Wisma Putra: A ‘Wander-ful’ service for Travellers?

January 28, 2012


The article in The Star by Tan Sri Mohd Radzi Abd Rahman (below) is shallow and it shows his lack of understanding of what Wisma Putra should be about. That is disappointing since he is the Secretary-General whose job is to provide much needed strategic thinking in the shaping of Malaysian foreign policy and the conduct of our diplomacy.

The consular service is a minor aspect of the Malaysian Foreign Office. As a former Foreign Service Officer under the Late (Tun) Ghazalie Shafie, I know that Wisma Putra is about the serious business of public diplomacy and projecting and representing Malaysia’s interest to the rest of the world. Certainly, it is not a travel agency specialising in the care of traveling VIPs and the issuing visas for visitors to Malaysia!

When I was living in Phnom Penh in the early 1990s, I was privileged to witness how Malaysian diplomats under our Ambassador Dato’ Deva Mohd. Ridzam’s leadership worked to represent our interests in Cambodia. Our mission was involved in advising Malaysian business investors, and helping then the fragile government in capacity building, providing invaluable intelligence to the Malaysian Government on political and economic developments in the host country, and networking with host country leaders and officials and members of the political opposition.

The Malaysians visiting Cambodia sought useful advice from our Ambassador and his senior staff. I was a witness to instances when Dato Deva intervened to ensure that Malaysians who got on the wrong side of the Cambodian law were given a fair treatment.  I am, therefore, surprised to  read that “many Malaysians abroad do not see the need to contact the embassy unless they are in trouble”.

Does this Secretary-General not understand that Malaysians do contact embassy officials when they are confident that they can get good commercial and personal advice, not because it has a “wander-ful service for travelers.” If Malaysians avoid the embassy, it is because they do not believe that the mission can help them.

Maybe, Tan Sri Radzi is now confirming the reality that Wisma Putra is now reduced to a consular office, post office and a VIP travel agency, all rolled into one composite whole, staffed by over paid, mediocre and incompetent personnel.  And that is indeed a great pity.

The article also reflects the intellectual quality of this top Wisma Putra official. I have yet to see a serious article from him about our foreign policy or listen to or hear of him talking at any public forum on Malaysia’s diplomacy. That is not surprising either since all he can do is to write an article on consular administration, which should posted on the Wisma Putra website, or given to BERNAMA for wide  coverage.

I have also not heard our Foreign Minister, Anifah Aman, speaking in Parliament even with prepared answers on foreign policy issues.  It is, in fact, an open secret that the Foreign Minister is afraid to face his adversaries in Dewan Rakyat. It is indeed regrettable that Wisma Putra is no longer what it was when the Late Tun Ghazalie Shafie was the Permanent Secretary, and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Today, in public diplomacy, Malaysia is punching below its weight. Our diplomats can neither write nor talk English, the language of international diplomacy and commerce. During the 1960’s, our diplomats were well read and articulate. They were respected by their colleagues in the region and elsewhere for their ability to draft treaties, communiques. and press releases.–Din Merican


A ‘wander-ful’ service for Travelers

By Tan Sri Mohd Radzi Abd Rahman

Although many Malaysians abroad do not see the need to contact the embassy unless they are in trouble, the Foreign Ministry’s consular service is always ready to help.

THE public face of the Foreign Affairs Ministry is the consular service. This is an important arm of the ministry that Malaysians are familiar with.In the past year alone, around 15 to 25 million people entered and left the country. With the increasing number of Malaysians travelling abroad and foreign expatriates making Malaysia their temporary home, consular achievement has now become one of the yardsticks to measure the effectiveness of the Foreign Service delivery system.

Unlike the economic, political, bilateral and multilateral diplomacy the Malaysian diplomat is familiar with, consular service is the “citizen service” that deals directly with the ordinary people, who are treated as important clients.

The function of the consular office at Wisma Putra, or at the 21 Malaysian consulates and 81 embassies abroad, is guided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963.

The consular functions include notary duties, attestation of documents, processing certificates of good conduct, birth registration, extending assistance to vessels and aircraft, and issuing of passports, travel documents and visas to persons wishing to travel to Malaysia.

Paramount among these functions is assisting its nationals within limits permitted by international law.

To many Malaysian diasporas, tourists and students studying abroad, the embassy is the consular office, and nothing more. The other functions of the embassy that deal with the privileged entities such as the palace, president’s office, ministries or people holding high appointments are hardly known to them.

In fact, Malaysians traveling or living abroad do not see the importance of coming in contact with the embassy unless out of necessity – such as to register a newborn, the renewal of passports, or when requiring emergency assistance such as during a tsunami, the Bali bombings, 9/11, the SARS epidemic crisis of 2003 or the 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland that put air travel throughout Europe at a standstill.

A good number of Malaysians also appear at the consulate or the embassy when they are in distress, in cases where their passports, air tickets and money are stolen or lost and they are stranded with no change of clothes.

When this happens, one has to agree with Paul Theroux that travel is glamorous only in retrospect. Losing a passport through theft, negligence or disasters is one of the inconveniences for Malaysians when abroad.

In the case of a lost passport, the consulate or embassy is not authorised to issue a new passport to replace a lost one; it can issue an emergency certificate, a temporary, one-way travel document enabling one to travel home, but not valid to be used to travel to other countries.

All Malaysian embassies and consulates can facilitate the renewal of a Malaysian passport, but not all of them can issue a new Malaysian passport.

Where it is necessary for the embassy or consulate to forward an application for renewal or for a new Malaysian passport back to the Immigration Department in Malaysia, the process will inevitably take longer.

Within the boundaries of the consular functions, those who come for assistance are expected to be served with the highest level of professionalism.

The consular office can assist in notifying next-of-kin in the event the Malaysian is injured, arrested or detained.

It can communicate with the family or friends to request for emergency repatriation funds or arrange for the return of the remains of a deceased to Malaysia.

The consular officer also identifies bodies at the mortuary, visits those detained or imprisoned should there be a request from them to do so and ensure that due process of the law is accorded to them in the country they are arrested or detained.

