New foreign minister must have global savvy

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | It is interesting to note that one of the PKR vice-presidents, Shamsul Iskandar, who is the MP of Hang Tuah Jaya in Malacca, has thrown his hat into the ring to be considered either as the foreign minister or minister of tourism.

Malaysia is now practically days away from forming a fuller cabinet, this time around with the inclusion of ministerial candidates from Sabah and Sarawak to give the chamber a more comprehensive form and function.

While the likes of Liew Chin Tong deserve a full ministership due to the extent of his hard work on the ground leading to the historic breakthrough of Pakatan Harapan, his prospective election petition against Wee Kah Siong in Ayer Hitam, Johor would delay his own appointment for now.

But Liew deserves to be in the cabinet, just as Nurul Izzah Anwar, too, has been touted by many as a deserving ministerial candidate due to the talent she exudes. Both of them are savvy, strategic and globally sophisticated.

To be sure, all three qualities, in their respective ways, are hard to define. But when combined together, they do produce what Max Weber, the father of modern sociology, called "charisma".

Charisma is a quality that is beyond a clear definition, argued Weber, yet it is nonetheless there to instil discipline and leadership by example among the rank and file in the party and concurrently, to carry out the trust of the people too.

But what is the trajectory of the new Malaysian foreign policy?

If one looks at the inaugural trip of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Japan recently, coupled with what the cabinet and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim himself had been saying in London that more countries need to speak out against corruption, Malaysia does need a new strategic set of relationships.

Even if these reinforces the old ones, they can give the anti-corruption drive that additional ballast and yield.

After all, it is not just the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Luxembourg that are entangled with 1MDB, but potentially more countries exposed to what Council of Eminent Persons chairperson Daim Zainuddin called "mini 1MDBs."

Thus, the new foreign minister has to be able to Look East - not unlike how Bersatu strategist Rais Hussin mapped out - just as he or she has to be able to go global to secure Malaysia's good standing in anti-corruption drives while negotiating a strong financial/development aid programme too.

In truth, the foreign minister must be well-read, articulate with a deep understanding of global issues including geopolitics and geoeconomics...

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