My Response to Dato’ Norhaidi of Wisma Putra

August 30, 2012

My Response to Dato’ Norhaidi of Wisma Putra

by Din Merican

I read the purported rebuttal by the Foreign Minister’s Political Secretary which I posted earlier on this blog with considerable concern. It is the latest in a long list of evidence of incompetence and lack of professionalism in our Foreign Ministry, or Wisma Putra as it commonly known.

If anything, the rebuttal exemplifies the proverb ”It’s better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt”  for it only made the Minister look worse than he actually is. Why purported? Well, Dato Norhaidi is not exactly known for his fluency in English.  Therefore, it is unlikely that this rambling rebuttal could be done by him. Furthermore, political secretaries have not been known to do this kind of work.

A Ghost Written Rebuttal

The rebuttal is more likely to be the work of Ahmad Rozian Abdul Ghani, Wisma Putra’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and External information who was roasted in this blog some months ago. Or it could have been written by the large committee headed by Rozian and approved by Kedah-born Tan Sri Radzi Bin Abdul Rahman,  the Secretary-General?  In any event, I hope that the real author would clarify things for our benefit.

However, it is not fair to lay the blame entirely on the Foreign Minister with whom I have exchanged views and ideas on the hand phone,  and on this blog.  He is after all a politician and not a professional diplomat. The blame must, therefore, be borne by the Secretary -General and his senior officers.

I have on record– and others too–said that the present set up in Wisma Putra is the most dysfunctional ever.  The Minister is unable to manage his senior officers. Thinking that they are quietly rebelling against him, Minister Anifah, a non-Peninsular Foreign Minister,  doesn’t engage his officers.

Apparently, even the mandatory weekly meetings, introduced in the 1960s by the legendary King Ghaz (left) as “Friday prayers” where issues are discussed, are a thing of the past.

Without ministerial control and supervision, Radzi’s sub par perfomance is further ruining Wisma Putra.

To make himself look good, he has filled up key positions with sycophants and officers who had served with him rather with officers selected on the basis of merit and expertise. That is how incompetence perpetuates itself, like turtles all the way down.

Wisma Putra: A Toxic Set-Up

I am told that even the Minister’s requests to remove incompetent officers are apparently routinely disregarded.In management-speak Wisma Putra would be a good example of a toxic organisation. It’s easy to guess the state of the Ministry. There is a glaring absence of shared purpose and compelling sense of mission.  With incompetence being routinely rewarded, resentment is high and morale low in Wisma Putra today.

Recently, the Secretary-General wrote a piece in the Star entitled “Creating an ASEAN Community”. Although that piece was far superior to his earlier vacuous piece on the Ministry’s consular services, his latest piece also stands an example of his inability to articulate foreign policy issues clearly and cogently beyond cutting-and-pasting diplomatic phrases taken from official communiqués that are designed more to conceal rather than elucidate issues.

Tan Sri Radzi (right) talks about ushering a community by 2015. What does this mean for the ordinary Malaysians? We are concerned that we could be at the cusp of a dangerous return to the bad old days when Southeast Asia was referred to as “Balkans of the East”.

As Malaysians, we are very concerned that untrammeled major power rivalry, namely US-China relations vis-a-vis the Asia-Pacific, could wreck peace and stability that we had known for most of our lives.

It would have been much more responsible for him to express our concerns that ASEAN is now on the wrong track. It would be responsible for him to share some broad thoughts on Malaysia’s main objective at the November 2012 Summit in Phnom Penh.

How would Malaysia, as one of the main claimant states, work with others to ensure that the appalling disunity displayed in April would not be repeated?  Without restoring ASEAN’s autonomy as a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality, looking forward to declaring an ASEAN Community during our Chairmanship would merely be an empty PR exercise that would be bereft of meaning or purpose.

Even if Tan Sri Radzi wishes to talk of the ASEAN Community, he could at least have explained that the ASEAN Community is not envisaged as a copy of the European Community.  If it not going to be like the EU, what then are we, the ordinary citizens to expect?

What do these mean?

“Under the APSC, the member states have pledged to regard their security as fundamentally linked to one another and bound by geographic location, common vision and objectives.”

“When we have an ASEAN Economic Community, we shall see a free flow of goods, services, investment and capital, equitable economic development through reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities. The objective is to turn Asean into a single market and production base by harnessing the diversity that characterises the region into opportunities to turn it into a stronger segment of the global supply chain.”      

