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Cablegate: Malaysia Reacts to Ceasefire

VZCZCXYZ0015
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKL #1587/01 2301105
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 181105Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7399
INFO RUEHKL/ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0019
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0280
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0159
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0138
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0064
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0100
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0976

C O N F I D E N T I A L KUALA LUMPUR 001587

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL IS LE MY
SUBJECT: MALAYSIA REACTS TO CEASEFIRE

REF: A. KUALA LUMPUR 1559

B. KUALA LUMPUR 1354
C. KUALA LUMPUR 1397
D. KUALA LUMPUR 1377

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission David B. Shear
for reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary: Malaysian officials have welcomed the
passage of United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR)
1701, and the Malaysian media's preoccupation with the Middle
East crisis has quickly diminished. GOM officials reaffirmed
their commitment to a lasting peace in the Middle East and
reiterated their commitment to send peacekeeping troops to
support the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Despite some rhetoric and political posturing, Malaysia
seems willing to work with the UN in determining what, if
any, Malaysian forces would appropriately augment UNIFIL.
Until they were corrected by the Prime Minister, leaders of
the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) Youth movement
called for boycotts of American products and for a cessation
of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. UMNO Youth
leaders admit they are making concessions to their
conservative base, but have generally returned their focus to
the domestic agenda. Calls for a boycott of American
products largely fell on deaf ears, but the demand that the
GOM terminate the FTA talks reflects the extent to which the
GOM will have to work in order to generate domestic support
for an FTA. End Summary.

-----------------------
GOM Supports UNSCR 1701
-----------------------

2. (C) Senior Malaysian officials including Prime Minister
Abdullah Badawi and Foreign Minister Hamid have strongly
supported the ceasefire in Lebanon. Notwithstanding recent
reports that Israel may object to peacekeeping forces from
nations that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel,
Abdullah, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and FM Hamid
have all declared publicly that Malaysia will send troops to
support UNIFIL over Israel's objections. However, privately,
Malaysia's Under Secretary for Multilateral Affairs Shahrul
Ikram has told us that Malaysia will naturally allow the
United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations to
decide if Malaysia should send troops and what their
composition would be. He also reported that Malaysia wants
to help, but will naturally work through the UN to ensure
UNIFIL has the appropriate composition to complete the
mission.

--------------------------------------
And the Negative Public Rhetoric Cools
--------------------------------------

3. (C) The Malaysian public and media reacted strongly to
the Lebanon crisis, and, in addition to sustained criticism
of the U.S. in the local press, the Embassy experienced
demonstrations on several Friday afternoons at the end of
July that were larger and noisier than usual. But the
passage of UNSCR 1701 and the August 14 implementation of the
ceasefire in Lebanon quickly deflated much of the negative
political rhetoric prevalent in Malaysia after the start of
hostilities. Politicians and reporters have largely returned
their attention to domestic politics: a new budget session in
parliament scheduled to begin on September 1, preparations
for the November UMNO General Assembly, and former Prime
Minister Mahathir's jabs at the government. Despite
overwhelming coverage of the war prior to the ceasefire, most
newspapers did not headline the implementation of the
ceasefire, nor did they give front-page billing to the return
of displaced Lebanese families back to southern Lebanon.
Malaysian officials have continued calls for comprehensive
peace and reaffirmed their commitment to send peacekeeping
troops to Lebanon (ref A).

--------------------------------------------
Khairy Jamaluddin: Criticizes the FTA Talks;
Calls for Boycott of U.S. Goods
--------------------------------------------

4. (C) UMNO Youth deputy chairman and Prime Ministerial
son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin's antics provided a sometimes
entertaining, sometimes maddening diversion throughout the
Lebanon crisis. Khairy's influence on his father-in-law and

some of his recent financial dealings have been the target of
former Prime Minister Mahathir's ire for several months, and,
no doubt sensing that political opportunity knocked, he
decided to lead a highly visible UMNO Youth effort to flay
the U.S. for its support of Israel. He organized a large and
noisy but non-violent July 21 rally in front of the Embassy
during which he was pictured by the press at the Embassy's
gate, haranguing marchers with a bull horn. Khairy led a
July 28 demonstration on the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center
during Secretary Rice's participation in the ARF, demanding
unsuccessfully to deliver a harshly worded petition to the
Secretary, and his appearances often seemed to direct more
attention to himself than to his cause. The frenetic Khairy
also called for a stop to U.S.- Malaysia FTA talks and for a
boycott of the "American" brands Coca-Cola and Starbucks,
statements that were rebuffed by the Prime Minister.

5. (C) Khairy has been less vocal since the cease fire went
into effect. Our subsequent meetings with UMNO Youth
executive committee leaders confirmed that UMNO Youth
rhetoric over the past two months was intended to appeal to
UMNO's more conservative base. They have told us that it was
also aimed at preventing the Islamic opposition party PAS
from gaining momentum given the recent clashes between
Abdullah and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed (ref D).
Having achieved those ends, UMNO Youth has returned to its
preparations for the UMNO General Assembly in November and
the general elections anticipated for next year. We expect
the occasional jab from Khairy and his UMNO buddies as
preparatory meetings for the November UMNO General Assembly
continue, but we doubt the drumbeat will reach the decibel
levels heard through late-July and early August.

---------------------------------
Calls for Boycott Not Threatening
---------------------------------

6. (C) Khairy's call for the GOM to boycott the US seems to
have gained little traction publicly and politically. U.S.
firms operating in Malaysia are watchful, but not overly
concerned by Khairy's calls for a boycott. The local
Coca-Cola bottler recalled that a similar boycott call in
2002 following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had no impact
on sales. Both the Coke and Starbucks franchisees (the local
operations actually are owned by Malaysian companies) plan to
take no action, believing the best approach is not to draw
further attention to the issue. At the monthly meeting of
the board of governors of the American-Malaysian Chamber of
Commerce (AmCham) August 16, members expected that the
boycott would fade quickly, so long as the situation in
Lebanon remains under control. The board also agreed to take
no action in response to the call for a boycott at this time.

--------------------------------
Effect on FTA Remains To Be Seen
--------------------------------

7. (C) We doubt that the Lebanon crisis itself had a lasting
negative effect on GOM support for the FTA talks. But
Khairy's opportunistic attack on the talks underscores the
extent to which the negotiation may be vulnerable to
Malaysian domestic politics. At a minimum, it also
demonstrates the extent to which the GOM will have to work to
convince even the ruling party's rank-and-file of the
benefits of a FTA with the U.S.

LAFLEUR

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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