Dennis Ignatius on Special Envoys Galore

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Failed or mediocre politicians who have simply sold their loyalty to a government without a popular mandate.

While millions of Malaysians are facing job losses and pay cuts, the backdoor government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is apparently on a hiring spree. But don’t bother to send in your resume unless you happen to be an MP or a political crony.

One of the big job growth opportunities is in foreign affairs. Three have already been appointed special envoys – Marang MP Hadi Awang (Middle East), Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing (China) and more recently Serian MP Richard Riot (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan).

All three have ministerial status (along with all the perks that come with it); that means that they’ll probably each be earning around RM60,000 minimum per month. (Current career ambassadors can eat their hearts). What they’ll be doing to earn it is something else. If past precedent is anything to go by, they’ll be taking regular holidays (along with their families) to their respective regions “to promote good relations” and “attract business and investments” (never mind that they are spectacularly unsuited for both tasks).

It has not stopped them, however, from bragging about their credentials and about how they will make wonderful special envoys. Richard Riot, for example, expressed confidence that his “vast experience as a former human resources minister and deputy minister of foreign affairs” will enable him to carry out his duties successfully.

He didn’t mention, of course, that during his tenure as human resources minister, RM40 million went missing from the Skills Development Fund Corporation which was under the ministry he helmed.

The countries on the receiving end of these special envoys will no doubt see them for what they really are – failed or mediocre politicians who have simply sold their loyalty to a government without a popular mandate.

The question now is who will be appointed next. After all, there’s no shortage of nations and regions that are desperately crying out for a Malaysian special envoy of their own. Australia, for sure, deserves one for having dumped a toxic factory in Malaysia. And what about the US? Given President Trump’s huge ego, we might need to appoint several in order to mollify him now that Najib is no longer around to help make American great again.

And then, there’s Europe, Africa, the subcontinent of India and Antarctica to name other regions that might profit from having Malaysian MPs with their “vast experience” and qualifications.

In fact, given Minister of Law Takiyuddin Hassan’s belief that all MPs are qualified to head GLCs, why not make them all ambassadors and send them abroad; the longer they stay abroad, the more of a chance we might have to get our government back.