To the Malaysian embassies abroad, the contact with Malaysian nationals is a pleasant experience. Especially at the embassies which are located where hardly any Malaysian travels, it is a delight for the Malaysian diplomat to meet another fellow citizen.

With the Government’s diaspora policy in place, a friendly contact with Malaysians working abroad is also useful. These individuals relate stories of their businesses, their expertise and the fascinating researches they are tasked to carry out at their new place of work.

With affordable travel, the world has become a smaller place.This means the consular offices have to be an effective problem-solver. In carrying out this task, the Malaysian diplomat is sometimes swayed by sympathy rather than logic.

On one occasion, a stranded Malaysian girl who was back-packing around Europe was “adopted” by the embassy staff with each one taking turns to provide her with food while waiting for her family to send over money for her return ticket home.

Upon reaching home, she sent a postcard to the embassy thanking them for the “five-star hotel” service and the excellent meals and warm clothes. Such instances are an exception rather than a rule.

There is only so much a consular office can do. Some consular offices are under-staffed and when unable to meet the expectations of the clients, they are sternly criticised and sometimes unfortunate stories get to the press.

What is helpful for the Malaysian traveler is to know what it takes to be in another country. They should come prepared, take pains to know whether a visa is required to enter the country, ensure that their passports exceed the six-month validity, bring sufficient money, have a travel and medical insurance ready, check websites of embassies and consulates in the country they are traveling and — as a precaution in case of emergency or natural disaster — register themselves at the embassy either by e-mail or in person.

The poet Saadi is apt when he said that a traveller without observation is a bird without wings. As a significant contributor to public diplomacy, the consular office assumes an important role in current-day diplomacy but when Malaysians work in tandem with them, the end-product benefits not only themselves but also their country – and not all those who wander are lost (J.R.R. Tolkien).

93 thoughts on “Wisma Putra: A ‘Wander-ful’ service for Travellers?

  1. Embarrassing article indeed. How true, I have never listened to our Foreign Minister speaking in the Parliament. I remember Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walking off the press interview at the State Department in Foggy Bottom, in Washington DC when Anifah Aman tried to defend Najib’s Government’s Sodomy 2 charge against the opposition leader, which has nothing to do with our foreign policy and diplomacy and our relations with the United States.

  2. Dato,

    I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dato’ Deva whilst in Europe. An eloquent, remarkable man who started from very humble beginnings but a clever one for evolving and learning to adapt with every change. He often joked of starting a banana leaf restaurant upon retirement aptly to be called Ambassador Curry House!

    Sadly, his successor was a dismal comparison and embarrassed many a Malaysian whenever he spoke!

    I understand Wisma Putra has the most ridiculous qualifying tests and favours friends. Don’t you hrmmph indignantly, Anifah Aman at the poke for the calibre of today’s diplomatic staff is very telling if not downright embarrassing….and how can we forget JJ…..

    In time I hope the change in Govt will open the doors to non-malay applicants so that we harvest and train the creme de la creme and send them out there to woo investors and repair the much maligned image of Malaysia.

  3. Where I am, I have nothing to complain. On all my visits I was given preferential treatment by its top diplomat and everybody else took the cue from him – from the Consular Officer down. Everything I need is given immediate attention like notarization of documents and free of charge too. I would of course donate to their Sports Club and pay $10.00 for the mug shot when renewing my passport. I renewed my passport in record time. I was always accompanied out and bid farewell to till the next time. Maybe this top diplomat manning the store knew something about me I don’t?

  4. Why would a Malaysian citizen visit a Malaysian Embassy or Consulate when we are treated badly by the mission staff.

    While in Phnom Penh recently we wanted to take a picture of the new Malaysian Embassy but we were shooed away by the guards. It was the opposite at the US Embassy.

    Try to register a new born baby or request some forms from the Malaysian Embassy or Consulate General. See how much hassle and how rude the staff can be.

    I guess this KSU must have come up doing Consular work all his life while at Wisma Putra and at mission overseas. Thus nothing on addressing political and economic activities.

  5. Needless to say I was looked upon by those waiting to have their passports outside renewed with envy – and not a little scorn. They think I am another UMNO bigwig.

  6. This top diplomat manning the store even phoned me at home about 30 minutes after the second plane struck the World Trade Center Towers, to tell me not to come. I had an appointment with him that morning. I can’t complain.

    Like I said. Maybe he knows something about me, I don’t.

  7. This article shows the quality and intellectual reach of the ksu. Mind you that he belongs to the newly created Premier group under the new civil service salary scheme and he gets a salary of RM 40,000 per month and possibly 6 months bonus. Overpaid is the most apt description indeed.

  8. Many Third World Countries are represented overseas in a manner in which they deserve to be represented. The internet age has made diplomats look ordinary. During the days of the telex machine in the 60s they were the ones who had the information on the country to which they were posted. But today that same information is only a click of the mouse away.

    The value of the diplomat today depends on his ability to have that extra personal contacts that makes a difference and makes him relevant when it comes to being a ‘go-between’ between his government and the host country. If he is slow his minister will get in touch with his counterpart directly making the diplomat useless.

    This is one of the reasons why those in the private sector who have their own network and in constant contact with them through the speed of the internet do not visit Embassies to get information. I am reminded that the Korean Chaebol Samsung today has some 300 offices abroad.Likewise other corporations also have their own offices abroad. With that kind of network who needs the services of an Embassy.

    To remain relevant Embassies have to re look at what they have been doing all this time. Consular service should not be allocated the kind of resources this statement from the KSU appears to imply.

  9. The role played by Malaysia’s foreign missions that has not been mentioned is the role they play in looking after the needs of Malaysia’s so-called First Lady. A convoy of official looking cars with diplomatic markings would accompany her to her shopping spree.

