Relations between Indonesia and Malaysia are being tested once again. This time, the former Malaysian Information Minister, Zainudin Mainin, wrote in Utusan Malaysia an op-ed piece titled, "Similarities between B.J. Habibie and Anwar Ibrahim." In the article, which was published on December 10, he said the former Indonesian president had interfered in the internal affairs of Malaysia by supporting Anwar. He also said that Habibie had betrayed his own country.
He made the charges after Habibie gave a lecture at Selangor University at the invitation of the People’s Justice Party, Anwar Ibrahim’s party last December 6.
According to Zainudin, who served under Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad, the visit showed that Anwar still has the backing of Indonesia. "He came to support someone who is an enemy of the Malaysians, Anwar Ibrahim," said Zainudin last week.
Zainudin,s piece offended a number of people in Indonesia. In fact, the House of Representatives (DPR) plans to submit a protest to the Malaysian government. The Habibie Center will take a position. Political scientist Indria Samego from the Habibie Center said the op-ed can affect relations between the two countries. But, as quoted in the Twitter account of the Habibie Center, President Habibie seems unconcerned about the furor. He is taking the insult as a compliment.
This is not the first time the Malaysian politician has made charges of foreign interference in the opposition movement. Last September, Mahatir said funds were coming into Malaysia to oust the government. He believed some of the money was being channeled to back Anwar.
There is no question that the opposition movement in Malaysia is spreading. They launched a new movement on March 2013, in preparation of the upcoming general elections: the People’s Awakening Association. This movement is supported by the three-party People’s Coalition: People’s Justice, Democratic Action Party and the All-Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS). Zainudin Maidin spoke to Tempo journalist Masrur, who met him at his residence in Putrajaya last Tuesday. Excerpts of the interview:
What was the objective of your article?
The objective was to show Habibie’s interference in Malaysia’s internal affairs from era to era. Since Anwar Ibrahim challenged Tun Mahatir, he has been supporting Anwar. And this has gone on to show that Anwar was being supported by Indonesia. He does not have the right to come here, even though, in his words, he came only to explain the changes in Indonesia. He came to support a man who is the enemy of Malaysians, Anwar Ibrahim.
Why do you call Habibie a traitor to his country?
Because the gave away East Timor to foreign forces. If he had not agreed to hold a referendum, this would not have happened, because East Timor was won over with blood. I know why Indonesia entered East Timor, because we (Indonesia and Malaysia) did not want to be a tool of the West. We needed East Timor to fight against the spread of a new imperialism. The West was afraid that Indonesia and Malaysia would become strong moderate Islamic states. With our economic force, the West would find it more difficult to face than to overcome extremism.
How did you feel after you wrote that article?
I felt satisfied because I conveyed the message and my good intention to bring Indonesia and Malaysia closer. Because Habibie has damaged relations between the two countries ever since Mahatir was prime minister.
In fact, your article has raised the tension.
I don’t know about that, but who am I? I am just a former minister. Today I am merely a writer and lecturer at the Universitas Utara Malaysia. So, when Anwar said that I made the statement because I was upset at being beat by a PKR candidate from Merabok, it is not true. I never enjoyed being the Information Minister.
Were you aware your article could offend Indonesians?
I didn’t know. I just thought that Habibie should have understood that Malays in Malaysia don’t like foreigners interfering in the politics of their country.
Will you apologize to Habibie?
I don’t see the need to apologize, because I feel what I said was right and there was no intention to insult anyone. Besides, Pak Habibie no longer represents Indonesia.