A former envoy to the IAEA who was dismissed for voting against a resolution on Iran believes he was a victim of Najib's pro-US policy.
KUALA LUMPUR: After more than a year of silence, Malaysia’s “sacked” envoy to the International Atomic Enforcement Agency (IAEA) spoke out to defend himself, claiming that he was made a scapegoat in Najib administration’s attempt to foster greater ties with Washington.
Mohd Arshad Manzoor Hussain, a 36-year-old veteran diplomat, told FMT that he had voted against a resolution on Iran upon instruction from the foreign ministry, contrary to what was widely reported by the media – that the Vienna mission had violated “procedures” and voted against the censure on his own accord.
The former Malaysian ambassador to Austria claimed the ministry had agreed to his recommendation that in view of the country’s close bilateral relations with Iran, Malaysia should align itself with NAM’s (Non-Aligned Movement) position.
Arshad alleged that the ministry at that time had even stated that it had expected “another round of demarche” by the West after the vote and gave no fall-back position despite having made it clear that there could be no common NAM position on the vote to oppose the resolution.
The vote took place on Nov 27, 2009, after Washington and Germany tabled a resolution against Iran for building a second secret uranium enrichment plant in secret. The resolution was passed by a 25-3 margin with six abstentions. Haywire protocols in ministry
Arshad was subsequently summoned to return to Malaysia from Vienna to explain his move. He informed the ministry’s secretary-general that he had voted according to the instruction of the ministry.
The secretary-general at the time, however, claimed he was not consulted on the decision, alleged Arshad.
This was no excuse to blame the controversy on the Vienna mission, he said, adding that the onus was on the ministry to clarify the matter with the minister (Anifah Aman).
Despite having issued a damaging official statement blaming Arshad solely for the Iranian vote debacle, Anifah had later admitted in a meeting between them on Dec 17, 2009, that the veteran diplomat should not have been made to take the fall and rapped ministry officials for not consulting with him (Anifah) prior to giving the instruction.
The ministry eventually released a second statement on Dec 25 calling on the press not to speculate on the issue. It was a drastic turnabout from its initial non-apologetic stand.
Arshad said the ministry’s move reflected its regretful tone. Anifah had also pointed out that the former Vienna envoy was not sacked but his contract was not to be renewed. But Arshad felt that the decision was akin to giving him the boot. “Was I not effectively sacked as the chairman of the IAEA board of governors by my own government despite having eight months of my mandate left?”
He was dismissed effectively in February, 2010. He only learnt of his dismissal through the IAEA secretariat, which informed him that the Malaysian government had replaced him with Shahrul Ikram Yacob.
It is understood that Putrajaya had lobbied capitals around the world for the appointment of Shahrul as the new IAEA chief governor. His term expired in February this year. Malaysia now pro-Washington ?
While the replacement was acknowledged by Arshad, he said nothing was done to redeem the error.
“I lost everything,” said Arshad, who is now unemployed. “My grievance with the ministry is that nothing was done to clear my name publicly… the ministry has allowed the media to tarnish my reputation.”
Arshad’s dismissal came at a time when there was shift in the government’s foreign policy towards Washington, with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak making a bid to forge stronger ties with the US in what appeared to be a move to boost his political image domestically.
Arshad believed his removal was probably done to pander to US and the West’s hardline policy on Iran. “The damage control, if you can call it that, was my head…” he said.
It is learnt that Najib’s Cabinet felt that Arshad’s removal would please the US Embassy in Malaysia. The observation, however, was subsequently deleted in the final records of the Cabinet meeting.
The opposition has accused the Najib administration of bowing down to US pressure over Arshad’s dismissal. Former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is known for his anti-Washington stand, had also criticised Najib and described the present government as “pro-US”.