Malaysia 1979: A Preoccupation with Security

Hans H. Indorf
1980 Asian Survey  
THE EVENTS OF 1979 dictated a more explicit concern with national survival. Fratricide among Asian communists has attained a level of aggressiveness that makes the likelihood of a spillover an ominous possibility. However, where a nation is small and relatively weak, it becomes imperative to make an accurate assessment of threat in order to match minimal resources with the requirements for an effective defense. Cumulatively, the impact of invasions in Kampuchea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan have
more » ... Afghanistan have drastically revealed the vulnerability of Malaysia and of its immediate neighbors. While military preparedness had always been measured in terms of effectiveness against internal subversion, the actions of the Soviet Union, China, and Vietnam raised the specter of external attack. For a small nation, the options for potential defense are limited. Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Hussein Onn, in his New Year's message on the eve of 1980, preferred to accentuate internal development, paying only cursory attention to the Indochinese situation and the consequent need for modernized and expanded armed forces. His Minister for Home Affairs, Ghazalie Shafie, was more outspoken when he warned of the dangers of hegemony: the Russian variety that seeks world domination; the Chinese variety that aims to control Asia; and the Vietnamese variety that strives to rule over Southeast Asia. "These overlapping patterns," he told a Singapore conference in April 1979, "harbor elements of insecurity." Yet recognizing communist designs without an effective antidote spells trouble, just as much as a problem neglected is a crisis invited. This was essentially the dilemma, and the frustration, of Malaysia in 1979. i)
doi:10.2307/2644017 fatcat:vr3ignyryzdddaki3piiphyqha