  10. King Gaz had his huge tome of a semi-autobiography on sale in a bookshop in KL, and it cost more than Rm90. Skimmed through it and told myself I would get it the following week, but the five copies were quickly sold out, or ……. ? Did the book offend anyone? Every page I took a quick look at gave a glimpse of what life was like at the highest level of public life 40 – 50 years ago. Am not surprised if Wisma is now a pale shadow of its glory days. So much for a nation for allowing sectarian politics to define every aspect of life within government and outside government. PM Najib couldn’t even pick a more capable and credible man to helm the Foreign office – what a let-down!

  11. Mongkut Bean
    Try visiting a different mission not the CGM NYC. Go visit the Embassy in WDC or CGM LA and try to pop in with a request and see how you’d be treated. Maybe it’s the Tunku before your name that get you the red carpet treatment.

  12. There are a few who make Malaysia proud. The moment you contact them for some issues, they give the exact information with a lot of details. Not only that they also go extra miles to provide additional and the latest state of affairs in the capital. They take up our issues as though they are their own matters. They even get our personal phone numbers and ring up to find out what is the latest development. It is the posting of such officers to the Malaysian Missions that make Malaysia proud. I had dealt with the current Ambassadors to Spain and Lebanon on different occasions, and I admit they have indeed set examples and brought name and fame to Malaysia.

  13. Can imagined these diplomats speaking with thick Malayan accent ‘ yoo piple shud kno oourr fommer FM was nick name der american bal headed eagle yoo kno , yoo kno the bigest eagal in der worrld wit a wing span of aiten feet , nout foor noting , he truly was magnificeen and long befur him we had king ghaz , dis guuy , i tell eu man was der pride of hool malaye , veri eloquen , veri muc distingush , so distingush dat wenver he was on song , eu culd ignite fire by puting a mach stick to his brath .. We were veri proud of him ‘. lol (laughing out loud) seriuosly though…. After years of liberty and yet without aided scripts made available by hired hands our so called pemimpin , diplomats or other high ranking officials struggle to put two sentences together , be it issues on the economy , international affairs etc.. Only time we can expect to witness fluency in their speeches is when they speak in the malay language but that too fluency only in the language with little if not zero in substance

  14. Semper,

    Me no person you say but in line for the Kedah throne when everybody else is dead. That is one very long line. No duit kerabat to kebas. Just another pauper living off food stamps with the kind courtesy of President Obama.

    I understand where you are coming from with that statement. Malaysian High Commission is a good example.

  15. It looks like our weekend DJ has abdicated his role yet once again. And so to fill in the void let me play you a song sung by Lisa Ono (who also sings in Bahasa, Mandarin, English among others). This one is in French.

  16. Mongkut Bean,
    Both my sons had experienced poor service at the CGM NYC when they wanted to renew their passports or register the birth of a child. I finally told them to send to me and I’ll get CGM LA to process. In LA just like you there’s no waiting line for me. I can walk in without appointment but LA office don’t have the machine to process extension of chip passport unlike NYC.

  17. “In LA just like you there’s no waiting line for me. I can walk in without appointment …” Pak Semper

    Yes, one look at you, they think to themselves this is one UMNO bigwig not to be messed around with. They are wrong about the UMNO bigwig but they are right not to mess.

  18. I’m sure the bloghost has valid reason for not hosting this weekend entertainment. You are very welcome to start the ball rolling Mongkut Bean. Thanks for starting off with ErmY Kulit. She has a fantastic voice and I like her rendition of Koes Endang Kasih.

    The LA staff know I’m not an UMNO bigwig but just an ordinary Joe but I’m friends with most of the staff save the new arrivals.

  19. I am indeed saddened at the state of Wisma Putra (WP) today. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read the latest post on KSU’s piece in the Star.  In fact, as a Malaysian taxpayer, I am embarrassed with Wisma Putra today.   

    As early as the 80s the signs of decline were already visible. In the 90s, Wisma Putra was going down the slippery path at an amazing pace. Since this Radzi (what a waste to give him a Tan Sriship) took over Wisma Putra has taken a free fall, eventually crashing to earth with a thud. Is Wisma Putra worried?  Evidently not. 

    New recruits and junior officers have no way to practice their tools of trade in Wisma Putra. Under the present leadership all communications are to be in Bahasa Malaysia. What this means is that one of the few avenues open for junior officers to think, talk fluently and operate analytically in English is removed.

    If this is the attitude of this Radzi fella and his cohort at Wisma Putra (Anifah Aman), let us not waste scarce taxpayer’s ringgit on the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR). God Helps Malaysia, given the rot in our Foreign Service. Wake Up, Najib from your slumber.

    p.s. BTW, I was told that the Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia,a Anifah Aman crony, is a disgrace. It is time to get rid of him, but what has Wisma Putra got left in terms of talent, given the rot to get a suitable replacement.

    Radzi was a below average Wisma Putra officer. He got to the top because the system fosters mediocrity. Although he tries to impress us by qouting an obscure poet and JR Tolkein, he is actually an anti-intellectual. He discourages critical thinking because he cannot handle ideas that expose his own inadequacies.

    There is a clear difference in attitude and outlook of the officers who served in the 60s and early 70s and those who joined later. This was due to leadership (of King Ghaz in particular) and the environment.So I am not surprised to read your comments and the views of your blogger associates.     

  20. I think what Tan Sri Radzi wrote about was in the context of consular duties, which as he rightly wrote is one of the important duties of our diplomats abroad. Not only last year our Wisma officers sacrifice their time, sweat and even life to evacuate many Malaysians especially our students from countries with political disturbances.

    So what Tan Sri Radzi said and wrote need to be looked according to the context. Of course there are always those who like to criticize, there are many others who are proud of what Wisma has evolved and become. Hidup Wisma Putra.
    What sacrifice are you are talking about? They are already over paid to do their job. With people like you around–probably you are in Wisma Putra–there is no hope for change.–Din Merican

  21. I’m sure the bloghost has valid reason for not hosting this weekend entertainment. You are very welcome to start the ball rolling Mongkut Bean. Thanks for starting off with ErmY Kulit. She has a fantastic voice and I like her rendition of Koes Endang Kasih. — Pak Semper

    I must be seen not to usurp the role of DJ. I’m just the de facto novice DJ forced into the role by an exhausted and more experienced DJ who has had to ward off scurrilous attacks by the likes of Makcik and Ilham. And for this legend of Manado origin, a jazz legend in her own right, even my ten month old g/daughter is begining to sway to her music. Maybe it is the Latino blood in her. But who knows g/pa could have something to do with it.

