Better to be honest than diplomatic

Opinion  |  Phar Kim Beng
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Diplomacy, as some would have it, is the art of “telling someone to go to hell in a way they look forward to the trip”.

Although this quote might appear on the favourite coffee mug of many United Nations officials and diplomats, the truth of the matter is, diplomacy is meant to be a life saver and invariably, a geopolitical game changer, at critical moments in history.

Take the crisis in Myanmar and China, for instance. Close to 700,000 Rohingyas are being persecuted in Myanmar, of which another one million are in "re-education" camp in China.

If Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah is expected to be gingerly tactful and polite - which he already has been since day one - such humanitarian crisis could careen into what political scientists call "complex humanitarian emergencies" (CHE).

A CHE is when an originally solvable problem degenerates into an intractable issue that now confronts the international community, whether to resort to war to separate the enemy combatants or to persist with the use of forceful, perhaps coercive, diplomacy to divert the issues from the path of disaster back to the normal trajectory of peace and civility.

Either way, diplomacy cannot be built on deceit let alone deception.

When a foreign minister feels deeply about another country, he or she should say it outright. Saifuddin, in a sense, was not wrong to tweet about his dislike of two countries which he was about to visit.

If one goes by the gold standard of contemporary diplomacy, there are two templates at the UN now. Both contradict one another in form and style....

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