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the first day of the conference was followed by three panel sessions.

The first panel was entitled Flouting International law and the Failure of International Institutions. There were two star attractions on the panelist; namely Bitish MP George Galloway and US Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. Another is former Indian diplomat, Mr Gajendra Singh.

The second panel is on Economic Warfare with panelists - the reknown antiwar Economist, Prof Michel Chossudovsky, former UN Assistant Secretary general Hans Von Sponeck, and Iraqi Hematologist, Khudhair Waheed Hussein.

The subject of the first two panels have been often discussed. The voluminous work by Galloway, McKinney and Prof Chossudovsky can be found on their blogs and websites at The Daily Record - Galloway, and, respectively., an online anti-war news portal whose correspondent I had the honour of meeting in the media room, had undertaken an excellent coverage of the conference. His reports can found in the hyperlinked names of each speakers. He reported of a British Malaysian PR who questioned the seriousness of the Malaysian Government on antiwar effort.

My interest for the day was on the third session entitled War & Civil Society - Persepetives. It is to me a more practical discussion on what we could do.

The first panelist was Dato Mukhriz, who this time around is wearing the hat of Government. He spoke on what civil society can do in the anti-war effort. His speech is avaiable in full below.

The second panelist, Rtd General Dato Seri Mohd Azumi spoke of the role millitary could do in achieving peace. He spend sufficient time describing the experiance and role of the Malaysian armed forces in peacekeeping mission in war torn area.

An important role the millitary could do in maintaning peace is in their advisory to the political masters and in a seldom spoken area of millitary diplomacy.

Azumi, who received part of his training in the US, expressed disgust to the war atrocities commited by the Americans in Iraq. The US did not practise what they preach with regardds to war conventions and millitary disciplines.

He strongly suggest the public to visit the exhibition to undertand and value peace.

The third panelist in the third session was Dirk Adriaensens. He is an Executive Committee member of Brussels Tribunal and spoke of the role of Tribunals. War tribunals may not be able to implement its execution but it could, as mentioned by Dr Mahathir, ostracise war criminals like Tony Blair and Gerge W Bush Jr for life.

The scary part of his presentation when he quoted Wolfowitz saying in his plan to invade Iraq as about "ending states that sponsor terorism". "Ending" is meant to totally destroy Iraq; infrasturcture, politics, economics, culturally and every aspect of Iraq nation.

He, I believe was featured in an interview on Astro Awani last night. That was what Kamarul told me.

The second day session today will covers area of mass media, banned weapons, and peace & justice. The final session for the day will be a Q&A with panelists chaired by Tun Dr Mahathir. Tomorrow onward, the War Crime Commission Hearings and Tribunal Hearings will commence.

The exhibition will remain open till 6 pm Saturday 31 October. Do come.



Ladies and Gentlemen.

Assalamualaikum WBT and Salam 1Malaysia.

Firstly allow me to say how thrilled I am at the level of support given by the public to this conference. Judging from the packed rooms; I’d be inclined to say that we are well on the path towards overcoming the greatest enemy that is apathy towards the conflicts in this world and a lack of empathy with our fellow man.

I’d like to start my discourse on the topic of war and civil society by first citing Aristotle who wrote in ‘A Treatise on Government’, that; “As we see that every city is a society, and every society is established for some good purpose; for an apparent good is the spring of all human actions”.

This, I believe is the very basis upon which civil society finds its moral authority and sense of obligation towards society and to an extent the common man.

This ancient Greek philosopher goes further by stressing on the importance of the virtuousness of every citizen in a city and society.

Also, Allah S.W.T commands in the Noble Qur’an that - “Believers, be the supporters of justice and the witnesses for Allah, even against yourselves, parents and relatives, regardless of their being rich or poor. Allah must be given preference over them. Let not your desires cause you to commit injustice.”(Surah an-Nisa, 4:135)

Therefore, based on the reasoning and commandments cited above – every conscientious citizen must vehemently oppose war on every scale, in any part of this globe and against any human being, communities of peoples or sovereign states. There isn’t any justification for unleashing the horrors of war upon another, especially on the pretext of fighting for peace. This notion in itself is selfdefeating and absurd.

I am not an expert or learned in theorizing about what civil society can do to prevent war. What I can share with you are perhaps my insights gained from my years of heading an NGO - dedicated to promoting global peace and conducting humanitarian missions to disaster- and war-stricken areas.