    I hope that one day she’ll grow to be a diplomat and later head the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and teach diplomats how to be a diplomat’s diplomat.

  22. Indeed it is easy to criticize but quite difficult to appease everyone…. my experience with Wisma Putra officials stationed overseas had been very positive ..to say the least…the men and women working tirelessly looking after the interests of Malaysia and Malaysians abroad despite the budget cuts and incessant criticisms have my deepest respect…may be Din Merican could at least recognise the contributions made by Wisma Putra officials during the recent emergencies in Egypt, Libya and other parts of the world….

    We are not talking about pleasing everyone as that is impossible to do. Yes, we recognise the humanitarian and rescue work in crisis situations by Wisma Putra. Here we are concerned with diplomacy and strategic thinking of the present generation of foreign service personnel in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unless you are one of them, you will know that Wisma Putra is not even a shadow of its past self.You are defending the indefensible. You should talk to your Deputy Foreign Minister Senator A. Kohilan Pillay in private and he will tell you that he is very concerned.–Din Merican

  23. “I hope that one day she’ll grow to be a diplomat and later head the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and teach diplomats how to be a diplomat’s diplomat.” Bean

    Let’s hope that Malaysia still exists on the world map. At the rate things are going, Malaysia may end up as a province of one of its neighbors.

  24. Yes, who doesn’t know Mack the Knife, the swashbuckling thief, romantic and a gentleman pickpocket – a song popularized by none other than another jazz legend Louis Armstrong in the ’50s.

  25. Eight years ago, I lost my Malaysian passport, birth cert, and valuables during a break in. After lodging the necessary forms for replacements with Canberra, I was told to wait for two years. I called them three years later and was told since I did not have the birth cert, they could not issue a replacement. That’s when I did a no brainer and my entire family became proud owners of Australian passports in less than three weeks!
    And I am told the service has not improved after all these years. Berkhimat untuk siapa?

  26. But losing passports is a very serious business for the Malaysian government and here is why. There is a black market in Malaysian passports. Chinese nationals and Indian nationals and Indonesian nationals among them may end up with them. All they need to do is to substitute the photographs. There is a syndicate dealing in forged Malaysian passports. But today with the advent of biometric passports it is more difficult. My passport left on the dashboard of a taxi in KL was stolen by the Malay cab driver who seemed educated; but I had it replaced quickly. I hear the market value of a passport like mine would fetch nothing less than RM30k in the black market.That was more than 20 years ago.

    When I explored the possibility of reporting loss of my passport, the Consulate here advised that it would be a long drawn out process requiring a police report and pages and pages of documents have to be filled and the application for replacement would have to be sent back to HO in Malaysia, a process that would take no less than two years.

    The application for U.S. passports is nothing complicated and can be done through the U.S. postal service.

  27.  FM Anifah’s speech at New Year for Dip.Corp

    Dear Dato

    I felt nauseous reading it. The first ever speech by Anifah Aman after 3 years 10 months in office. What utter rubbish. A fifth grader would have done better. It, however, deserves posting on your blog. Taken from Wisma Putra website. Basically, he has nothing significant to crow about.  




    The Honourable Senator A. Kohilan Pillay
    The Honourable Datuk Richard Riot Anak Jaem
    Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs,

    His Excellency Tan Sri Mohd Radzi Abdul Rahman
    Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

    His Excellency Nasser Salman Nasser Abd. Allah Al-Boudi
    Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
    Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
    Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

    Distinguished Guests,
    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    At the outset, please allow me to wish all of you a very good evening and a very Happy New Year. It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to this dinner held in conjunction with the New Year.  As we usher in the New Year, I am sure we are all looking forward to a year which will bring us greater peace, stability and prosperity for all our citizens around the world. 

    2.I must confess that I have been wanting to organise this annual New Year gathering with the members of the Diplomatic Corps since the day I was appointed as the Foreign Minister in 2009.  Never did I realise being a Foreign Minister there are many things that one could aspire to do – but will never or seldom get the chance to realise them.  This annual gathering is one of them. 

    3.I am very pleased that finally we managed to organise this gathering.  I must sincerely thank all of you, distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps and invited guests for your attendance despite the short notice invitation.  Basically I intend to share with you some of the highlights of the events that have taken place in relation to our foreign relations in the last one year as well as our general direction for the coming years.

    Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    4. Looking back in 2011, Malaysia has achieved much progress in the pursuit of our foreign policy. The year 2011 saw a significant number of incoming and outgoing high level visits from and to Malaysia involving Heads of State and Government as well as at the Foreign Minister level.In all, the 51 incoming and outgoing visits reflect the active pace of our foreign policy. Even at the end of 2011, we received two high level visits, namely the visit by the President of Turkmenistan and the Prime Minister of Qatar. 

    Today, our Prime Minister had the pleasure to host the Prime Minister of Singapore who was here for a bilateral visit. This signifies a good beginning for the year and augurs well for our relations with our immediate neighbour.

    5.The past year also saw Malaysia entering into agreements and negotiations in many areas of bilateral cooperation.  For example, Malaysia and EU are actively negotiating the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and the Malaysia-EU FTA.  With the countries in the Americas, Malaysia has completed or initiated negotiations including Malaysia-Chile FTA, 123 Agreement with the US, agreements with Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela and Canada, all aimed at harnessing the potentials of our bilateral relations.

    6.We continue to explore the potential of strategic partnership with African countries in order to enhance and strengthen our ties.  The recent Langkawi International Dialogue held in June 2011 with the theme of “Enhancing Smart Partnership for Socio-Economic Transformation” had successfully provided a new platform for exploring business and investment opportunities between Malaysia and its African partners.

