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Recall of Malaysian ambassadors to UAE could have been handled better, says former foreign minister

Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar speaks during a press conference in Taman Selayang, Gombak December 26, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — The move by the Foreign Ministry (Wisma Putra) to recall the Malaysian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Malaysian Consul General in Dubai for failing to coordinate administrative and logistical matters during the prime minister’s visit to the UAE late last month need to be resolved prudently and internally.

Former foreign minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar stressed that politicisation of the issue by any party would not only affect the image of the ministry and the government, but also Malaysia’s reputation at the international level.

“The practice of recalling diplomats due to a huge flaw during an official visit is normal; other countries also recall their ambassadors within 24 hours, so it is not something strange to Malaysia.

“But in this case, I know I cannot speak on behalf of the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office; however, for me, it should have been handled better,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Wisma Putra in a statement on Monday informed that the failure in coordinating protocol matters resulted in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s long wait the arrival hall for passport clearance by Dubai Immigration during his visit to the UAE on March 29-31.

Apart from that, Wisma Putra said security measures as well as motorcade movements that should have been provided for the prime minister as per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were also non-existent.

Based on his experience, Syed Hamid said there is basic protocol in handling the visit of the head of government which had been implemented by Wisma Putra for a long time; but he was of the view that there were communication issues that led to the failure.

He added that based on common practice, there are differences between official visits, working visits or personal visits as each type of visit would get a different response from the host.

“Even for personal visits, it is the usual that our ambassadors in the host country, due to their calibre, will coordinate basic protocols for the prime minister such as security, and so on; it’s something very basic and the incident should not have happened.

“In episodes like this, the minister must be responsible by dealing with it with and managing it wisely. It is a question of responsibility and accountability. Improvements need to be made.

“It used to be common practice that when there is a visit by the prime minister, the (foreign) minister will go first. I would arrive a day or two earlier and ensure all the preparations proceed smoothly. I don’t know what it’s like now.”

On Malaysia-UAE bilateral relations, Syed Hamid said the issue will likely have a negative impact on relations between the two countries; but as the actual relationship between Malaysia and the UAE is friendly and deep, the issue as a whole will not affect the two countries’ long-term ties. — Bernama

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