February 16, 2012
Wisma Putra Responds
by Ahmad Rozian Abdul Ghani
On February 9, The Star’s Diplomatically Speaking columnist Dennis Ignatiuus wrote a commentary on ‘Wisma Putra adrift in foreign affairs’. We publish a reply from the Foreign Affairs Ministry in response to his article.–The Star
We are grateful the writer has acknowledged that in managing foreign policy in this millennium, like other countries, we need to effectively confront the many challenges in the constantly-changing global environment.
Addressing challenges affecting the nation has been an on-going pursuit to protect and advance our national interest and the well-being of all Malaysians.
The contention that there was no serious foreign policy review after the Mahathir administration needs to be corrected and placed in the proper perspective.There has indeed been regular foreign policy reviews to respond to domestic realities and the changing external environment.
Since independence, Malaysia’s foreign policy approach has been attuned to the changing political, economic and security environment.In the past few years, the consolidation of relationships with our strategic partners in both developing and developed countries has become the focus.
The emphasis now is more on substantive relations and less on the rhetoric.With the dynamic and ever-changing realities of the interdependent and borderless world, there is no denying that Malaysia’s foreign policy continues to be resilient in adjusting and adapting to the country’s domestic policies and external environment.
The government led by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is committed in seeing through the various natio- nal transformation programmes introduced including the Govern-ment Transformation Programme, the Economic Transformation Programme and the New Economic Model.
Wisma Putra’s Strategic Plan between 2009 and 2015 serves as a clear guideline of our foreign policy objectives and direction.The plan provides a mechanism to assess and evaluate the impact and outcome of Malaysia’s foreign policy focus and priorities in both tangible and intangible aspects.
This plan is in tandem with all government transformation programmes. Special mention must be made of our retired ambassadors in sharing their constructive ideas and suggestions in the formulation of our foreign policy.
Our relations with the neighbouring countries have continued to be strengthened and a number of long-standing sticky issues amicably resolved.
Bilateral visits by our leaders are carefully planned and not without deliverables. The fostering of meaningful bilateral relationships and the shaping of long-term strategic partnerships bring tangible benefits both to our nation and our citizens.
It is for this purpose, as was practised before, that the Government, with the support of Wisma Putra, appointed accomplished personalities to be Malaysia’s special envoys to countries of strategic importance to Malaysia, including China, India and the United States.
The appointment of these special envoys serves as another crucial channel to further deepen and broaden ties, particularly in the area of trade and investment as well as explore other opportunities for Malaysia. Their appointment has proven to complement rather than diminish the role of ambassadors or the ministry.
Malaysia continues to contribute meaningfully in other areas of international affairs, even in the post-Mahathir era.We remain active in multilateral diplomacy, helming the Non-Aligned Movement (2003-2006) and the OIC (2003-2008), providing leadership to these two important multilateral organisations to address the dynamics and challenges of the changing global environment.
Within the United Nations system, we maintain our high profile serving as President of the second highest principal organ of the UN, the Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc, 2009-2010), Chairman of the Fifth Committee of the 64th UN General Assembly and currently Chairman of the Third Committee of the 66th UN General Assembly, to name a few.
We remain engaged on the issue of the reform and restructuring of the UN and had played a constructive role in the formation of the UN Human Rights Council.We continue to articulate the need for justice and fairness in the formulation of resolutions in response to the global political, economic and social challenges.
We never cease to contribute to global peace and security not only through ideas but deeds such as our involvements in peace-making and peace-keeping endeavours in many parts of the world. Malaysia’s initiative to promote the ideal of moderation against extremism, including terrorism, is an example.
The Global Movement of Moderates espoused by the Prime Minister in 2010 at the United Nations has received positive and constructive support from various leaders of other countries as well as in regional and international fora such as ASEAN, ASEM and the Commonwealth.
As ASEAN continues to be the cornerstone of our foreign policy, Malaysia has devoted significant attention to it to ensure it plays a meaningful role in global affairs and improving the welfare of its citizens.
One of the key components to realise this is the establishment of a rules-based approach to manage inter-state relations in this region.The respect that ASEAN enjoys is no small achievement for Malaysia and our partners. We have leverage on this to amplify our presence in non-Asean led initiatives such as APEC and theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
We are confident that Malaysia, with the support of other ASEAN members, will achieve more in 2015 when Malaysia assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN – the year a true ASEAN Community will be created.
On English language skills, as one of the most widely-used international languages, proficiency in it remains important to the ministry. It would be flawed to assert that by giving some space to the use of the National Language in the ministry, it would weaken English proficiency among officers.
The ministry also encourages its officers to learn other major languages to promote multilingual skills.
Wisma Putra remains sensitised to evolving developments and vigilant in the protection and promotion of our interests, defending our sovereignty and safeguarding our territorial integrity.
With the Government determined to successfully implement the various transformation programmes including 1Malaysia, key performance indicators have been set to measure and improve the efficiency and quality of government services.With this mechanism in place, none of the ministries or other government agencies can afford to run on autopilot.
If and when Ignatiuus is back in Malaysia, we would certainly welcome him to visit the ministry to share his wisdom while at the same time keep him abreast with the current developments in Wisma Putra and Malaysia.
Ahmad Rozian is Undersecretary of Information and Public Diplomacy, Foreign Affairs Ministry.