• 2019
  • Rebranding Lima to promote global peace

Rebranding Lima to promote global peace

Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Opinion - The New Strait Time
April 12, 2019


This March 30 pic shows members of the public watching an air show during the 2019 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima19) in Langkawi. - NSTP/MUHD ZAABA ZAKERIA

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must have felt a sense of a deja vu when he opened the 15th edition of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima) last month.

He launched the first edition 28 years ago in 1991, and now it is one of the leading maritime and aerospace exhibitions in the Asia Pacific region. Then it saw slightly over 100 exhibiting companies with the aim of making Langkawi the venue for light and experimental aircraft to fly unhampered by heavy traffic. Lima has since taken a life of its own. The value of deals signed at the recent Lima was over RM4 billion, according to official sources. It is an impressive success. ‎Why so?

One reason is that today Lima accommodated 406 companies (206 local and 200 foreign). Another, it manages mostly deep-pocketed defence-related companies, although there were also some civilian industries. This can give rise to controversies as voiced out by Dr Mahathir who noted that Lima is beginning to be a show that “glorifies big fighters”. He appeared disconcerted when he asked: “What are the fighter planes for? For killing people. What are the bomber planes for? For killing people. What are rockets for? For killing people. We are spending so much on research on how to kill people, which does not speak very well of the level of civilisation we have achieved,” he said at the Perdana Leadership Foundation CEO Forum 2019 post-Lima.

This is despite the many who considered the latest Lima the best ever staged. At a press conference in Langkawi, Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying it was “a record for Lima”. Admittedly, Lima has helped Malaysia attract investments and improve collaboration with the defence and aviation industries which the country hopes to further expand. Some associated this to the status of a developed country that Malaysia aspires to be by 2020, but has since been deferred to 2025. So, in the next five years where is Lima heading beginning with the next edition in 2021?

According to the defence minister, it would see a bigger show with more products. For example, Lima 2021 is expected to introduce aircraft technology as a new sector. It is meant for “global players in this area” to participate and showcase their products and services. Will there be more firepower “to glorify” and more deadly products “for killing (more) people”?

Inevitably, these are some of the pertinent questions being floated since Malaysia too, under the initiative of Dr Mahathir, is an advocate of a global movement to “criminalise war” with widespread support all round, especially given the present geopolitical uncertainties. To have Lima promoting just the opposite seems schizophrenic to say the least. It makes a mockery of a country that has been vocal over issues of global peace and justice.

With the Christchurch shootings occurring on the eve of Lima, it zoomed home the need to reposition Lima’s raison d’etre. The government must be more sensitive in framing its position against the “military-industrial complex” as warned by celebrated war veteran and army general, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961. Taken to its logical conclusion, Lima may be heading that way if it continues to feed into this “killer complex” that wants to see many more arms invented and promoted as part of the business-as-usual agenda. At its worst, it is directed at the ready market of the developing countries and taking advantage of the socio-political vulnerabilities surrounding them.

There will be no end if the defence industry drives many sophisticated technology lending spin-offs (think robotics). Hence, as we talk about autonomous technology like public vehicles, there are already autonomous devices of all kinds that could unleash untold firepower from‎ faraway places aimed at specific targets with total precision, that is, precision to kill in unprecedented ways like robotic foot soldiers (imagine “Terminators”) acting in the same way.

It is unfortunate that no one has called for a rethinking of the raison d’etre of Lima-like events. In other words, how to turn Lima into a “peace-oriented” show, showcasing technologies that promote and save lives. Perhaps, renaming it as Langkawi International Philantrophy and Peace Solutions — it can display solutions on what is available to affect a sustainable future. There are many, including autonomous ones, that have been designed to improve, rather than kill, the millions deprived of the most basic support systems.

This will definitely make a difference and capture the imagination of global donors and philanthropists keen to make accessible preferred solutions (by extending funds) and move away from the military-industrial complex scenario. Short of this, Lima would lose its raison d’etre and be regarded as a promoter of the military-industrial complex.

The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector