Umno’s Nazri Aziz says a rule imposed by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to bar politicians from being posted overseas as ambassadors was a distraction from the more pressing need to address the culture of putting politicians in charge of government-linked companies.
The vocal Umno MP said appointing politicians to diplomatic posts does no harm to the country unlike giving them GLC positions, adding however that the question of non-diplomatic ambassadors had been made into an issue as PH was “playing to the gallery”.
“But you know, PH was playing to the gallery. So this became a low hanging fruit, and they came up with a charter that diplomats should not be chosen from among MPs,” Nazri told MalaysiaNow’s talk show programme Talk, Now.
Last week, MalaysiaNow quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Nazri, the Padang Rengas MP who served under three prime ministers during the Barisan Nasional era, could be given an ambassador’s job in a European capital.
Nazri, who recently stated his disinterest in remaining in politics, denied any knowledge of the plan, adding that he had not been officially informed.
Any move to appoint Nazri would be a break from the policy announced during the PH administration that only career diplomats be given these posts.
Speaking to TalkNow about a wide range of subjects including his views on former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad with whom he has had several public spats, Nazri said it was more critical to have a policy barring politicians from being given GLC posts.
PH had in its 2018 general election manifesto pledged to only appoint GLC heads and directors based on their professional merit and not due to their links to ruling parties.
However, the coalition was taken to task after MPs and politicians from ruling parties were appointed to head GLCs, including several PH candidates who lost in the 2018 polls.
In May this year, think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs listed 25 politicians from DAP, Amanah, PKR and Bersatu who had been given key posts in GLCs and statutory bodies under the PH government.
In the absence of any formal government policy on the appointment of GLCs, the practice was later continued under the governments of Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Nazri said a policy to stop politicians from heading GLCs was never introduced by PH because its leaders wanted to reserve GLC posts for those among them who could not be given Cabinet positions.
“If they say GLC chairmanships should not be given to MPs, they were worse,” Nazri said. “They wanted to take care of their people who became MPs and who asked why they were not given GLC posts when they did not become ministers.”
Nazri also said the absence of policies on GLCs under PH was deliberate.
“PH wanted to allocate MPs various positions, that’s why they set that aside (on barring politicians from GLCs) and did the easy one (on the appointment of diplomats),” he added.
Nazri questioned as well the policy barring politicians from diplomatic positions representing the country overseas.
“To me, if you are a diplomat, you will have to work and take care of the country and the government. There is no room for a diplomat to make money, there is no space because he is a diplomat.
“So to me, GLC (position) is more dangerous. That is what needed a charter to say that it could not be done (the appointment of politicians).”