    7.The year 2011 also witnessed Malaysia being accepted into various international bodies including membership of UNESCO World Heritage Committee 2011 – 2015, the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO), membership of the International Bureau of Education (IBE) of UNESCO and the Chairmanship of the Third Committee of the 66th UN General Assembly.  This shows the confidence of the international community in Malaysia’s ability to contribute meaningfully in these organisations.  We thank you for the support extended to our candidatures. 

    On the same note also, we seek your continued support to our future candidatures particularly the candidature of Dr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram to the post of Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and our candidature as Non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council for 2015-2016.

    8.While we look back fondly at 2011, we have also taken stock of many events around the world that challenged our resolve, from the persistent financial and economic crises that continue to beset many economies, to continuing and new political conflicts, and to natural disasters of catastrophic scale. To those who had lost their loved ones, places of abode and livelihood in the many catastrophic events that occurred in 2011, I offer our hope that they will find greater solace this year and in the years to come. We commiserate with our neighbours that are experiencing hardship caused by the erratic climactic conditions.  We in Malaysia are also experiencing floods in some parts of the country albeit of a lesser scale. Malaysia would do what it can, with whatever means it has, to assist in the rebuilding efforts in your countries, where possible.

    9.As we look forward to this coming year, let the challenges that we faced in the past be lessons learnt for us to build greater resolve among us as we meet the challenges that await us in this coming year.  I am confident with the spirit of friendship and cooperation that is inherent among the countries in the world we will overcome any challenges that confront us for us to build a better world. 

    Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    10.We at Wisma Putra are consciously paving the way in the conduct of our foreign policy to enhance our friendship and form strategic partnerships in order to support our aspirations to become a high-income developed nation by year 2020. 

    11.In pursuing these friendly relations, economic diplomacy emphasising trade and investment is given added importance in our effort to sustain the momentum of the country’s economic development. As one of the most open economies in the world, Malaysia will continue to engage the outside world in order for us to remain competitive for the country’s well-being.     

    12.Enhancing the robust relations with our neighbours in Southeast Asia remains a high priority.  We wish to congratulate Indonesia for their effective and successful chairmanship of ASEAN throughout 2011.  In the same vein, we also wish to congratulate Cambodia for their chairmanship of ASEAN for this year.  We pledge our full support to Cambodia in their endeavour to lead ASEAN in 2012.

    13.Malaysia looks forward to assume the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015 when many of the goals, especially with regards to the ASEAN Community are expected to be realised. This would mark an exciting period for ASEAN as we collectively work together to achieve greater peace and prosperity for our 500 million inhabitants.  We are optimistic that by 2015, ASEAN would have overcome most of the challenges in the political-security, economic and socio-cultural areas to form a single community.  

    14.While maintaining focus on our relations with ASEAN partners and neighbours, we continue to strengthen strategic ties with our traditional partners and markets in Europe, Asia and the US.  We look forward to further explore avenues of cooperation with countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and other  regions.  We now have 106 diplomatic missions in all corners of the globe which is an expression of our inclination and interest to strengthen our bilateral ties in many parts of the world.

    15.From a global perspective, Malaysia will continue to provide unwavering and continuing support for the United Nations and the multilateral principles based on international law. Malaysia will continue to advocate its principled views on matters of concern, where we take the view that all nations, no matter how large or small, rich or poor, strong or weak have a common responsibility to create a better world for tomorrow.

    16.In Malaysia’s effort to promote international peace and understanding, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak proposed for the establishment of the Global Movement of the Moderates, an idea which has gained wide acclaim by world leaders.  The establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See in July 2011, is one of the efforts by Malaysia to foster greater understanding among people of different faiths in Malaysia.  An inaugural International Conference of the Global Movement of the Moderates will be held here in Kuala Lumpur from 17 – 19 January 2012.  I hope that as members of the diplomatic corps here in KL, you will lend your support to this effort, which is Malaysia’s contribution in its small way towards finding the middle path where we make every effort to live in harmony with each other while accepting and respecting our differences.   

    Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman,

    17.As representatives of your country in Malaysia, I am certain you are following with much interest the various developments in Malaysia.  I am sure you are following with keen interest the various government initiatives and programmes including the Government Transformation Programme (GTP); the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP); the New Economic Model (NEM); and the political transformation programmes.  These programmes have helped to spur the economic development of Malaysia registering GDP growth of about 5% in 2011.  You may also be interested to see how these initiatives and programmes fit towards enhancing beneficial relations between us.  Apart from following the economic development of the country, I am also certain that you have also been following other aspects of development in Malaysia.  

    18. You may have begun to analyse the timing of the next General Elections. Unfortunately, I am as clueless as you. I do not posses a crystal ball that would tell me if at all the General elections would be held this year. What I can tell you for certain is that it will be held before the 5-year term is up in 2013, as mandated by the Constitution.

    Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    19.Before I end, I wish to underline that it is part of the role of my Ministry to assist all of you, members of the Diplomatic Corps in Malaysia to dispense your responsibility to promote our bilateral relations.  The Ministry endeavours to provide protocol and consular services to all foreign missions based in Kuala Lumpur.    Do not hesitate to contact Wisma Putra if we can assist you in any way in discharging your duties in Malaysia.  We are open to hear from you on ways to improve our services to the diplomatic community.

    Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    20.I would like to thank you again for your presence this evening and hope you will have an enjoyable evening.  Happy New Year and may the coming year bring us continued peace, stability and prosperity.  

    I would be pleased to answer any of your questions.

    Thank you.


    On 1/6/12

  28. The article appeared in the STAR written by the SG of Foreign Ministry may be rightly to inform the readers about one of the services rendered by the said Ministry, i.e. Consular Services.Of course there are many other things being done by such a Ministry. You should look at the purpose or perhaps the title of the article before making such comments. Of course the MFA of Malaysia has various responsibilities to perform. To inform readers about the overall roles and functions of the Ministry would probably take the whole edition of the star newspaper for the day. Be that as it may, if Tan Sri Radzi’s article on consular service was wrong in context, please point out where and what. Probably the blog writer missed an opportunity to read a book published by the Information Department entitled “At Your Service” where former SG of MFA wrote an article “getting to the heart of diplomacy”. Perhaps the current SG of MFA just want to focus on consular services of the Ministry.

