August 16, 2016
What’s in the name–Razali Ismail
by Dr. K J John
The new Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chief, a well-accomplished foreign affairs officer and previously our highest UN representative for Malaysia, said that “taking to the streets is not necessary”. His unsolicited advice took me by surprise, especially when Suhakam commissioners were observers in the last Bersih March. Where is this Commissioner coming from?
While he is a friend and ally in some work we did in the past; I find his views on the rights of freedom of expression of citizens of Malaysia totally unacceptable. Does he really mean that my freedom of human rights only refer to personal freedoms as defined by him and the government of Malaysia; when most Malaysians are already aware of the alleged lies propagated by the current system of administration?
Why cannot I walk hand in hand with three other friends (male or female), on an agreed and appointed day, pursuing a common route to express objection to the Malaysian culture of closing one eye to wrongdoing? We are speaking and walking against the truths we need to hear and deal with; not just lies allegedly being propagated by mainstream newspapers and all public institutions.
Razali Ismail the man
Wikipedia records the following about this now famous Malaysian man:
After his tenure as Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry Deputy Secretary-General, he became increasingly involved with the United Nations. In 1989 and 1990, he headed the Malaysian delegation to the United Nations. At the same time, he was the chairperson of the United Nations Security Council. From 1996 to 1997, he became the President of the United Nations General Assembly.
In the past, he usually headed Malaysian diplomatic delegation to various regional and international bodies such as ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement. Until a few years ago, he had been Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Up until 2005, he was the United Nations Secretary-Ggeneral’ (Kofi Annan)’s special envoy to Myanmar and played a pivotal role in releasing Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in May 2002. However, his impartiality as a UN special envoy was questioned by American officials in an embassy cable that was released via Wikileaks, alleging his business ties with the Myanmar military regime. Later however, the Myanmar military junta repeatedly denied him entry to Myanmar, contributing to his decision to quit the special envoy status in December 2005.
Since his objective impartiality was questioned by Wikipedia and it was never corrected; I take it that it is the truth about this man. So, allow me to now question the judgment quality of the current government leadership in appointing him at the critical juncture in our drive for real change in Malaysia.
It is also an issue about the right temperament of new leadership of public institutions within context of a corrupt and non-credible regime in Malaysia. Like the attorney-general (AG) who was unceremoniously removed and an alleged crony appointed to replace him; the same seems to be true about a number of other public institutions.
Credible appointment for commissioners
Public commissions are independent appointments of credible leadership for the public and institutional management of important functions of good governance of our parliamentary democracy. When I joined the public services, there were only two public commissions; the Public Services Commission and the Election Commission.
Today, we have much more and many of them are led by public service individuals, but only of those who have allegedly ‘colluded with right and wrongdoings in their public services of their service career’. I say this in writing and can prove my language if needed, by case-examples. There are some exceptions always.
Let me give one case example to make my point. A few years ago, someone tabled my name for appointment as one of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisers. I was never consulted. The only time I came to know about it, was by default.
The newspapers announced the appointment and some of my friends who read only part of the list called to congratulate me for being appointed as executive director of the Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute (OHMSI).
Therefore, I looked for that newspaper and read the storyline. To my shock and horror, yes the title was that of my civil society appointment in the NGO we formed, own and run. I was then executive director of OHMSI. But, the person actually named with our title was a more popular person and Tan Sri but an alleged crony of the establishment.
In fact, later in the day at a Wisma Putra event, I met him and he personally apologised to me. Not his fault; he was not consulted, too.
Transparent and credible appointees needed
There are more than 3,000-4,000 appointments in public or official roles which require credibility and honesty of appointment so that the person assuming the role is credible, responsible, and accountable to the Public Interest. I put Public Interest in capitals to make a point. Such individuals must be professional independents.
By Public Interest I mean the interest of the nation-state and not or never the interests of only a sectarian interest of one groups of peoples or one group of those in power! Is that not what the Brexit vote was all about? Is that not why Donald Trump even got nominated as the Republican Party candidate? And why Hillary Clinton is still so unpopular with younger Americans in the US?
After 32 years of Public Service and serving the Public Interest only, allow me to conclude as follows:
The unfortunately reality is that, whether in Public Agencies or Public-Owned Companies, we do not have enough well-qualified appointees (with credibility, competence and accountability) who have spoken up for truth matters. Usually, they are already compromised and their appointments do not allow them to speak up and out; and if they do, they are not renewed for service.