ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Get tough on spies if need be
Publication Date : 29-11-2013
Three years ago, the Singapore High Commissioner was summoned by Wisma Putra after the whistleblower website, Wikileaks, leaked unflattering assessments by Singapore diplomatic officials on “incompetent” Malaysian leadership.
The foreign ministry handed over a protest note to the Singapore envoy to show its displeasure after the Australian media published reports based on the Wikileaks revelation.
Some quarters did question then whether the Malaysian foreign affairs headquarters, Wisma Putra, made the right move to summon the foreign envoy since it was based on leaks.
This week, the Singapore High Commissioner was “called in” by Wisma Putra after Edward Snowden’s latest revelations – that Singapore was a key “third party” in providing intelligence on Malaysia to “Five-Eyes” – were picked up by Australian media group, Fairfax Media.
Similarly after recent media reports of alleged spying by Australia and the United States, Wisma Putra sought clarification from the missions’ diplomats.
Credit must be given to Wisma Putra for acting fast to seek clarification from these embassies and calling the diplomats to Putrajaya.
For the laymen, we would have easily missed the term used by Wisma Putra.
This is evident from news headlines of “hauled up” or “summoned” despite Wisma Putra issuing a statement to “call in” the Singapore envoy.
Summon is not a word favoured by any diplomat. As a representative of the government overseas, when you are summoned by the host government over “an incident”, it is not a nice feeling.
It shows the gravity of the matter.
So in the allegations of Singapore spying on Malaysia, why was the envoy called in to Wisma Putra? Singapore is a friend and allegations of spying have not been proven.
For Wisma Putra, it will often soft-pedal when dealing with Asean friends but to announce it is a “call-in” in a press statement is indeed serious.
The call-in lasted all but 15 minutes.
Ambassador Ong Keng Yong had said the Singapore High Commission denied knowledge of helping the US spy on Malaysia and would convey the message to his government.
The Malaysian authorities, according to a statement issued by Wisma Putra, are now investigating thoroughly the media reports about the involvement of other countries, in particular Singapore, on the spying activities against Malaysia.
If we are serious about putting a stop to any spying activities against Malaysia, there is no other way except to provide evidence of such spying, especially if it involves tapping the telephone conversations of political leaders including the prime minister.
Make the evidence available to Singapore. Make a public statement that such evidence has been furnished.
Demand that Singapore put a complete stop to the uncalled for activities.
In other words, Malaysia should not stop at just receiving the verbal assurances from Singapore. Malaysia must walk the talk.
But Malaysia must have the evidence to indict Singapore. Evidence provided by Wikileaks and Snowden are not sufficient.
As they say, if you have no evidence, better start back-pedalling!
Just like the Singapore envoy summoned three years ago, the leaks this time are made through a third party.
How do you act on leaks?
But then again, it is Singapore, Malaysia’s closest neighbour.
For some quarters in the government, especially those having had dealings with Singapore, they still feel it is a slap in the face after the Snowden report.
But ask around – many will just dismiss the report and conclude countries spy on everybody, even friends.
In today’s high-tech world, it is the method of spying. Maybe some countries don’t do it well and get caught.
As for Singapore, relations in the last few years with Malaysia have been excellent.
Every time the two leaders Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Tun Razak met for their annual consultations, a joint statement would be issued emphasising each country’s mutual respect, mutual goodwill, mutual understanding and mutual beneficial partnership.
Maybe Home Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi got it right when he was asked to comment on the issue.
His response? No need to spy on us, let’s exchange intelligence.
Yes, let’s. After all, it’s for mutual benefit, no?