    By the way, Din, you are seem to incline to condemn of almost everything, as if you are the best brain that Malaysia has ever produced. My question, what are you good at? Any international recognition thus far? What have you contributed during your stint as “Foreign Service Officer” Were you too good? Naaaa….the last time I checked with the Foreign Ministry, no one knows your name.

    I do need to crow about my achievements.Just find out more from ex diplomats and some of the bright boys in Wisma Putra what they think of their own Ministry. This issue here is not about me. It is about the deterioration in standards of Wisma Putra, and the conduct of our Foreign policy.

    Samdol, I thought you are smarter.I was in Wisma Putra from 1963-1965 and was Special Assistant to Permanent Secretary to the Ministry for Intelligence and National Security during the period of Indonesian Confrontation. People who know me have all retired (Albert Tallala, K.T. Ratnam, Raja Aznam, Majid Mohamed, Renji Satiah, Ben Harun, Hamzah Majeed, Khalid Karim, Kamil Jaafar, Razali Ismail, Ajit Singh) or have passed on (Jack De Silva,Zainal Sulong, Ismail Ambia, Tengku Ngah, Abdullah Ali, Jamaluddin Abu Bakar,to name a few). Of course, I do not expect the present crop of officers to know me. –Din Merican

  29. Anti Dungus,

    Please enlighten me what a fifth grader do better than that speech. I just browsed the website of the ministry and found out that there are many other speeches made by Anifah.

  30. The quality of the man is reflected in the Press Conference with Hillary Clinton a few years ago. Are you proud of that, sumdol ?

  31. Sumdol, we have officials who are handicapped by poor command of English in the Foreign Ministry. Foreign missions look down at Wisma Putra.

    You don’t have to shoot the messenger. It is widely expected that UMNO – BN Government friendly officers and bloggers will behave in such an infantile manner when they are being criticized? But I did not expect that you are one of them, or you are suffering from this bodoh sombong complex.

    Some Malaysian government officers are so weak in English that they are unable to attend meetings conducted in the language and cannot be sent abroad for courses, let alone to be in the diplomatic service or as a Foreign Minister.  Not all of them are from local universities, some had studied overseas , like in the United States, for three years ,and yet they cannot speak English when they return home from their studies.

    Having a good command of English is essential and crucial for knowledge in the world to-day. English is also widely used in the diplomatic and business circles, thus enhancing competitiveness in the global market. We are not concerned about you who can write and respond in English but we are worried sick about our Minister, his Ambassadors and staff of the Embassies.

    Do you know that embassy staff, say in Washington DC, are doing private business and they get away with it since the current Ambassador himself has business interests in the US? Do you know that the Malaysian Ambassador in Cambodia,who is a crony of Anifah Aman, is ineffective, compared to Dato Deva?

    Mr Semper Fi who lives in Los Angeles knows a lot about the incompetence of embassy officials there. I am sure upon reading my comments he will respond.

  32. Foreign policy? Schizophrenic. Torn between 3 lovers – Regional, West Asian and the West. Africa? Forget it, our ancestors left it a long time ago for good reason. And my Afrikaner friend in Bloemfontein, would make an excellent ambassador. He’s easily recognizable – tembak before thinking, like many of our diplomats. Professional assassins of the country’s image.

    How come we don’t hear about NAM, OIC and Commonwealth much nowadays? Died ah? Instead we have a whole bunch of Acronyms like NEM, ETP, EPP, GTP, MRT etc, all sounding like a cacophony of insect chirps and trills.

    Maybe we should send out those western-educated Pemandu flurs out as diplomats, instead of keeping them back home to run interference, or manage schemes and dreams for our legends. At least they speak English. Who says we don’t have Talent to do the impossible?
    I will let our new friend sumdol respond to your comments.He thinks a world of Wisma Putra as presently constituted and led.–Din Merican

  33. When Mahathir took over as PM, his view of the senior civil servant as time wasting bureaucrat pushing pen to paper between 8.00 am and 4.30 pm, and dragging their feet between their pipe smoking when not playing golf was about right. What Mahathir doesn’t understand is the importance of the doctrine of civil service neutrality being a medical doctor. To then expect that Wisma Putra be the last bastion against Mahathir’s systematic dismantling of our institutions when the judiciary traditionally the last bastion to fall in any system is like betting on the wrong horse to win the race.

  34. Where is Wisma Putra today? Is it that nondescript building next to Mirama Bowling, Choo Cheng Kay Flats – the red light disrtict by day and the haunt of narcotic peddlars by night counting their days’ takings? Where Frank made his first investment?

  35. The Consulate General of Malaysia in Los Angeles was established in 1982 with Tuan Syed Hussein Syed Abu Bakar (now Dato) as its first Consul General. Syed Husein was then transferred to NYC and Tengku Ibrahim Petra was appointed Consul General. Upon the death of his father Tengku Ibrahim Petra returned home and he was succeeded by Zainal Azman (now Dato) Next was Dato Salim Hashim who later became High Commissioner to UK and Australia. These are wonderful officials who took great interest in their work. LA is not the political or financial capital instead its the media and entertainment capital. Thus the need for charismatic and fluent Consul General.
    Then there were a series of Consul General Wan Yusuf Wan Embong, Mohamad Sani, Anuar Hamid, Mohamed Alias, Zulkifly, Ahmad Anwar, Norman Muhammad and Mr Nekmat. I may have missed someone. Guess he’s insignificant as he doesn’t register in my memory.
    The position was downgraded and thus the CGMLA is now a very junior person. On the other hand China Consul General in LA is accorded Ambassador status.
    Some Consul General adjusted well to the social scene in LA while others prefer to keep within the circle of Malaysians and close ASEAN Consul Generals from golfing to social events. The decline in English fluency is very obvious as some of the junior Consul General came from the lost generation those that had to complete their high school in Bahasa Malaysia.
    Then there were the Trade Commissioner, MIDA Directors and MSD Directors. Of these the MSD Directors were the worst lot. Some of them couldn’t speak English at all and have tremendous difficulties in trying to get Malaysian students enrolled in Universities. They fight shy of meeting the Director of Admissions or International Student Advisors.
    In the early years the Consulate General was a beehive of activities promoting Malaysia but as time went by the events became less and less. In the diplomatic circle Consul Generals are required to make speeches, return speeches, presentations and perhaps TV interviews on events in Malaysia. I’ve seen many Consul Generals from other countries use the media in promoting their countries and even correcting negative images or deflecting negative publicity. Not so for Malaysia.

