KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia took the stage as the new chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement yesterday amid blazing colours and dances and against a backdrop of a looming war in the Middle East.
Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed made a blistering inaugural address as head of the host country with a call for the global community, through the United Nations, to outlaw war and create a new world order where power is shared by all nations.
NAM, he said, should pursue a vision of a new order that is more equitable, more just and, above all, free from the age-old belief that killing people is right.
Other leaders also made appeals, some more impassioned than others, to make war a last or unavoidable resort.
In his 40-minute address at the PWTC, placed under tight security with all roads leading to it cordoned off, he lambasted the West for what he called its “revival of the old European trait of wanting to dominate the world.”
At the same time, he admitted that the developing nations were also responsible for the mess the world was now in.
The NAM leaders and their delegations as well as the more than 2,000 newsmen from all over the world reflected the diversity of the movement, which some critics have written off as a having outlived its relevance with the end of the Cold War.
Yet, the big presence of NAM leaders at the grand opening yesterday, which has recorded the best attendance in its 42-year history, showed their commitment to the movement as seen in the theme of the 13th Summit – Continuing the Revitalisation of NAM.
Dr Mahathir spoke of the confrontation between the haves and the have-nots, calling the developed and the developing “a world that is practically ungovernable.”
Since Sept 11, the rich and the powerful have become enraged with the poor half of the world.
“Their extreme measures to ensure security for themselves have only amplified the anger of the poor.”
To ensure power was shared equitably by all countries, he stressed “we must work for the revival of the United Nations and multi-lateralism and do away or modify the powers of the victors of a war fought half a century ago.”
Dr Mahathir urged NAM to “struggle to outlaw nuclear weapons, stop the research and development of more and more lethal so-called conventional weapons and control the arms trade.”
To do this, Dr Mahathir called for an international agency answerable to only the UN General Assembly to oversee the military budget of all countries.
Regarding the developing countries which he said were also responsible for the mess the world was experiencing, he said instead of using independence and freedom to develop countries for the good of the people, more time was spent overthrowing governments and setting up new ones which in turn would be overthrown.
Dr Mahathir said current global tensions could not be solely caused by Muslims for even if it was true they were born terrorists, how did one explain the pogroms, the inquisitions and the holocaust which characterised Christian Europe for almost 2,000 years.
“Frankly, I think the global tension is because of a world revival of the old European trait of wanting to dominate the world.”
He added that it was not religious differences that angered the World Trade Centre attackers but sympathy and anger over the expropriation of Palestinian land and the injustice and the oppression against the Palestinians and Muslims worldwide.
“The world now lives in fear. We are afraid of everything, of flying, of certain countries, of bearded Asian men, afraid of the shoes airline passengers wear, of letters and white powder.
“The countries allegedly harbouring terrorists, their people, innocent or otherwise, are afraid, too.”
He said the greatness of a nation should be based on a culture that valued high moral qualities, aesthetics, learning and advancements in the sciences but people still measured it by the capacity to slaughter the greatest number of people.
Full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad speech:PM: World now lives in fear
Highlights of the address by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement
> The economy of the world has slowed down and, in some instances, have been reversed with huge deficits.
> A revival of the old European trait of wanting to dominate the world.
> Blatant double standards over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict infuriate Muslims to the extent of their launching terror attacks.
> Poor countries have been and are being oppressed and terrorised by the rich. Naturally, the poor are bitter and angry, and have lost faith in justice and honour.
> The developing countries must admit that they are also responsible for the mess the world is in today, by not using their independence and freedom to develop their countries for the good of their people
> War must be outlawed.
> There must be a new world order in which power is shared equitably by all. The United Nations must be reformed. A truly international agency beholden only to the UN general assembly should oversee the military budget of all countries.
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