Bersih: Revoke Tajuddin’s appointment as ambassador to Indonesia

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MP’s appointment over a career diplomat is an affront to Parliament as well as his electorate.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) is demanding that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob revoke the appointment of Tajuddin Abdul Rahman as ambassador to Indonesia as it would be in the best interest of the country.

The group said the Pasir Salak lawmaker’s appointment over a career diplomat is an affront to Parliament as well as his electorate.

“That Tajuddin, who joked about an LRT accident under his watch as Prasarana chairperson, was chosen as ambassador over decorated career diplomats is also an affront to our diplomatic service,” Bersih said in a statement.

Tajuddin confirmed yesterday he had been appointed ambassador to Indonesia and that his appointment was approved by President Joko Widodo.

Tajuddin will replace Zainal Abidin Bakar, a diplomat who has been ambassador since 2018.

Tajuddin is no stranger to controversy. The 74-year-old was previously fired as head of the government’s public transport operator Prasarana after making insensitive remarks in the aftermath of a Kuala Lumpur LRT collision that injured hundreds of passengers.

He was also fined for breaching Regulation 17 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within the Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2021 when he appeared wearing a face shield without a mask during a press conference following the crash.

About a month later, he was fined again for breaching Covid-19 protocol by not wearing a mask in Parliament.

In May last year, he was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to assist in allegations of abuse of power for giving a friend a job in Prasarana.

Then in July, he was fired as Umno’s election director after an audio file of him criticising party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was leaked on social media.

As an elected member, the group said, Tajuddin should prioritise his constituency’s welfare, something that he cannot do if he is not present in the country.

“In the United States, where politicians are occasionally appointed as ambassadors, they would have to first resign from their elected office.

“This flawed practice of appointing sitting MPs as ambassadors and special envoys however has been in place in Malaysia before 2018 and continued through the Pakatan Harapan, Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional (administrations).”

An example of lawmakers taking up ambassadorship is late Rompin MP Jamaluddin Jarjis, who was US ambassador from 2009 to 2012.

Following his tenure as ambassador, Jamaluddin was later appointed Malaysia’s special envoy to the US, during which then president Barack Obama made his first official visit to Malaysia in April 2014, the first by a sitting US president since Lyndon B Johnson’s back in 1966.

Besides revoking Tajuddin’s appointment, Bersih is also demanding several other reforms to end ambassadorial appointment as patronage, which are that:

–  The Parliamentary Special Select Committee on International Affairs be given the power to scrutinise and endorse nominees for high commissioners, ambassadors, and special envoys.

– Article 48(1)(c) of the Federal Constitution be amended such that a sitting MP is prohibited from holding a permanent position in a foreign mission.

– Tajuddin resigns as MP for Pasir Salak, if his appointment is not revoked.

– Article 54(1) of the Federal Constitution be amended to allow by-elections to be held for vacancy before the last six months, instead of the last two years, of a Parliament’s term.

– Parties commit in their manifesto to the above reforms. – TMI

Earlier reports:

May 18, PM: Indonesia agrees to Tajuddin’s appointment

May 18, Ex-diplomat: Tajuddin’s appointment a ‘disaster’

May 17, MP: PM must explain Tajuddin’s pick to be ambassador to Indonesia

May 17, Tajuddin confirms appoointment as ambassador to Indonesia