Nazri named US ambassador in U-turn on policy against politicians in diplomatic roles

Former Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz has been named the new Malaysian ambassador to the US, becoming the only politician out of several newly appointed heads of diplomatic missions abroad announced by Wisma Putra today.

Nazri, who did not contest the last general election, had been considered for an ambassador’s post for the last two years, although talk that he would be sent to a European capital did not materialise. 

The decision to give Nazri the post is seen as a reversal of the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s pledge to appoint only diplomats to represent the country’s foreign missions abroad.

Other new ambassadors presented with letters of credence were former ambassador to the UAE, Syed Md Hasrin Tengku Hussin (Indonesia); former Malaysian ambassador to Italy, Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino Anthony (Philippines); former ambassador to Uzbekistan Hendy Assan (Vatican City); former consul-general in Australia Hafizah Abdullah (Sweden); former high commissioner to Nigeria Gloria Corina Peter Tiwet (Brazil); as well as diplomats Ruzaimi Mohamad (Kenya), Suzilah Mohd Sidek (Czech Republic), Amarjit Singh Sarjit Singh (Timor-Leste) and ‘Alauddin Mohd Nor (Kuwait).

The appointment of Syed Hasrin fills the diplomatic void in Jakarta, considered one of Malaysia’s most important overseas missions.

The post was last filled by a politician ambassador under the Najib Razak administration, Zahrain Mohd Hashim, who defected from PKR.

Zahrain was terminated by the PH government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2018, and replaced with diplomat Zainal Abidin Bakar, fulfilling the coalition’s promise to the diplomatic community to end the practice of appointing politicians to head Malaysian foreign missions.

Last year, the government was said to have revoked the appointment of former Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman as ambassador to Indonesia.

Tajuddin’s appointment was reported not long after he fell out with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

But the move was condemned by the diplomatic community, who criticised the then government for reversing its policy of only appointing diplomats to such posts.

Nazri himself previously criticised the policy barring politicians from being posted as ambassadors overseas, saying it was more harmful to appoint politicians to positions in government-linked companies. 

“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 in 2021.

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