Anifah needs to work harder

Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary and Member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday 13th March 2012:

Anifah needs to work harder

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.

In my opinion, his whereabouts during his entire term serves as an important gauge for the people to assess his performance. Therefore, I am puzzled on why my question was rejected by the parliament as it very much relevant to the minister in question.

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.

A fact worth noting is that since his appointment, Anifah has not made a diplomatic visit to Myanmar. With all the positive developments in Myanmar – the release of pro-democracy Aung San Suu Kyi, relaxation of press censorship and the approval it received from ASEAN members in its bid for the 2014 ASEAN chair, the absence of such visit shows the lack of vision of the Foreign Minister.

The reforms that I listed were a part the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s effort to move toward liberal democracy, mixed economy and reconciliation. It is apparent to many that if their reforms succeed, Myanmar will be a key player in our region in the future and that is to engage with them diplomatically.

Even the previous Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi during his tenure and the current Minister for International Trade and Industry, Dato Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed has visited Myanmar for official reasons. What has Anifah been doing all this while?

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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