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Badawi's reelection in 1996 was greatly helped by Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir's presidential address which called for Umno delegates to cast their votes for candidates who had distanced themselves from money politics.

An Asian ambassador who did not go to Tokyo confided in me: "I did not accept the invitation because I had already been instructed by my capital to cast my vote to Japan. Some colleagues said, the Japanese overdid their hospitality which was unnecessary.

But the result was fantastic. Tokyo whacked the complacent Indians."

The Greeks are taking a leaf from the Japanese. Whether it will produce the same result remains to be seen. A Greek diplomatic acquaintance said: "I have tried talking to people that the two trips we organized for those who accepted our invitation had nothing to do with our bid for a Security Council seat but no on seems to believe me!"

A Dutch diplomat told the New York Times correspondent that Europeans were less disciplined about coming to an agreement, instead they would rather take the battle to the wire adding: "For us giving cars or computers would never be part of the deal. " Canada, on the quiet, had entertained diplomats to a circus show!

The election to the powerful Security Council - the effective organ of the UN - has taken a high profile since the end of the cold war and as a result one would see an army of special envoys traveling around the world campaigning. The time invested seems to have gone up considerably as is the intensity of the hustings.

There are now 185 nations making up the world body which is 53-years old this year. Malaysia became a member within two weeks after independence on Aug 31, 1957. Our first permanent representative to the UN was the late Tun Dr Ismail bin Abdul Rahman and the present holder, the 14th, is Datuk Hasmy Agam.

Of the 14 permanent representatives we have had six politicians, an eminent lawyer enticed to perform national service and seven Wisma Putra officials. In addition, two special envoys were appointed the first was Tan Sri Musa Hitam. Of these, Tan Sri Razali Ismail became the first Malaysian to be elected president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1996.

Of the hugely diverse membership, about 75 nations have never been elected to the Security Council. Israel, founded three years after the UN was formed, has not been invited to join any group and cannot hope to be elected to the Security Council at any time in the foreseeable future. Anglo-Saxon Australia and New Zealand close to Asia geographically have expressed interest to join the Asian caucus but are not yet welcome into it, and, I believe, it will stay that way for a long time to come.

The proposed reform of the Security Council enlarging it to make Germany and Japan permanent members, increasing the number of the non-permanent seats and choosing additional candidates besides Germany and Japan as permanent members representing each of the present grouping appears to be a never ending and long involved story.

The permanent membership expansion is ferociously opposed by many nations, especially Italy and Pakistan whose delegates said they would not tolerate their countries being "third-class members" which is what will precisely happen if the present proposal is accepted.

I was taken aback when one senior ambassador told me: "Over my dead body, my friend." Smiling he asked me: "Would you want Malaysia to be relegated to the third division?"

However, its chances of succeeding is remote. Perhaps, the reform panel will continue its discussion well into the next millennium!

Come polling day in the fall, it will be predictably quiet though the results could be unpredictable.

Every nation wants to be part of the active decision making body with its members showing greatly increased awareness of their responsibility to maintain peace and of their ability to do so when it suits them.

I personally believe, as does our government, that the present membership and composition do not reflect the reality of economic and political changes over the last 53 years, still less the fact that the relative status of the nations is more than likely to be even more altered in the next half-century.

The Malaysian government wants it to become more representative of diverse perspectives and region.

I hope something will work out eventually so that the decisions and actions of the influential Security Council are given full respect in all parts of the universe. It will be a long time before that happens, I imagine.

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )

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