PUTRAJAYA: The Foreign Affairs Ministry will undergo a rationalisation process next year which will involve reorganising Malaysian diplomatic representative offices abroad, says Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah.
To be undertaken jointly with the Public Service Department (PSD) and relevant ministries, the exercise will ascertain which of those offices should remain open, the Foreign Minister said when presenting the ministry’s annual report card here on Thursday (Sept 1).
It would also identify potential new representative offices, the appointment of roving ambassadors or more honorary consuls, the grades of the representatives, as well as the total number of officials and assets.
According to Saifuddin, this was in line with the current challenges and with an eye on the future, taking into account analyses of emerging economies as well as Malaysia’s new focus on positions like language and cultural attaches.
“We currently have 107 offices… do we want to stay at 107 or become 105 or become 109? We have undertaken a comprehensive (to determine) which offices should remain open, which are to be closed and which should be reinforced.”
“The ministry is prepared to have discussions with the other ministries on the criteria which are based on politics, security, economy, trade and the socio-cultural interests of Malaysia,” he added.
Saifuddin explained that such rationalisation processes are undertaken periodically by most countries to maintain bilateral relations.
On whether or not the current 26 vacancies for Malaysia’s heads of mission will be taken into account in the rasionalisation, he said the two were not related.
“The positions are being finalised, and we need to get the approval of the countries concerned.”
Apart from the rationalisation process, the ministry has outlined four other key areas of interest, namely the establishment of the Language and Culture Diplomacy Department, other areas of specialisation, the women’s empowerment agenda, and strengthening existing consular services.
Towards this end, the Public Communication and Diplomacy Division will be upgraded to the Language and Culture Diplomacy Department, aimed at developing Malaysia’s cultural narrative when it comes to a national impression, practices and the cultural arts.
People-to-people relations will be enhanced while the domestic creative industry will be introduced to the international stage, including efforts to position Malaysia as the home of contemporary nasyid.
The country’s performing arts will also be taken international via The Road to Oscar and The Road to Grammy projects.
“We’ve studied the models of other more forward-thinking countries such as Indonesia and South Korea. The objective is to highlight Malaysia’s national values and identity, promote the Malay language and Malaysian culture, and exchanges of culture and sports,” he said.
The ministry is also expanding its human resource development with new initiatives such as sponsorships and scholarships for its officers, immersion programmes locally and abroad, and establishing expert groups in specific fields.
Under the women’s empowerment agenda, the ministry will implement its Women, Peace and Security agenda and gender responsive budgeting, as well as strive for gender balance in the appointment of heads of representatives, heads of departments and divisions, delegations, committees and forum panels.
To strengthen consular services, the ministry is developing the e-Consular 3.0 system to improve its online payment, appointment, push notification and other support modules such as the management of death certificates for Malaysians abroad.
“There are also 2,500 Malaysians in prisons in many countries, so it is necessary for our consular services to be strengthened.
“This is very important for Malaysians abroad because if there is a problem, we need to have enough facilities to help them,” said Saifuddin. – Bernama
Source: The Star