  36. Mongkut Bean, you really need to take a trip home. If you think Wisma Putra is still next to Choo Cheng Kay then you still believe that Pooi Ming Massage Parlor is the PM’s Dept. Wisma Putra has moved to Putrajaya way out in the boonies all by themselves and isolated from the rest of the other government departments. You’d probably wouldn’t be able to locate it without a Sherpa guide.

  37. Okie dokie, Semper.

    Syed Hussein is a relative and his wife is my aunt. The last time I met her was in 1984 at my house in Ampang (next to the golf course – can’t remember the name anymore) when I was having a garage sale and about to leave for the U.K. I could have met both again (certainly Tunku Khatijah) at family functions, years later but can’t remember now.

  38. Pooi Ming massage? Aiseh, webelos, i thought it was torn down decades ago. The second owner was a friend of sorts, whom i lost contact with. Must have croaked from all those oily stuff.
    Nowadays the PMO is indeed well-massaged and inhabited by goslings who would be swans.

    Btw, semper how do you remember all those CGs in LA? I’d rather spend time casing out Hollywood Boulevard. Here’s to our friends in the diplomatic and not-so-diplomatic services:

  39. I maintained minimal contact with Malaysia and so I wouldn’t know if members of our diplomatic corp hold special discount cards to Pooi Ming Massage Parlour. After all these years and after that visit by actress Ursula Andress of Agent 007 fame in the ’70s, Pooi Ming is still in business?

  40. Why do some of the people here keep on brining up how our diplomatic officials had sacrificed their time,energy and safety helping Malaysians stranded in countries in turmoil? They are being PAID to do that. That’s part of their job is in it? It’s not something extraordinary considering other countries’ embassies and diplomats are doing the same thing too.

    My aunt was a former ambassador and she too laments about the quality some of the officers at Wisma Putra. Dato’ Din must hit the right note since he already got personal attacks.

  41. Tunku Khatijah, such a wonderful person reminds me of your Tok Tam, always a smile for everyone, biak pi lah. I have not met Syed Hussain or Tunku Khatijah for a long while maybe 10 years now. Are they staying at No. 1 Bukit Tunku still?

  42. We belong to a fast fading generation, Semper. Of live and let live generation. The ‘biak pi lah’ generation of the ’50s and ’60s and early ’70s best shown by the life of our beloved first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra-Al Haj. Nda Khadijah (as I called her and I bumped more often into Tunku Nerang whom I call Ayah Ang) who had a smile for everyone is a mirror image of her father. Let me see if I could recollect how Syed Hussein looked on that rare occasion when I met him. Isn’t he the affable pipe smoking gentleman with a handlebar moustache?

  43. It is sad that in the next ten years we will see the passing of this generation. Already my relatives who distinguised themselves in foreign service during the time of Tunku as ambassadors etc have long passed on.

  44. Syed Hussein is tall no moustache with wavy hair. Rather a ladies man. There are three brothers, Syed Hussein, Syed Hamzah (also with Wisma Putra) and Gen Syed Hamzah.

  45. Yep. That’s the one. The moustache may have got transplated from somewhere. Gen. Syed Hamzah (of 5th Rangers?) has retired years ago..

  46. Didi, not many lady Ambassador, Dr. Rajmah, Zabedah Haji Ahmad, Tengku Najiha or unless you’re related to PG Lim or Lily Zacariah.

  47. Semper,

    My aunt used to be the Malaysian Ambassador to France. It’s true that there are not many lady Ambassador even though women can sometimes do a better diplomacy job than men. No offence to the male species.

  48. The only Ambassador to France that I knew was Jamal Latiff son of Dr Latiff and brother of Ismail Latiff and Yaakob Latiff 2nd Mayor of KL. Guess i’m from a different generation.

  49. Semper, you don’t have to rub it in. We are from a different generation then DiD or her aunt ambassador. If that’s what you mean. DiDi is in her 20s – and hasn’t been kissed.

  50. Oh no, not Dr Norraesah. Don’t know who she is. I’m pretty sure my aunt is from the same generation as yours, Bean. Judging from your music taste that is.

  51. I was just trying to test the music and now Din has begun to dance. He was the Personal Assistance to the late Perm. Secretary of the Ministry as yet he claimed that he had indeed been a foreign service officer. Never mind, I wont do any personal attack. Other blogs may have already said something about this blog owner. L

  52. Samdol, there you go again. You are missing the point. It doesn’t matter if Din was from Mars. What matters is the issue. It’s laughable that the most senior diplomat chose to have his staff write this piece. If at all such a piece should have been signed by the relevant officer in charge. The secretary general could have written on something that befits his status. The FM said in his speech shown above that Malaysia wants to get on the security council in 2015. The secretary general could say what we want to achieve. Or he could say something about what Malaysia is doing about human rights or even about the how the foreign ministry sees the way forward for Malaysia as globalization falters. There are many examples. The suspicion is that he is unable to do so. By the way have you ever read the ministry’s website say on the bilateral or multilateral or public diplomacy activities without cringing at the quality of English and the sheer shallowness of the content. For whom is it intended? If the website cannot be perfect it’s better not to have such slipshod materials on it. I can go on and on. It’s not personal. The bloghost and his readers are seriously concerned about how the foreign ministry is poorly representing us Malaysians. We are equally ashamed at how the other ministries are also doing a bad job.

