KUALA LUMPUR: Appointments of politicians and non-career diplomats as Malaysian envoys are a common practice.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Senator A. Kohilan Pillay said the selection of envoys without diplomatic background was common in the foreign service.
"This is based on their talents, merits and a good track record, with Wisma Putra confident that non-career diplomats appointed as envoys can deliver," he told the New Straits Times.
Asked how selections were made, he said envoys were drafted from among the most talented and best suited for such foreign postings.
"It is also based on their overall performance and achievements over the past 10 to 15 years. If their service to the people has been good, then they can perform."
Kohilan said non-diplomats appointed as ambassadors and high commissioners were usually specialists in certain areas.
An envoy's term is on a contract of between three and four years, with the possibility of extension if they deliver. He added that besides politicians, non-career diplomats also included lecturers.
Kohilan was asked to comment on the appointment of former chief of defence forces, Gen (R) Tan Sri Dr Abdul Aziz Zainal as ambassador to France.
Aziz and three others received their instruments of appointment from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at Istana Negara on Thursday.
A politician who is currently serving as an ambassador is Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, who is Malaysian ambassador to the United States.
Since its establishment, Wisma Putra has had the services of such personalities as Tan Sri Daniel Tajem, Datuk John Nuek and Tan Sri Jamil Johari (from Sarawak), and Tan Sri Thomas Jayasooria and Tun Fuad Stephens (from Sabah) either as ambassadors or high commissioners.
Former ambassador Datuk Deva Mohd Ridzam said, however, it was not advisable for non-career diplomats to be appointed envoys as there was a tendency for them to fall short of expectations.
"Without years of being in the rough and tumble of diplomacy from bottom up, there is a tendency for non-career diplomats to be hesitant, halting and lacking punch and bite in interactions with clients."
He said diplomacy was a profession which required specialised knowledge and skills and years of experience.
"For a career ambassador, his constituency is the nation and the government as a whole, so to speak.
"He is not partisan or beholden to any interest or individual."
10 May 2010