I think that I have crossed the broad spectrum of civil society, NGOs, politics and most recently government- to be able to say something about this topic.

My first thoughts are that in the context of civil society and war - civil society could serve as an early warning system (if you like) in tense scenarios that could lead to war.

Civil society groups are in a unique position whereby they are not constrained by political or bilateral issues, and are able to effectively communicate with the citizenry and raise alarm bells of impending conflict. In fact, such groups can either play a part by averting conflict or resolving conflicts altogether.

Civil society groups may represent the united voice of the people against war. In many cases, whilst governments are preoccupied with national security concerns, political posturing and hegemony - it is the people to people network and opposition to war – at a domestic or global theatre; however justified by their
governments that will eventually lead to the cessation of the killing.

Civil society groups add a human dimension in the advent of war, as irresponsible governments led by warmongers will try to legitimise the need for war. By voicing the people’s opposition to aggression, we can remove the moral imperative and justifiability for war. That’s not to say that we can ever justify the need for war.

The unlawful invasion of Iraq is a good case in point. The widely publicised rebuke by Peter Brierly; the father of a fallen British soldier towards Tony Blair was felt around the world in part due to the actions of the global civil society network in highlighting the illegality of the Iraq invasion and the ensuing loss of human lives.

His action exemplifies the abhorrence that we share against war hawks. Mr. Brierly refused to shake Tony Blair’s outstretched hands at the Commemoration Service for British troops whom died in Iraq saying- “I’m not shaking your hand, you have got blood on it”.

On this note, I would also like to touch on another aspect in terms of the impact of technology and globalization on civil society. The social media allows civil society to function in many ways – the mesh of globalization and technology has no doubt created a web of civil society groups around the globe. But more importantly, such a global grouping of civil society entities could utilize the internet to influence perceptions and thoughts against the concept of war.

Of course, I’d expect that such a global civil society grouping would have come to the conclusion and realisation of the futility and illegality of war itself. If this were the case, then civil society may be given that elusive opportunity to not just rally against war – but to attempt to change the mindset of generations to come against the act of war. An enduring message of peace that is mooted by the citizens of the world across various boundaries. That war is illegal and can never be justified on any grounds. Period.

I am also inclined to say that in the ASEAN context, of which member nations have been dangerously skirting around contentious issues that have inflamed passions-could do with a regional civil society grouping that promotes peace and positive bilateral relations.

In this context, civil society groups can filter through the misconceptions, negative perceptions or malicious media campaigns and crystallize a solution to the tension or at least lower the temperature. In the instance of the recent but continuous bilateral spats between Malaysia and Indonesia-much could have been done to bring tempers down as in the case of the purported ownership of the ‘Pendet’ dance that was featured by Discovery channel by civil society groups.

And then of course, there’s the people and the voting process and national elections. The People should demand for propeace candidates. PGPO has made this call before and I think that it would be a great platform for a united global civil society call to action around the world. We must only support political candidates whom advocate peace and uphold the concept of the illegality of war under any circumstances without exception.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have highlighted some of my general observations with regards to this topic whilst acknowledging the fact that this area of discussion is wide and constantly evolving.

Personally, I am encouraged by the Richard Goldstone report on the atrocities committed in Gaza. This report marks a shift in global attitudes in which the citizens of the world can no longer standby idly as Israel continues to commit atrocities against the Palestinian people as well as against humanity.

This damning report is an indictment against the Zionist state that has been supported and protected by the allies of Israel for far too long-at the cost of so many lives.

I pray that the genocide committed against the Palestinian peoples will finally be brought to book at the appropriate court of justice without bias and pressure from Israel’s allies based on the findings of this report.

I also think that the work of civil societies around the world have directly or indirectly contributed to this milestone in our fight against tyranny, oppression and war.

We seem to have made a great gain in this struggle but I shudder to think of the magnitude of this task.

My friends, before I go, I’d like to share the emotive of the former UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold whom said that - “without passion nothing happens, without compassion, the wrong things happen.”

He couldn’t have been more right.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

shut- up!!! what can we do, when we still need america as our economic partner

Average Joe said...

@ Anon 7.26am

Who are you to ask us to just shut up?

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