Malaysia-North Korea Diplomatic Row–Wisma Putra left out of the loop as confusion reigns

March 21, 2017

Malaysia-North Korea Diplomatic Row–Wisma Putra left out of the loop as confusion reigns

by Dennis Ignatius

Image result for Malaysian Foreign Minister out of the loop on Malaysia--North Korea Diplomatic Row

Is Foreign Minister Anifah Aman  being left out the loop?

In just one day, the continuing confusion and conflicting messaging relating to the ongoing standoff with North Korea was aptly captured on a single page of a local newspaper. It suggests a disquieting level of disarray in the upper reaches of government at a time when the security and well-being of Malaysian diplomats and their families in Pyongyang are in question.

Image result for Apandi Ali
Attorney-General Apandi Ali–The new Foreign Policy spokesperson? If so, Anifah Aman should resign

At the top corner of the page was a statement by Attorney-General Mohammad Apandi Ali that “no minister or government official is allowed to make any statement on the negotiations between Putrajaya and Pyongyang” due to its sensitive nature. He indicated that only Prime Minster Najib Tun Razak would be commenting on the issue because “if too many people make statements about the matter, it will cause confusion.”

Too many statements, too much confusion


What Games are these guys playing?

That did not, however, appear to deter others from having their say, as was evident from other reports on the same page.Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi and Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz publicly disagreed with each other as to exactly how many North Koreans are in Malaysia under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) Programme. Zahid, who also oversees the Immigration Department, and ought to have access to the relevant data, had said that there were 193 North Koreans in Malaysia under MM2H while Nazri insists that only four are enrolled in the programme.

What does it say about inter-agency coordination if the Home Minister and the Tourism Minister cannot even agree on just how many North Koreans are here?

Still on the same page, Zahid announced that the government is considering deporting some North Korean citizens who are still in the country. He said that there are currently 315 North Koreans still in the country and some of them have expired work visas. “I will make a decision today whether to arrest or deport them,” he was quoted as saying.

Arrest North Korean citizens while Malaysian diplomats are being held hostage in Pyongyang? How smart is that? Zahid also intimated that thus far the government has yet to receive any official request from the next-of-kin to claim Jong-nam’s body. He then went on to add that “if there is a claim, we will adopt several approaches and obtain confirmation from the Attorney-General’s chambers on the handling of the remains.”

How one adopts several approaches when dealing with a single body was not explained.

Who speaks for the deceased?

Our Health Minister, in the meantime, whose role, if any, was confined to the autopsy, was reported, again on the aforementioned page, to have indicated that the government is giving two to three weeks for the family to claim the body before it decides on the next course of action. “We are told that he has wives and children. We hope that they respond and come forward to claim the body.” Continuing, he said that if the family does not come forward to claim the body, “we will address it as a government-to-government matter.”

To further add to the confusion, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police announced the next day that the next-of-kin had in fact left it to the government to decide what to do with the remains of the victim.

We have our advantages 

And finally, the Defence Minister, perhaps feeling neglected by the press, issued a fatuous statement declaring that while “we can’t fight a country like North Korea which focuses so much on defence assets … we have our advantages which will allow us to move forward in any eventuality.” Reassuringly, he also “ruled out the possibility of both countries going to war as negotiations have been positive.”

Was war with North Korea ever even a remote possibility? As well, it is hard to fathom what negotiations he was even referring to seeing as none have as yet taken place (according to the Prime Minister).

Who’s in charge?

Both Malaysians and foreigners alike reading all these reports must be shaking their heads in utter bewilderment at the way our government works.

Leaving aside the sometimes asinine nature of these remarks, don’t they realize that nine of our own diplomats and their families are being held hostage by a reckless, ruthless and unpredictable regime and that in such a situation quiet diplomacy must be given the time and the space to go forward?

With the well-being of our citizens at stake, they should know better than to try to score brownie points with unnecessary if not silly remarks.

Most of these issues – the disposal of the body, the fate of North Korean citizens in the country, the future bilateral relationship – are undoubtedly going to feature in the negotiations between Wisma Putra and the North Korean mission here; it only makes Wisma Putra’s job that much harder if our ministers keep jumping in this way. One has to wonder as well how much weight the Prime Minister’s instructions now carry and even whether the Prime Minister has lost control over his own cabinet.

How not to manage a crisis

Of course, it may be that the remarks of our ministers were somehow misreported. The general decline in professional standards that is increasingly evident across the board naturally affects the media as well. However, having witnessed too many silly statements on this and other matters over the years from our senior officials, it is more than likely that the fault lies with the officials themselves.

