Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 25th May 2009:
Anifah should explain why Ghazzali Sheikh Khalid is on the short-list to be re-appointed as Ambassador to the United States despite his controversial diplomatic past, involvement in the Abramoff scandal and strong objections in Washington
Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman told the Sunday Star yesterday that former Ambassador to the United States 1999 – 2005, Tan Sri Ghazzali Sheikh Abdul Khalid is among the four persons being considered for the plum post of ambassador to the United States.
Anifah, who said he would submit the shortlist to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak within a week, expressed “shock” that the Washington posting had not been filled for about a year when the US is the country’s biggest trading partner.
In announcing that Ghazzali is in the short-list of four persons for the top-notch dipolomatic posting to be submitted to the Prime Minister, Anifah has gone against his public claim that he would get the best people to serve the country in the various diplomatic postings abroad.
Anifah cannot be so naďve as not to know the reason why the post of Malaysian Ambassador to the US had been vacant since June 20 last year after the retirement of Datuk Rajmah Hussain, a career diplomat, or he is casting aspersion on the competence and professionalism of his predecessor as Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim.
Although Anifah conspicuously refused to be reappointed Deputy Minister after the March 8 general election last year on the ground that he was senior enough to be made minister, he had previously been Deputy Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities and had traveled extensively to Latin America, Europe, America, Africa and Asean and together with his political connections would have been privy to all the diplomatic grapevine about the strong Wisma Putra and Washington objections to Ghazzali’s re-apppointment as Ambassador to US under two Foreign Ministers, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and Rais despite support from the Putrajaya fourth floor.
Ghazzali was Malaysian Ambassador to US from 1999 to 2005 and left Washington under a cloud because of his connections to former Republican Party lobbyist Jack Abramoff as well as his role in the persecution of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
It was during Ghazzali's previous tour of duty that the Malaysian Embassy in Washington delivered 1.2 million dollars to Abramoff to procure a 30 minute meeting in the White House between Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad and President George W. Bush in 2002.
Abramoff was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison in 2006 after pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.
Although Wisma Putra decided to terminate Ghazzali’s term as Ambassador to US in 2004, Khairy Jamaluddin’s influence prevailed and he was given further extensions of his appointment.
Ghazzali attempted to obtain yet another extension at the end of 2005 but failed. He was retired at the end of 2005 but given a post as special envoy for the proposed US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement with an office in Wisma Putra.
In early 2008, with the impending retirement of Rajmah as Ambassador to US, a new lobby campaign begun for Ghazzali’s re-appointment to this plum post, in the teeth of strong objections from the career diplomats in Wisma Putra as well as great reservations in Washington – spanning three Foreign Ministers, Hamid, Rais and now Anifah.
Many bloggers have expressed great concern as to whether Malaysia’s national interests and international reputation would be served by Ghazzali’s re-appointment to the plum diplomatic post in Washington considering his controversial and even scandalous past.
Former US Ambassador to Malaysia, John Mallot, have even gone on public record in August 2008 with the following statement:
With such a controversial background, why is Ghazzali still in Anifah’s short-list?
Anifah should explain why Ghazzali is on the short-list to be re-appointed as Ambassador to the United States despite his controversial diplomatic past, involvement in the Abramoff scandal and strong objections in Washington.
One of the first questions I will ask in next month’s parliamentary meeting starting on June 15 is for the names and reasons for the short-list for appointment as Ambassador to US, and why Ghazzali, as well as Datuk Seri Jarjis Jamaluddin who was dropped from the Cabinet in the last two Cabinet reshuffles, are still deemed fit to get into the blacklist.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor