I have just been informed that a retired Chief of Defence Force (CDF) has been earmarked to be Malaysia’s honourable Ambassador to France. I began to make some quick inquiries to confirm the reliability of the information, and most that I talked to seems to acknowledge having heard the same.
I certainly have no qualms about someone from the Armed Forces being appointed Ambassador. The country has had a number of senior military officers appointed by the government to the post of Ambassador, and the first, if my memory is correct was Tan Sri Gen Sany Abd. Ghafar who was still a serving Chief of Defence Force when he was appointed the Ambassador to Luxembourg. The last senior military officer to be appointed Ambassador was Tan Sri Gen Md. Hashim Hussein who was appointed the Ambassador to Pakistan, and was also a serving military officer at the time of his appointment.
With regards to the appointment of the recently retired CDF as Ambassador designate to France raises many questions as enumerated below:
1. They say that to be an Ambassador of France requires someone senior from within the diplomatic fraternity and preferably a career diplomat. The person must be one with vast experience in diplomacy, and an expert in the many issues of state and government.
2. France being a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council with the powers of veto, will require that the Ambassador is well converse in issues affecting international relations, with the ability to discuss and to put forth Malaysia’s foreign affairs policies convincingly in any international forum. For someone without an exposure in international forum discussions and lacking in the ability to articulate international issues can be in for a serious problem. The issue here is that an Ambassador represents the King and the government, and he has to be one that is experienced enough to stand out and put across the nations policies and aspirations convincingly.
3. Understanding the diplomatic language and the ability to use it requires time and experience. I have read letters written by diplomats and the language used is ‘perplexing’ and at times confusing. There is so much of ‘finesse’ in the selection of words, which makes military writing sound so crude and awkward.
Understandably, military officers are well trained in hosting and entertaining guests. I think this is where the Ambassador designate can excel. But hosting and entertaining guest alone is not the primary function of the Ambassador, and too many of these can be a bane to the coffers of the embassy. We do not want the Malaysian Embassy to have a reputation as being the best host in France with lots of satay and ketupat to serve.
Beside what I have enumerated above, there is already the public perception that a possible reason why a retired military officer is assigned the post of Ambassador to France is because of our close association with the country for our defence procurement. This may be true given the recent defence purchases that seems to favours French made products. Certainly, French made cars are getting extremely popular among Malaysians these days, and most say that driving a French car gives one the extra smoothness to driving.
But what I do fear is that public perception can extend to negativity such as ‘that the appointment of a retired military officer as Ambassador to France is to look after the long term business interest of someone, particularly with regards to the procurement of defence related products ’.
I hope such a perception isn’t true.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION