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Special envoys court domestic unease

These special envoys need to show clearly through their work that they are not redundant


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The recent reappointment of Hadi Awang, Tiong King Seng and Richard Riot Jaem as so-called special envoys of the prime minister has raised eyebrows among tax-paying and other concerned Malaysians.

Hadi is president of Pas, Tiong is president of the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party while Riot is deputy president of the Sarawak United People’s Party. They are assigned to “cover” West Asia, China and East Asia respectively.

This raises the question of whether the performance of ambassadors and high commissioners who represent Malaysia in the countries of those regions has been unsatisfactory so that it merits the appointments of three special envoys.

If this is true, the credentials of our diplomats, particularly those assigned to those regions, are called into question. It does not speak well of our diplomatic corps.

What is it that, say, our ambassador to China has not done satisfactorily in representing our interests in that country?

Does China’s meteoric rise to superpower status demand a special envoy to handle this new global reality?

And what would Richard Riot’s job specifications be as opposed to those of ambassador Raja Nushirwan Zainal Abidin? Is there an overlap? What would Riot have to say about the possible impact of what is building up as a cold war between China and the US upon neighbouring countries like ours? Has this escaped the attention and concern of Raja Nushirwan?

Surely, these and other related questions can and should be tackled by our ambassadors stationed in China and elsewhere in the East Asian region for the benefit of our government and ordinary Malaysians. Does Tiong really have a role to play here?

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Similarly, current developments in West Asia are quite fluid, what with the thawing of relations between certain Arab states and Israel. Surely, this new dynamic has come under the close and able scrutiny of our ambassadors in the region as this concerns Malaysia, particularly the political and economic impact.

Is Hadi well-placed and equipped to tackle the political complexities of West Asia and the nagging problem of Palestine? Does he have suggestions for some of these problems, which our ambassadors there might not have thought of?

This question comes to mind in the wake of Hadi’s reported hasty welcome of the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan. That constitutes recklessness on the part of the special envoy as the situation at the time was and remains fluid, aside from the fact that the Malaysian government has not yet made any official recognition of the new government.

And what can Hadi bring to the table in terms of economic and cultural exchanges between Malaysia and the West Asian countries? Would the Marang MP be able to bring in, for example, more investments from West Asia to match his Pas compatriot, Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, the then-plantation industries and commodities minister, who was said to have gained billions of ringgit of investments from his short trip to Turkey?

These special envoys need to show clearly through their work that they are not redundant. This should be done within less than 100 days, as they had held similar positions before.

Otherwise, their reappointment to these high-falutin’ positions could only be read as the prime minister merely appeasing the political partners of the Perikatan Nasional pact – which is a waste of limited resources. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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