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COMMENT The newly-minted deputy minister of foreign affairs, Reezal Merican Naina Merican, has warned that Wisma Putra would be monitoring Malaysians involved in Bersih rallies overseas and be reporting them to the relevant agencies for follow-up action.

Obviously, he has a lot to learn about the proud traditions of our foreign service. In the first place, Wisma Putra is not a spy agency with embassies abroad keeping tabs on the activities of Malaysian citizens. That is something that countries like North Korea, China and Iran do.

In all my 36 years with the Foreign Ministry, we never spied on our citizens, kept records of their activities or threatened them. In fact, we went out of our way to build rapport with them because we recognised that they could contribute to promoting Malaysia.

Of course, there were times when we disagreed with their actions or the positions they took on national issues. Our response, however, was always to engage with them, explain government policies and endeavour to win them over...

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