Is our Foreign Minister making senior diplomats fall guys in the “Dubai debacle”?

FOREIGN Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah has to accept the reality that the “Dubai debacle” is triggered by a system-wide failure at every level, particularly his rapport with senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office to verify the Prime Minister’s (PM) programme pertaining to the latter’s visit and to ascertain basic information about the agenda.

“(These are) all routine stuff when the PM travels abroad. Indeed, such a disaster could not have happened unless there was a system-wide failure at every level,” Malaysia’s 36-year foreign service veteran Datuk Dennis Ignatius penned in his latest blog. “Typically, the two diplomatic officers ended up as sacrificial lambs.”

Ignatius who was appointed Malaysian ambassador to Chile, Argentina (where he was concurrently accredited as ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay) prior to assuming the post of High Commissioner to Canada (2001 to 2008) insisted that “whichever way you look at it, the debacle reflects poorly on Saifuddin”.

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah

“It is no secret that problems at the ministry have been piling up since he took over (for the second time),” observed Ignatius who retired from the foreign service in June 2008 and is presently a foreign policy consultant.

“His leadership has been non-existent, his grasp of issues poor. His tenure at the ministry can best be described as the triumph of form over substance.”

Instead of engaging in the serious business of foreign policy and diplomacy as well as striving to inspire his officers, he has been content with cheap publicity stunts where he wrote a letter in Bahasa Malaysia to the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, according to Ignatius.

“As with quite a few others in (PM Datuk Seri) Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s cabinet, the man is quite literally clueless. Ismail Sabri should have fired him instead of penalising the ambassador and his colleague,” reckoned Ignatius.

“Whatever it is, the mood of anger and despair in the foreign ministry is now palpable. The leaked audio recording (since gone viral) by a disgruntled officer says it all: ‘We are living through the worst days in the history of Wisma Putra’.”

Apart from Ignatius, UMNO vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin also fired a salvo by stating that Saifuddin must take responsibility for the “Dubai debacle”.

In a Facebook post, Khaled criticised Wisma Putra for failing to ensure that Ismail Sabri was given an honourable welcome when he landed in Dubai on March 29, adding that the failure to make proper arrangements for PM’s visit was “very embarrassing”.

“Blaming everything on our diplomats is very unprofessional. The Foreign Minister must take responsibility for everything that has happened. (Saifuddin) forgets that he is the one leading Wisma Putra,” Khaled pointed out.

“Malaysia clearly needs a new and more competent leader in the Foreign Ministry. The performance of our current Foreign Minister does not suit Malaysia’s experience, position and global interests.”

Instead of owning up for the “Dubai debacle”, Wisma Putra blamed Malaysian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Datuk Mohd Tarid Sufian and Dubai-based Consul-General of Malaysia Mohd Hasril Abdul Hamid for the failure to coordinate administrative and logistical matters during Ismail Sabri’s visit.

This follows an exposé by Free Malaysia Today that two senior diplomats in the UAE were ordered home and put in cold storage for what is deemed as a “lack of official guest status” for Ismail Sabri who had made a stop-over in Dubai after a three-day official visit to Qatar. – April 13, 2022

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