Wednesday, January 25, 2012


By Mansor Puteh

…And there are many things that they do not teach at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So we can use some of the antics and behaviors of some of the former ambassadors to try and introduce new courses in government and international relations, especially now that the world has changed so much since the School was formed.

Ambassadors may and can have all sorts of ideas on the country they represent their countries at, but they are not meant to be shared with the public.

No doubt that there is still some fire left in all the former ambassadors; if it is contained, it can shine brightly; otherwise, it can burn whatever diplomatic initiatives that countries always try to show by some of the former ambassadors acting like they had not had their thrill, before old age destroys whatever sweet memories they had when they were serving their own countries and when they were younger.

Is there anything at all that anyone can learn from the experiences of John R Mallott?

And is there anything at all that he can also learn?

One thing that he does not realize that ‘Reformasi’ is badly needed in the diplomatic circles so that ambassadors and high commissioners know their limits and their potentials.

That Pre-911 diplomacy is dead, and a new World Diplomacy is needed to replace it.

Ambassadors and High Commissioners do not have to be reminded that as diplomats for their own countries, whatever information and conclusions they may have on any issue, they forward them to their relevant departments, such as the State Department in Washington DC for the their officials to tabulate and make their own decisions to forward to the Secretary of State or even President to deliberate to see if they are worthy for them to issue any public comment on them.

Ambassadors hardly ever try to meddle in the internal affairs of any country they serve on behalf of their respective governments. If there are impending problems, they try to diffuse them before a crisis breaks out.

And it seems this was what Mallot had tried not to do when he was ambassador to Malaysia.

If he had indeed written the speech given by Al Gore in the APEC meeting in 1998, then it was his prerogative.

Al Gore who represented the then president Bill Clinton, as vice-president 'read' the speech without knowing what was happening in the country then. And Clinton was too worried to come to Malaysia fearing that he might be attacked by the unruly of 'Reformasi' crowd.

In fact, the APEC meeting was not even held in Kuala Lumpur but in the outskirts at the Palace of Golden Horses and Al Gore’s limousine had to be escorted by mini-tanks that were brought into the country by the American security team guarding their vice-president.

Al Gore’s speech was heavily criticized by many Malaysians with Nordin Sopiee putting out a full-page criticism of it in the New Straits Times, which sparked an outcry from many Malaysians. 

Al Gore’s remark on the ‘brave men of Reformasi’ did not go down well with most Malaysians and those who were in the ‘Reformasi’ movement too did not care for it. ‘Reformasi’ in Malaysia died soon afterwards.

Many Malaysians did not think Mallot was ever a friend of Anwar Abraham’s when Anwar was deputy prime minister and his wife, Wan Azizah’s then. And they were never seen together in public.

I remember being invited by the American embassy to attend the screening of Steven Spielberg's film, 'Amidstad' which was shown for only once in the embassy and the country, where Wan Azizah was also invited. But she did not attend it.

'Amidstad' is a film on the African slaves who were kidnapped in Africa and brought to America to be sold or traded to the plantation owners. Most of them are Muslims.

The only reason why the film could not be shown in the cinemas in Malaysia was because it has nudity; otherwise, it could be shown anytime.

The least that Mallot can do now is to write a book, so that he can write about his experiences serving America in Malaysia as ambassador and getting to know the country so he can be fair and write everything including the ‘Reformasi’ movement and his special relationship with some individuals, so his views can be shared by many, warts and all, so he can ‘spill the beans’, as they say in America.

It’s not often a former American ambassador does this.

I also remember stopping at the petrol station in front of the American embassy after I had just donated blood at the old blood center in Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

I wore dark glasses and I often do outdoors, and I was reading through some of the newspapers inside the petrol station building and when I looked outside at the parking lot beside Jalan Ampang, I thought I recognized someone familiar.
I then remembered Mallot and thought how interesting to be able to see him standing beside a car he was driving, as many would think American ambassadors hardly drive themselves.

I thought the car is an American model which also attracted my attention as I had not seen something like that in a long time.

Then I realized how uncomfortable Mallot was after he too had noticed me looking at him from inside the building.

He probably thought I was from Bukit Aman who was ordered to keep track of his movements.

But I got this thought only much later after I remembered the incident.

I did not think he was also wondering if I was the same person whom he had met at the screening of ‘Amidst’ earlier.

So it’s probably timely for Mallott to be given a new and special task and be invited Professor Emeritus or Visiting Professor so he can contribute something to the betterment in the bilateral relations between Malaysia and America.

And I am saying this with good intentions; it’s nothing cynical about this.

Maybe this is what Mallott has been clamoring to get, the attention he did not get when he was ambassador to Malaysia then that he wants to get now. 

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