By Sangeeta Saxena

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 07 May 2024. Day 1 at DSA 2024 was marred a little by a number of demonstrators gathered outside the venue . About a dozen demonstrators were spotted outside the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Mitec) to voice their disapproval of the involvement of multiple defence firms that have been accused of providing arms to the Israeli military.

But these were peaceful and under the supervision of local police, the event proceeded without any problems. The purpose of today’s gathering, according to spokesman Tian Chua of the Palestinian Solidarity Secretariat, is to “express their concerns to the government. “He went on to say that the nation ought to show greater awareness of the circumstances in Palestine right now. You have to maintain consistency in your foreign policy. You cannot claim to be in favour of Palestine and yet be a part of these companies’ profits,” he declared.

According to reports, Bersatu has urged the Malaysian government to outlaw two businesses that are allegedly engaged in providing arms to the Israeli military. Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, the head of Bersatu’s international bureau, voiced the party’s concerns regarding the two companies’ participation in the event.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin stated in a statement on Tuesday that no nation or business was given preference or an advantage by the exhibition. He continued by saying that the ministry is aware of opposition to the involvement of multiple international defence companies coming from specific quarters. “As a free trade nation, Malaysia allows all major players in the global industry to advertise their goods and services. Thus Malaysia takes an approach not to intervene in matters involving global,” he said.

In response to criticism from certain quarters that voiced discontent with the presence of multiple international defence companies at the show, Khaled stated that Malaysia follows a policy of non-interference in the commercial dealings of international corporations from any nation.

“Many international defence companies have business dealings with particular nations; Malaysia will not meddle in such matters. This exhibition is extremely well-organized, giving everyone a chance to display their knowledge and the newest advancements in defence technology.”

The Defence Minister discusses new trends and non-traditional security threats and he is keeping an eye on the LTAT situation after three senior officials left the organisation, and he stands by the LTAT statement that the Chairman retired rather than resigned.

“It allows governments from various countries and global industry players to explore various cutting-edge technologies and innovations to enhance their respective defence readiness,” he said in a statement this evening,” he added. According to Khaled, the show is open to all nations and business partners, with a notable presence from Islamic nations like Pakistan, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This show provides a crucial forum for defence industry participants from Asia, including South Korea, China, India, and Singapore, in addition to Islamic nations.

“The private sector is in charge of organising DSA and Natsec Asia 2024 exhibitions, and they are fully responsible for all associated costs and expenses. The Malaysian government doesn’t have any costs associated with its operations,” he stated.

Khaled further emphasised that the country’s defence acquisition policy is implemented by considering national interest, strategic needs, cost-effectiveness, advancements in state-of-the-art technology, and Malaysia’s position in international politics.”Malaysia’s national interests and its position in the world, particularly with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will always come first when making defence purchases. The Defence Ministry consistently supports the country’s policy against any form of injustice towards Palestine,” he stated.

It may be recalled that a number of individuals demanded that the Malaysian government forbid the involvement of two businesses that are purportedly engaged in providing arms to the Israeli military. Leader of the international bureau of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, had expressed the party’s apprehension regarding the two companies’ participation in the event.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir also demanded that the government order the departure of a number of defence contractors who supply Israel with weapons. Even though they had attended previous exhibitions, he claimed that the current situation was unique and that the Zionists’ genocide against the Palestinians was a barbaric and inhumane act.

In an official statement given a few months in the end of 2023 , the  Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry says, “Malaysia acknowledges the breakthrough made by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in adopting Resolution 2712 (2023) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on 15 November 2023.

“Malaysia had repeatedly called on the UNSC to fulfil its primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security as mandated by the United Nations (UN) Charter. After more than a month, the UNSC has finally taken a unified and decisive action to address the ongoing massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

“Malaysia believes that Resolution 2712 (2023) provides a temporary measure to urgently facilitate access of humanitarian aid to those in need as well as the protection of innocent civilians, particularly children throughout the Gaza Strip. It is also an important first step that must be followed by concrete actions towards immediate cessation of hostilities, which is vital to stop further loss of lives and destruction of property. Malaysia urges all parties to abide by this Resolution, in line with Article 25 of the UN Charter.

“Malaysia reiterates its strong condemnation of the ongoing heinous and barbaric attacks on the civilian population of Gaza, including the bombing of hospitals and civilian facilities. Such attacks clearly constitute violations of international law including international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

“Malaysia rejects the pretext of self-defence by Israel, the Occupying Power in the Palestinian Territory, to perpetrate genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against innocent Palestinians. Israel’s aggression is neither proportionate nor lawful, and runs contrary to the principles of the UN Charter.

“Malaysia strongly believes that the root cause of the Palestinian issues, the continued illegal occupation, must be addressed. Malaysia remains firm that the Palestinians deserve their own independent and sovereign state, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its Capital.”