When the MP for Pasir Salak, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, was made the Malaysian ambassador to Indonesia, many people were upset and angry with the appointment.
They ranged from former ambassadors and high commissioners, former leaders of the armed forces, ordinary members of the public, leaders of NGOs, and current politicians.
Tajuddin may be Ismail’s most loyal supporter, but he is the wrong person to be made ambassador. Ismail knows this but he puts his own political interests first.
1. Track record
Tajuddin’s racism and sexism in parliament is deplorable. His attacks against women MPs, like Teresa Kok, are highly damaging.
He showed utter contempt for democracy and insulted the institution of parliament, when he and his son caused a riot on the grounds of parliament.
He shamed Muslims with his lies. On the eve of the Sungai Kandis by-election in 2018, he told a 100-strong Muslim crowd about a video which he claimed featured Christian pastors celebrating Pakatan Harapan’s victory in GE14.
There was no such video and he lied about Pakatan being “Christian-led”. His aim was to influence the election vote.
2. Diplomatic skills
An ambassador represents the interests of the country and he projects the metaphorical “face” of Malaysia.
The appointment of Tajuddin tells a lot about the mentality of the people behind this government, who put their political interests and survival first. The needs of the nation are secondary.
A seasoned politician does not have the same interests and concerns as a seasoned diplomat. History has shown that politicians who are self-serving can and do start wars. Conversely, diplomats try to avoid them at all costs.
Tajuddin is a bully and a time-waster. His outbursts are particularly damaging and many fear that he has potential to harm the good and cordial relations we share with Indonesia.
Tajuddin’s controversial and provocative nature is unsuitable for foreign diplomacy.
3. Communication skills
Professional career diplomats are specially trained to handle foreign relations whilst still protecting our country’s interests. They could do a better job, so why was Tajuddin picked as ambassador?
In the crash involving two LRT trains in 2021, Tajuddin’s lack of empathy, his patronizing behavior, his dismissal of the severity of the crash, and his immediate concern for his own well-being should have provided ample evidence that he was not suitable for the role.
Why deprive the nation of the best members of the diplomat corp, who are in their mid-40s and 50s, who have been trained and groomed to take over as high commissioners and ambassadors when those in office retire.
These men and women should be given the opportunity to lead and propel our nation on the international stage.
Why deprive the nation of younger creative talent with vision?
Tajuddin is a liability. The traits of a seasoned Umno-Baru politician are different from being a diplomat. The post of ambassador should be rescinded.
5. Rewarding failure
Tajuddin’s appointment has made a mockery of the selection process for ambassadors and wasted decades of training of potential diplomats.
Political loyalty should not be rewarded by belittling the importance of the post of ambassador to Indonesia.
Our neighbor is an important ally in international relations and a major trading partner. We also share many common traits in religion, culture, history and language.
The nation supplies us with labor for the construction, domestic worker and agricultural sectors.
With our shared borders, we share sensitive information about religious extremism and related security issues.
Why jeopardize this relationship?
6. Personal interests
Ismail should learn to put the interests of the country first. Rewarding political cronies in this manner has the potential to damage our international standing.
Tajuddin does not have the vision and perspicacity to make Malaysia an influential member and leading light of ASEAN.
We are notorious for being in the news for the wrong reasons. Tajuddin is one of them.
Tajuddin was a failure at Prasarana, but he has been rewarded with a new job as ambassador. Aren’t there younger and better qualified career diplomats out there who can be relied upon to do a better job?
Tajuddin is a loose cannon who is crude and has a violent temper and disposition. He has nothing to contribute towards enhancing relations and trade between the two countries. Malaysians will read into this that Ismail is desperate.
8. Message to the rakyat
The message conveyed to the rakyat is that “ampu-bodek” is OK, and that it is not what you know, but who you know.
It is an embarrassment for Malaysia to send overseas as ambassador someone who does not have the credentials, caliber nor the qualifications to be one.
If Tajuddin’s appointment is a disaster, then what does that say about the administration in Putrajaya?
9. Message to children
Children grow up following the examples of their elders. If they see what Tajuddin has done, many kids will grow up being rude, lazy and racist. Tajuddin does not represent good manners or decent behavior.
Indirectly, we are telling our children to forget about education. Even if you are rude or sexist, loud-mouthed and easily provoked, it does not matter, because you will be rewarded with a plum job.
Children, as well as adults, need to know their boundaries. We cannot risk our children thinking that it is alright to be rude and obnoxious just because they were not censured in their formative years.
10. Internal problems
The foreign ministry is allegedly in disarray, and morale is low.
Tajuddin’s ambassadorial role is an insult to both Malaysia and Indonesia.
A senior diplomatic officer with the knowledge, skills and experience concerning international relations should have been appointed.
Ismail may be clueless and insensitive to the needs of both Malaysia and Indonesia, but the blame also lies with foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
He lacks leadership skills and should be sacked for allowing this diplomatic blunder.
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)