August 29, 2012
On Diplomacy, Wisma Putra and our Foreign Minister
by Norhaidi Che Dan (08-22-12) @http://www.malaysiakini.com
I refer to the article “‘Grounded’ Anifah should quit, says Pakatan“ by Hafiz Yatim which appeared in Malaysiakini on August 15, 2012. I am outraged at the unfounded statements and accusations that were made in the article and I feel compelled to clarify these claims.
The article also casts aspersions on the competence of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to provide sound strategic advice to the government on the conduct of our foreign policy including on important issues like Syria and the Rohingya Muslims.
The Foreign Minister has been constantly defending and articulating Malaysia’s interests and position on various foreign policy issues as well as proposing ways and means to resolve myriad of issues with his counterparts.
So much could be said about certain Opposition leaders who continuously discredit the good name of our beloved country abroad, which the Minister eventually has to work hard to restore. These are done through the time-honoured practice of diplomacy.
Diplomacy is not carried out through the media or through megaphon diplomacy. In the conduct of diplomacy, there is an established decorum on how issues should be resolved taking into account sensitivities of nation states in safeguarding their sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
There are overt and quiet actions in the conduct of diplomacy. Both ways are used and the Minister is not obliged to divulge every detail to the Opposition on how the Ministry conducts its work.
Nonetheless the public including Opposition members are kept informed of activities relating to foreign relations through press releases and statements. The Opposition could also raise questions in Parliament, in both Houses as they always do, and the Minister and Deputy ministers never failed to respond and explain.
Like all elected representatives, (Minister) Anifah too has obligations to his constituency, whichis in Sabah. But this does not distract him from discharging his responsibilities as Foreign Minister. Meetings with foreign dignitaries and ambassadors in Sabah were held at their request.
One such example is the recent visit of H.E. Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister of China. In fact, this was an important meeting as Malaysia attaches great importance to its relations with China.
OIC Extraordinary Summit
The insinuation of his absence at the summit reflects a sheer lack of understanding that summits are attended by Heads of State or Government.
While this may be the practice, there are instances where participation at international meetings may not be at the prescribed level due to many considerations which have been carefully deliberated upon by the government.
As Foreign Minister, he is required to undertake numerous visits overseas that would take him away from the capital let alone his constituency.
If one had cared to follow the developments on Syria which have been flashed out in mainstream media, Malaysia’s position on Syria is evident. We have continuously articulated our position on Syria, either bilaterally or through multilateral processes such as the United Nations, Human Rights Council and most recently, the OIC Summit.
We are concerned with the developments in Syria. We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.We support a comprehensive peaceful political solution in that country. We also maintain our position of not accepting unsanctioned interference or intervention by any external party.
The Rohingya Conundrum
Long before the Opposition realised they could politicise the issue of Rohingya Muslims in their political campaign, the Minister had been in contact with his counterpart in Burma soon after the flare up of the incident in Rakhine to categorically express Malaysia’s concerns and the need for Burma to address the plight of the Rohingya Muslims.
He also offered humanitarian assistance to Burma. We are glad to note that the Burmese government has extended an invitation to the OIC Secretary-General to verify the facts and assess what steps OIC can take to assist the Rohingya Muslims.
The South China Sea Question
The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is a territorial dispute of overlapping claims by several ASEAN countries and China. It is a sensitive and delicate issue that needs to be handled judiciously.
Malaysia has always asserted that the terms of such disputes should be addressed through dialogue amongst the countries concerned. Most recently, the minister engaged his counterparts from the Philippines and China on this matter.
Foreign affairs issues are the bread and butter of the Ministry and the team in Wisma Putra has shown their dedication in carrying out their duties to serve the nation.
The Minister takes exception to the suggestion that the Ministry merely handles evacuation of Malaysian students from troubled areas overseas. Consular duties and providing assistance to Malaysians in distress overseas are important but they are only one of the many other functions of the Ministry.
In conclusion, the unwarranted attacks on the Foreign Minister and the allegations against the Foreign Affairs Ministry reflect the shallow-mindedness of those who made these allegations with their simplistic understanding on the conduct of our foreign policy.
I would suggest that future comments and observations on the conduct of Malaysia’s foreign policy are done based on facts and not conjectures.
NORHAIDI CHE DAN is political secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Malaysia.