What’s in the name–Razali Ismail

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.

9 thoughts on “What’s in the name–Razali Ismail

  1. Razali Ismail has the credentials and experience, but he is also a pro-Establishment man. So he cannot be expected to be aggressive as Chief of SUHAKAM.Right qualifications and weak in will, so in the wrong job.–Din Merican.

  2. When I wasin Form Six during a General Paper session our expatriate teacher was expounding the virtues of ‘manners makes man’. Seated in the back row of the class I wispered to my colleague ‘ money makes a man’. For 10 minutes I was given a lecture by my teacher who was upset because his position was challenged and that at such a young age I had placed money above manners. At the end of the class as punishment I was told by my teacher to write an essay and present it to the the next session of the class. There was a debate after my presentation and ‘money makes a man’ carried the day.

    Moral of the story. A 35 years in the Malaysian Civil Service I have come to learn that I was wrong then. Manners does matter and how we conduct ourselves in our position in working life does matter because there are hundreds if not thousands just waiting to follow your example.

  3. Quote:- “…question the judgment quality of the current government leadership in appointing him at the critical juncture in our drive for real change in Malaysia”

    Who says?

    From the point of view of the current government leadership, he is the perfect man for the job, someone who “…was questioned by American officials in an embassy cable that was released via Wikileaks, alleging his business ties with the Myanmar military regime”

  4. Manners Makyth Man – Hey that’s the motto of New College and Winchester College. And lately Kingsman too 😉
    Welcome. Hope to read your comments. –Din Merican

  5. The idea that the civil servants appointed to top posts are likely to be not straight can be misguided. There are good many senior people who are able, intelligent, honest and pious who are fully aware of what is happening around them and yet do their duties faithfully undeterred. Some of them may have few more years before retirement and they are not going to pick up a quarrel with their bosses at the cost of losing their gratuity and pension. They may not have a choice in holding portfolios thrust upon them.

    There are of course collaborating and colluding senior officials who get posted here and there to carry out dirty work for the politicians and for which they get rewarded handsomely. They would speak up, justify, moralise and say black is white with a straight face.

    I have a request for God. Oh God … Speak to them in their dreams giving them 6 months to clear their deck of sins and change course for the better and where this lifeline is not taken up, give them instant heart attack and death. ( They can ask for early retirement and donate to charity their ill-gotten wealth). Malaysia will be better off without these scoundrels – both crooked political leaders and civil servants.

    • I have a request for God. Oh God … Speak to them in their dreams giving them 6 months to clear their deck of sins and change course for the better and where this lifeline is not taken up, give them instant heart attack and death.

      Your request may not be get any response as even the Almighty may be perceived to have been under the ‘influence’ of those in power and with wealth and thus may be ‘obligated’ to those who visit the Almighty homelands regularly and constructing more and more ‘palaces’ for offering prayers.

  6. Tis is I have a dream. No God cannot and will not help us because what happens on this side of life is our responsibility. They have all taken the oath of office and and must be forced to play by the rules and not with them. No one forced them to take up the office and must act accordingly
    One strike and you are out.

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