Obviously these conceptual questions are too much for him and the Ministry.

Given the way the Foreign Ministry is run these days, it is highly likely that Malaysia will be able to play any meaningful role in advancing an enlightened Foreign Policy.

2015 is an important year for Malaysia.  As mentioned by Tan Sri Radzi, we will be the ASEAN Chair in 2015. The Foreign Minister also mentioned that Malaysia would seek a non-permanent security council seat for 2015-2016.

It’s best for Wisma Putra if the present Secretary-General moves on quickly and leave in his place a team of officers selected on the basis of their proven ability so that at least we will have at least two years to fully prepare to make sure that we are up to the mark to take on these responsibilities.

17 thoughts on “My Response to Dato’ Norhaidi of Wisma Putra

  1. Dato Din, Well said. You are so polite to these incompetent characters in Wisma Putra.

    To me, they are a bunch of nitwits allowed to represent Malaysia’s interest on the international stage.

    I blame Najib as Prime Minister and head of the Cabinet. He doesn’t seem to care about how each of the more critical Ministries function, except to take care of his own image and political popularity and available only for photo-ops for Utusan Malaysia and NST to put on the front page.

    Our current crop of bureaucrats are well-trained, NOT on good governance, good policy understanding and good administration, but on what are taught by BTN.

    Right now, we have incompetent high level bureaucrats in our civil service and we also have judges who allow convicted child rapists to go free.

    Well, eat your heart out, all you Malaysian born-losers… and you all are going to get more of the same after the next GE.

  2. Dato’, I did a rough analysis on our Cabinet Ministers and found only one that worth mentioning and that is Y.B. DATO’ SRI MUSTAPA BIN MOHAMED. How sad. snot only have to live with the system created by their incompetency but have to nurse their lifestyles. And who is to be blamed? Malaysians, of course, because we voted for them for 55 years.
    There are a few others in the Cabinet like Saifuddin,Idris Jala, Shahriman, Awang Adek (a Phd in Economics from University of Pennslyvania’s Wharton School) to name a few. Yes, Dato Mustapha is definitely a competent Minister with a First Honours degree in Economics from the University of Melbourne. I know him very well because I was on his Globalisation Committee in the mid-1990s.–Din Merican

  3. Filling up key positions with sycophants and officers who had served with a boss rather with officers selected on the basis of merit and expertise seems to be the norm not only in Wisma Putra but most government departments and GLCs as well.

  4. Nothing can change in WP, as long as we have a wannabe FM whose idea of diplomacy borders on contempt of the layman, insistence of status quo due to lack of imagination and the doctrine of inaction. Our present crop of diplomats besides being very adept at being tour guides, chauffeurs, peons and bellboys for the elite are also most excellent purveyors of bad intelligence – probably due to their BTN’ed parochialism. They have the curious habit of saying the wrong things at the right time, thus giving us bad press. Even the Filipinos call us Malusia. Wonder why? They project Malaysia as a country filled with haughty, pedantic, inane and unprincipled peasants, whose main pre-occupation is propping up a similarly clueless regime. Meritocracy is unheard of but cojone licking/tickling and durian polishing seems to be de riguer.

    As for Tok Pa, he’ll be a world of hurt due to the wrong emphasis and the inability to transcend the mold of an UMNO flunky. The NAP SNAFU has been outstanding and the manufacturing sector is headed into the doldrums. One can work very hard, be corruption and scandal free, yet lack original ideas and thinking out of the decaying box. His main strength is that he listens, but not necessarily follow through due to ‘sensitivities’. His advisers are definitely not sycophants, and probably the only ones in the whole stinking edifice that really know what needs to be done. Anything else?

  5. What we read about the standard /calibre of minister and his staff in this particular ministry is no more a surprise anymore to the average malaysians. What can we expect when over the past half century or so, the government has not pracitsed the right affirmative policies correctly . And as a result, the country has lost over 2 millions of our talented/intelligent citizens to other countries.

    The standard seen in this foreign ministry is also reflective of all other ministries and deparrtments down the line either to a larger or smaller extent. We are never going to become a lst world nation, if the present regime remains the same. It has been in power since 1957 and what we are today is no better than it was then.