Whatever it is, somebody ought to write a book on how not to manage a crisis based on Malaysia’s continuing response to our very own North Korean saga.


14 thoughts on “Malaysia-North Korea Diplomatic Row–Wisma Putra left out of the loop as confusion reigns

  1. If the sad, sorry MH370 debacle don’t convince us of the low quality of our BN Cabinet ministers, perhaps this international murder mystery will.

    Who voted them in?

    • Din I don’t have to go to the press so very often to show that who is in charge. There is no necessity for me to make unnecessary statements that will endangered the lives of our diplomats which I am directly responsible. I have no controls over other Ministers. I deal directly with the PM and other relevant authorities!
      YB Anifah,

      You are wrong on this. You must show that you are in charge and so please use the media to let us know that you are truly in charge. I suggest you create a Wisma Putra spokesman post. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your work but please be more active since the PM does seem to control his ministers well.–Din Merican

  2. I find it so very difficult to read your blog. The fonts are so small and the dull colour contrast is not helping at all. My eyes tire so easily. Please make your blog more reader friendly. I think the aim of any blogger would be to have his/her blog read, not to look nice. I would much prefer a white background with legible black or dark fonts.
    You can enlarge fonts. The website is designed to that (Press Ctrl+)–Din Merican.

  3. Just go back to the files and information in the public domain in 1975, the year Saigon fell 30th April, 1975, and it will tell you how not to address a crisis.

  4. They should get the real Foreign Minister Rosmah Mansor to call Kim Jung Un and this matter will be resolved. Rosmah and Lim Kok Wing can easily settle the crisis.

    What is the big deal here, Kim Jong UN is half brother and is next of kin since none of the other family members have come forward to claim the body. After all we are dealing with a dead person here who deserves a decent funeral. Why play this silly game and hold the dead body hostage? Why get involve in North Korean internal politics? Is Malaysia in a position to discipline North Korea?

    • Correct.

      Just ship the body back to his relatives in Macau.
      Problem solved. RIP, another victim of the North Korean

  5. Quote:- “After all we are dealing with a dead person here who deserves a decent funeral. Why play this silly game and hold the dead body hostage?”

    Assuming there are no external geopolitical factors or pressures involved here, Malaysia as a by-stander should first get international experts to verify the VX thing.

    Because if the body is released to N. Korea now, we can expect them to say their “autopsy” says Jong Nam died of a run-of-the-mill heart attack, thus escapes the accusation of a state-sponsored assassination with a banned WMD, which they have been trying to do since day one.

    Then we are caught again for “lying”, or at best incompetence, as both the N. Korean and Malaysian regimes are not too far apart in the veracity scale.

    • Releasing the body to North Korea or the family will still result in North Korea claiming that the late Kim died of a heart attack. Body or no body North Korea will deny the use ox VX or other WMD. Malaysia is not a world power to contend with and not even important enough to warrant caution by the North Koreans. Right now all odds are stacked in their favor. There are 9 Malaysians in North Korea that Malaysia wants returned and perhaps hundred of North Koreans in Malaysia legally or illegally which the North Koreans government couldn’t care less whether they are returned or not. So what’s Malaysia’s decision?

  6. In principal, there must be a mutually agreed public communication and agency coordination policy at the National Security Council level on Malaysia-North Korea impasse. And, this policy should have been designed and agreed early on, as to avoid what now seems to be an uncoordinated and less than a clever projection of message by various Federal agencies.

    • Thats what the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Wisma Putra are for, to deal with international diplomacy, treaties and conventions and to abide by established protocol when dealing with government to government crisis and issues. The rest of the Ministers should shut up, dont try to be a smart ass and in the end will make the Cabinet look like fools.

  7. Who knows?

    Amidst the confusions, intentionally or unintentionally created, there is big power play behind the whole episode, like MH 17 and MH 370 ?

    The truth may not surface at all, at least for a few decades.

    • Only US knew what happened to MH370. Remember the TWA flight 800 plane that exploded and crashed minutes after take off from New York. It was rumoured to have been shot down by a US Navy missle by accident. However Pentagon and the Clinton Administration denied this.

  8. Well, we have more than enough problems at home, this slight hiccup in our international relationship won’t matter much. To me, 1MDB is more potent than a few bandits and persons of ill-repute running amok on our shores.

    I feel Al Jubor has to account for himself rather than allow his moronic sidekicks speak for him.

    Listening this Pekan warrior cajoling Sabahans to vote BN makes me wanna puke. It shows how desperate this wanker is and how gullible his supporters are.

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