In search of a new, competent Foreign Minister

Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary and Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera in Kuala Lumpur on Monday 12th March 2012:

In search of a new, competent Foreign Minister

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak should take the opportunity of the leaving-but-staying long good bye of Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to revamp his tired and underperforming cabinet.

A new line-up should include a new Foreign Minister.

I have put these questions to the Foreign Minister, Dato’ Sri Anifah Haji Aman, for this session of parliamentary sitting, asking him to clarify since he was appointed in 2009 till 2012:
a) The frequency of his presence in day terms in Wisma Putra, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur
b) The frequency of his presence in day terms in Kota Kinabalu and Kimanis
c) The frequency of his presence in day terms overseas for official visits.

These questions were posed in light of claims made by former diplomat Dennis Ignatius in his column “Wisma Putra adrift in foreign affairs” published in The Star newspaper on the 9th of February 2012 that “Wisma Putra no longer has the capacity to provide sound strategic advice to the Government”.

With the lacklustre performance of Wisma Putra and the Foreign Ministry’s lack of “concrete” direction with regards to its foreign policy, it is time for Najib to appoint a new Foreign Minister.

The foreign ministry portfolio is one of the most important positions in any government as the interest of a nation often lies in the handling of its neighbours and the world’s affairs.

Anifah does not have the proper leadership that the ministry needs in order to bring Malaysia to the forefront of international affairs.

At present, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which we are a part of, play less relevant roles in world affairs than what it used to. All of this can be attributed to Malaysia focusing more on a reactive foreign policy rather than a proactive one.

Wisma Putra has mainly focused on administrative issues and consular services while failed in providing clear policies to fulfil our foreign agenda. As a result, the government has opted for “global strategic communications” managed by foreign firms and advisors as its main foreign agenda.

This was seen when the Malaysian government paid public relation company FactBased Communications (FBC) Media to make a series of eight documentaries for the BBC about Malaysia. It was a breach of ethics.

In terms of diplomatic visits, those undertaken were mostly out of formality and short of a clear objective. Generally, Anifah spends more time in Kota Kinabalu or Kimanis, playing politics, rather than being in foreign countries promoting a more constructive relationship with Malaysia.

It is embarrassing that only in Malaysia, we see a Tourism Minister, who is supposed to promote the local tourism, spending more time overseas than the Foreign Minister.

Liew Chin Tong

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