    I remember reading the newspaper recently quoting someone in the finance ministry who said that car prices should not be reduced as it will-
    a] make many people bankrupt
    b] the economy will suffer, etc
    Arent the car prices in the lst world countries like UK and USA mcuh lower than that in Malaysia.?
    That argument sounded like someone lacking the basics of elementary economics.
    This guy from MOH learned Dungoo-Economics and it does not surprise me to know that because of such individuals, our fiscal position is deteriorating rapidly. We are sinking deeply into debt.–Din Merican

  6. As I have repeated so many times though it seems that my cookies were lost very frequently over here lately that Anifah was not chosen because his competence. He was chosen because badawi wanna appease umno Sabah.
    Again I repeatedly say that saifuddin abdullah should be a much foreign minister than Anifah. Frankly with saifuddin around, no need to hire expensive pr firm to boost up bn image.
    As for Filipinos, the day where they may even take over Sabah might become a reality due to massive influx of immigrants, illegal or legal from parts of Philippines such as Mindanao. The only solace is in those they also wouldn’t wanna be under Manila control if they have a choice.
    I hope this cookie is not lost again

  7. Awang Adek has a PhD???! But after seeing Rais and Hassan Ali, it kind of changes my perception on people with doctorates.

  8. Frank, we can say all we like about Tun Abdullah, but he did Malaysia the greatest service by offering a Deputy Minister’s job to Anifah not anywhere close to Wisma Putra. The old honcho, lately, has taken a big twist to the Right as Culture head in a vain attempt to dignify his return to the cabinet as an UMNO member, which he vowed famously he would never return to in the cherry days of self-exile. The pomp and circumstance of public office is too seductive to ordinary mortals, but I think he got the word, too, he was no longer welcome to Wisma. I often wonder why Najib deserves all these problems. Bad karma or just completely besieged by the products of a value-system so effectively diminished and distorted for so long such that the best and the brightest have being put to cold-storage – the birds are returning to roost.

  9. Dear Dato Din,

    After serving over 30 years in Wisma Putra, I am sad to see the current state of affairs in the Ministry. There appears to be no concrete planning in any area be it policy, political,economic,administration or Consular officers are only only undertaking routine functions and not being proactive with any foresight.

    We have lost out to most ASEAN countries as far as diplomacy is concerned with majority of the officers having a below par mentality. Our diplomats merely go on a posting to have a nice life and save as much money they can while having a big ego claiming to be the sole rep of the Agong and Government. We should stop this decay once and for all by getting the best to serve the country purely based on merit. Needless to say that the establishment of a Foreign Service Commission is long overdue and certainly a important step to upgrade the service.
    I know what you mean, my friend. I was there from 1963-1965. The experience I gained from working for the one of a kind King Ghaz transformed my life. He was without an iota of a doubt the best Permanent Secretary, Foreign Minister and Information Minister the country has seen.–Din Merican

  10. Get your fact right. Rozian is no longer the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and External information. Stop being an old brat who only knows to criticize without giving constructive inputs to the nation. Hey old timer, stop living in the past !
    The past is better than the nonsense that Wisma Putra is today. If I were in charge more than 50 per cent of Wisma diplomats will be out of job. I offered to help Anifah Aman. He agreed to meet me for a tea tarik and I am still waiting to hear from him. –Din Merican

  11. You see Dato’ Din, I find it very funny on how people keep on priding their era as the all time best. Former diplomats, for instance, can brag all day long on their good old days etc. Certainly, accusing the existing diplomats as small-minded and incompetent will not improve the current state of WP. Even if the current management is incompetent, don’t you think that former diplomats are partly responsible for it – for their failure to pass valuable traits to the young diplomats back then?
    I am not apportioning blame here. All I am saying we have problems in Wisma Putra and let us fix them. You have to recognise that under King Ghaz we were a small team with severely limited resources, and yet we were able to take on the Indonesians during the Confrontation and win world opinion to our side by diplomacy. Why? Because we had dedicated, well educated and competent men and women who served their country tirelessly. Our political masters respected our professionalism. How would rate King Ghaz against the present KSU. Age has nothing to do with it.–Din Merican

  12. Dear Dato’, the fast changing world presents different geopolitical challenges that require WP to constantly calibrate itself to accommodate with many new changes and exigencies. The achievement by the great leaders of the past will remain as something to be proud of, for years to come. WP, however, need to be built on the past successes with an aye on the future. That requires constructive inputs from stakeholders and to be channeled accordingly to the Ministry. The fact that you’re making constant comparison between King Ghaz era against other leadership is truly irrelevant as it does not reflect fair appreciation on men and women who had served the country after that. After all, I still believe that your very short stint with WP does not qualify you to talk further on the future direction of Malaysia foreign policy, least of all attacking specific personal.
    Length of service is irrelevant. I am a student of foreign policy, international affairs, and diplomacy for all my life. One can remain a clerk for years and still be a clerk.