  53. Sorry for the intrusion, but maybe the main issue is how Wisma Putra officers are recruited nowadays into the foreign service. I believe Wisma Putra doesnt have control over who gets to be a diplomat. Wisma has to work with whoever gets into the service, whether the person’s command of English is fair or not, whether they have the necessary skills or not and whether they have the right attitude or not.

    Wisma Putra doesn’t choose who works there, but rather given the personnel. Thus, Wisma has to make do with what they have.

    Just something for us to ponder. Rather than just lamenting the situation, I believe its better to identify the root cause before finding a solution to improve the situation at hand.

  54. Brig-Gen Syed Hamzah was never from the Rangers, Bean. He’s a blue-blood Askar Melayu walla. Syed Hamzah retired sometime in the early 1980s after a spell as BGS (Brigadier-General Staff) in Mindef. Was never in the good books of his superiors for speaking his mind out and missed a couple of promotions. He left in a huff, so to speak. Haven’t heard much of him since then.

    The Ranger Syed could be either be Syed Aziz or Syed Mohammad (from Alok Staq) or one other Syed Mohammad who is related to the great Major-Gen Syed Asagolf. Col Syed Alwi, another disgruntled RMR officer passed away after a prolonged illness last year.

  55. Mr. Bean,

    Yes in the 80s Malaysian Passport was worth RM30,000 – RM50,000. But today they have no value in the black market. They have other means to get the Malaysian passport.

  56. “Syed Hamzah retired sometime in the early 1980s after a spell as BGS (Brigadier-General Staff) in Mindef. Was never in the good books of his superiors … ” Tok Cik

    There was a Gen. Syed Hamzah who matches your description based in Port Dickson in 1988/9 but I could be wrong and he was at the time in Mindef. But this one must have retired later – not early ’80s. I am glad you are back to verify.

  57. “It’s not personal. The bloghost and his readers are seriously concerned about how the foreign ministry is poorly representing us Malaysians. We are equally ashamed at how the other ministries are also doing a bad job”

    Apparently there is more than meets the eye. An axe to grind maybe? Or just guarding his own turf. Going by what I see and hear on the YouTube on court proceedings in Malaysia, not only has English become a foreign language rather than a second language in Malaysia, but the manipulation of the system is so egregious that we are all ashamed of where UMNO and its culture of entitilement has taken the country since Mahathir. I believe there are many talented people out there but due to poor language skills they have not been able to make their impact – certainly in the world of international relations.

  58. Ok Tok Cik. My memory is being refreshed. The Syed Hamzah I mentioned is likely to be the bad tempered Brig.Gen in Mindef. But he was still there in the late 80s.

  59. All those colonels who retired without making it to the next level are all disgruntled but they must know that the country cannot have too many peace time Generals.

  60. We have not been playing music for our Tok Cik and so he went AWOL. The bloghost should seduce Tok Cik back with the right kind of music and here’s one. Kalau tak biasa, tak pa …. biasakan aja.

  61. Bean, there’ only one Brig-Gen Syed Hamzah. His last appointment was as BGS, Mindef serving under Gen “Jack” Yaakob (not too certain), the Army Chief then. I was one of Yaakob’s staff.

    Syed Hamzah was a flamboyant gentleman, an Anglophile at best being a Sandhurst-trained officer. He left in 1982. I remember this because I once accompanied him to the Officer Cadets’ School Port Dickson to meet up with the school’s commandant, the late Col Mohd Zain “Pendek” Daud. He left a few months after the visit. Zain Pendek, a former MCKK student was another classic officer.

    Mind you, it’s the majors and colonels who chart the course of the army. The generals just warm their seats. I speak for myself lah.

    Syed, Zain and Ranger Mike Nasir were my mentors no wonder I don’t last long in the service.

  62. Samdol,

    I don’t think the bloghost was Personal Assistant to the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is no such position as Personal Assistant perhaps a Personal Assistant. The bloghost may have been Special Assistant to the Permanent Secretary, which is an important position. Many officers have served as Special Assistant to the Minister notably Tan Sri Kadir Mohamed who later became the KSU, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even as Special Assistant he was about he same level as SUB or maybe even TKSU.

    The organization of Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the 60’s is different from the present Wisma Putra. Unless you are a historian or were with Ministry of Foreign Affairs since the 60’s you wouldn’t be able to recognize the outstanding officers then since they were more dedicated to their work rather than seeking personal glory. Nowadays it’s more personal glory and looking for recognition rather than serving the citizens and country. Look up the outstanding Ambassadors from the 60’s and see how many have been recognized with Datoship or Tan Sriship as opposed to present day.

  63. Tok Cik,

    I have two generals (not full general) from my graduating year 1964. These guys left after Form V. I went on for another two years. One is Hushaini and the other Amirrudin Ahmad.

  64. Orang Malaya.

    I think the Indonesians have a school for diplomats.

    Foreign Service traditionally attacts the crème de la crème of the graduating class in the Arts Faculty — but all for the wrong reasons. They are attracted to the glamour of an overseas assignment even if that means carrying the attache case of another diplomat for the next two years, opening doors and ferrying them from airports to hotels.

  65. Mr Bean, Malaysia too have a school for diplomats run by Wisma Putra. The school teach them and their wives the etiquette, which fork and spoon to use, dressing and grooming and how to mingle at diplomatic socials. Alas the diplomats themselves dress shabbily often with mismatched top and bottom and at one point in time gawdy batik ties.

  66. Actually the SOP nowadays, is that they deselect the ‘diplomats’ from the graduating class from INTAN. The creme de la creme mostly go to Treasury or MITI, since these 2 ministries outrank WP in terms of perceived ‘power and affection’. You see local needs must be met first, after a period of BTNization. Tempurung certitude. Any questions?

  67. I reckon Tan Sri Radzi is only addressing regular Malaysia travellers and expats in that article. He would have wrote more about commerce if he was to address Malaysian businesses. Nonetheless, Foreign Service is more than just providing consular service indeed.

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