Diplomatic circus

It is a long established tradition for the government to invite an eminent personality from abroad to be the chief guest at our joint Independence and Republic Day celebrations. A good number of heads of state/government, mostly from India, Africa and Asia have honoured our celebrations, but on a few occasions, we have had non public figures or personalities of lesser importance as our chief guest.
I recall that in the days of SSR, he invited an Indian writer as chief guest for Independence celebrations. Few people had heard of Mr Mulk Raj Anand who was a personal friend of SSR. He is best known for his books on the lives of the poorer castes in the traditional Indian society. However, his speech at the state banquet fell on deaf ears as it did not fit the occasion. Unsurprisingly, we have recorded quite a few wrong choices as our chief guest. This year the Prime Minister invited his Malaysian counterpart. Although the choice was criticized by the Opposition, the Prime Minister stated that his agenda was to improve the economic relations with Malaysia and attract Malaysian investors.
The mysterious disappearance of a Malaysian airliner on its way to Beijing a few days before the celebrations sent shock waves around the world. I told my son Dhiren on holiday here that it would be impossible for the Malaysian Prime Minister to travel to Mauritius. As a matter of fact, he cancelled his visit and delegated his Minister of Commerce to represent him. The programme of visit was downgraded, but some of the main activities were retained and one of them was a joint meeting of Malaysian and local businessmen under the co chairmanship of our Minister of Finance and the Malaysian Commerce Minister. It was during that meeting that our High Commissioner in Malaysia decided to put up his circus show. In the open session, he took the floor and asked the Malaysian Minister whether Malaysia would be prepared to support a request from Mauritius to be admitted to the regional group ASEAN as an observer. Of course, the Minister, not having the authority of his government to decide on this issue, gave a non committal reply. That did not satisfy our High Commissioner who wanted to pursue the matter in front of embarrassed Ministers and participants. It was reported that the Finance Minister asked him to remain quiet and thereupon, he walked out.
What do you make of that ? A High Commissioner, accredited to Malaysia, walking out of an important meeting co chaired by the Malaysian and Mauritian Ministers on Mauritian soil ! Incredible ! To say the least, it was an undiplomatic behaviour, causing prejudice to the diplomatic stature of our country. Mind you, his question was pertinent, but it was certainly not the right forum. Instead, he should have requested our Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise the issue during his bilateral talks with the Malaysian Minister. Our High Commissioner thought he would score marks, but at the end of the day when we add up the numerous diplomatic faux pas when he served as our permanent representative to the African Union, the population is seriously questioning the rationale of the Prime Minister in appointing such a devalued person as our highest diplomatic representative in Malaysia.
When one journalist reported that the Prime Minister was booed for a few seconds on his arrival to the Anjalay stadium for the official flag raising ceremony, the Prime Minister publicly stated the following day that corrective actions should be taken against that journalist for alleged misreporting. Regrettably, the Prime Minister did not say a word about any corrective actions against our High Commissioner for creating a diplomatic incident likely to tarnish further the image of our diplomatic representation in Malaysia and indeed our entire diplomatic service.
As long as the selection of Ambassadors and High Commissioners does not go through a rigorous and transparent process, the choice will simply be that of the Prime Minister, acting on his own criteria. Is this his conception of modernity and thinking out of the box ?
Really, what else to do than to watch the circus ? It is a free show.


What do expect from politically-appointed non-entitities!