    There is no personal attack. I will be happy to say what I have said about Radzi to his face. His former bosses tell me that he is lucky to be where he is today. You are probably one of his sycophants. I say again that Wisma is not ready for a fast and changing world. A total revamp of our foreign service is needed. –Din Merican

  13. Dear Dato’, thank god you chickened out of WP for whatever excused you had back then. You assume that your know-everything ramblings are well-thought and manage to capture everyone’s attention. But hey, nobody cares except a bunch of old timers/former diplomats who simply do not know when to retire.
    I did not chicken out way back then. I was a Kedah State scholar and since the Federal Government did not buy me out, I joined Bank Negara and the bank settled my problem with Kedah. I stayed long enough to learn what diplomacy was about by serving King Ghaz directly as liaison with the Police and the military on national security. At a very young age, I was also joint secretary of Malaysian-British intelligence. Because the Ministry had small staff, my colleagues and I carried out many tasks, working long hours.

    Nobody cares, perhaps in Wisma Putra, but we know that Wisma Putra is no longer what it was. Our diplomats used to be active in negotiations and drafting communiques, which people, like you, cannot do because they cannot speak and write English properly.–Din Merican

  14. Hello Aaron

    If your reply is Wisma Putra’s clarification, then it is clear that the ministry is in deep trouble. Your rotten English is a glaring tell tale sign that you are from Wisma Putra. Since you are from the ministry, why don’t you tell us where Mr.Ahmad Rozian has gone to or who has replaced him.

    Your contention that Dato Din is not qualified to comment on matters relating to foreign policy or Wisma Putra, is the most inane statement I have ever come across. You mean to say that only those who have served in the ministry can comment of these subjects? If this is what you are saying, then you are more stupid than I thought. The conduct of foreign policy is an issue that concerns all citizens. Wisma Putra is, after all, the external face of our nation. If we, the citizens, do not like the face that is being presented or if we think that the personnel selected for the job are not up to our satisfaction, then we HAVE the right to comment.

    I am not speaking on behalf of the bloghost but I am sure that he is eminently qualified both in terms of experience and knowledge to comment of substandard performance and performers.

    Finally, praising one person does not mean that others who are not mentioned are not good. I read the bloghost’s piece and comments. I don’t think he implied that only King Ghaz was good. We had Tun Dr Ismail before him. He was much admired by even King Ghaz. Among the secretaries general too, we had several good ones. The bloghost simply pointed out the atrocious performance of the present secretary general, Tan Sri Radzi. If you have evidence of stellar performance of the present KSU, please let us know.

    You say “the fast changing world presents different geopolitical challenges that require WP to constantly calibrate itself to accommodate with many new changes and exigencies”. Without going into your grammatical errors and sentence construction etc, I wish to point out that the Cold War period was not a placid period at all. The Confrontation was a VERY challenging period. In fact those who served in that period know more about exigencies than those at Wisma Putra today.
    Yes, Ex-Diplomat, we have had good KSUs at Wisma Putra since King Ghaz. I can think of Zakaria Ali, Zainal Sulong, Yusof Hitam, Kamil Jaafar, Kadir Mohamad and others. Even Rastam is very much better than Radzi. I had two excellent bosses to whom I reported on different matters–Tengku Ngah Mohamed and Raja Aznam bin Raja Ahmad. I also learned a lot from Ambassador Jack de Silva, French speaking Ambassador Ahmad Zainal, Ambassador Ismail Ambia, Ambassador Albert Tallala, and Ambassador R. Ramani.–Din Merican

  15. Not only these chaps at Wisma Putra can’t write in English, they are also S L O W. I thought this post was closed sometime ago. Anyway Aaron, I am curious to know what you mean by “that requires constructive input from the stakeholders and to be channelled to the ministry”. Who are the stakeholders you refer to? The minister, PM, or the Cabinet?

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