Saturday, 4 August 2018 – The events that unfolded following the historic 14th General Election (GE14) on 9 May 2018 ushered in a new era of politics that led to many analysts claiming the birth of a “new” Malaysia. Putting aside the euphoria of Pakatan Harapan’s unprecedented electoral victory, Malaysia is indeed undergoing a sea change. To shed some light on some of the new administration’s political stance and the country’s revised foreign policy direction, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia who shared his insights on a broad range of topics.
ISEAS Director Mr Choi Shing Kwok delivering his Welcome Remarks (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Following the welcome remarks by Mr Choi Shing Kwok, Director of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Dato’ Saifuddin began by saying that while the outcome of GE14 did not come as a surprise to Pakatan Harapan, the party members were most certainly overwhelmed by the final poll figures and the volume of support they received from the Malaysian public. As the party was now close to completing 100 days in the government, Dato’ Saifuddin drew the audience’s attention to the progress regarding the promises made in the election campaign manifesto. While some promises had already been fulfilled, others might take longer than the stipulated deadline to be achieved, he added.
Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah delivering his talk titled “Malaysia’s unexpected Journey Towards A New Politics and Foreign Policy” (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
After briefly touching upon some of the parliamentary changes being proposed by the government and the topic of delimitation, Dato’ Saifuddin emphasised the need to end race politics in the country. With reference to the direction of Malaysia’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Mahathir, Dato’ Saifuddin spoke about his recent meetings with ministers from Singapore, China and Australia. He further commented that the government was particularly keen on working towards human rights issues and strengthening ties with other ASEAN economies.
The Q&A Session, moderated by Prof Chan Heng Chee (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
The event was held at Grand Hyatt Singapore and lasted for two hours. Around 120 guests from scholarly and diplomatic circles attended the dinner talk. The “Question and Answer” session was moderated by Professor Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador-At-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, during which Dato’ Saifuddin responded to questions on an array of topics, including: the role of social media during the election campaign; prevalence of race-based politics; bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore; fulfilment of manifesto promises; and maintaining simultaneous, steady relations with China and the US.
From left to right: Mr Christian Echle; Prof Chan Heng Chee, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah; Prof Wang Gungwu; Mr Choi Shing Kwok (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)