Hasmy-Our new man at the UN

7 June 1998

Tan Sri Razali Ismail, 59, the format permanent representative to the United Nations for 10 years until his retirement (after two extensions) last month and former president of the United Nations General Assembly and I are contemporaries. We have known each other for a good number of years.

Once, I was his senior; at the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the UN he was my titular ahead. He reported to Wisma Putra and I directly to Jalan Datuk Onn.

I have known and worked with Razali's successor, Datuk Hasmy Agam ("I'm not an Achenese - I am a pukka Malay from Malacca") for two years. He clarified to the unfamiliar that he is not of Acehnese descent because people had mistaken him for on since "Agam", I understand, is a common name in Acheh.

Like Razali, Hasmy, 54 years old, is an English graduate of University Malaya (1968). He has been in the foreign service for the last 30 years and had served in various capacities at home and abroad - twice in Vietnam, Washinton, London and Libya and Paris (both as ambassador).

Before moving to the UN two years ago (as the Alternate Permanent Representative), Hasmy was deputy secretary-general for international organizations and multilateral economics at Wisma Putra.

For Hasmy, who also studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Thufts University in Boston where he obtained his Master's degree in international relations, New York is not strange place because he was, 10 years ago, our alternate spokesman in the Security Council.

Next year, if Malaysia is elected to the council (for the third time in 41 years), as is expected (already endorsed by the Asian caucus as its sole nominee from Asia), he will be our chief spokesman.

The happily married Hasmy (to a former diplomat, Datin Mudlifah Yusuf from Penang; they have two daughters) has none of Razali's diplomatic flamboyance. He is quite effective and unassuming. However, in his own Malay and unobtrusive way, he is quite effective in what ever he does; as solid and deft as his predecessor, if I may add.

At a glance I would not have thought Razali and Hasmy would be good collaborators, yet theirs was a good and successful partnership at our mission, first from 1988-89 and again from 1996-98. Both of them have been cordial and pleasant colleagues - nice to work with.

Razali and Hasmy are classic examples of the post generations of Malay civil servants: confident, able terrestrial, open and unfanatic.

Razali, after a long and distinguished career in the diplomatic service has joined a bank (as chairman) and made chairperson of various companies. I know he will perform well in his new tasks. If he could read the KLSE price quotations with the same concentration he reads telegrams and instructions from Wisma Putra, and with the same devotion he brought to golf, he would find it hard not to become a billionaire within a short period despite our reduced economic circumstances.

I can attest to this much: If Malaysia played test cricket, Hasmy would have been a test player, as a dependable wicket keeper!

Meanwhile, the challenge which the UN faces is the well-known fact that the United States, the earth's sole superpower, now exerts mega-political influence and power without having to pay its long-standing debt of US$1.5 billion (RM5.85 billion) - without interest - to the cash-tight organization.

Washington also wants Germany and Japan to be permanent members of the Security Council believing that two nations, because of the size of their economies, would contribute generously if not actually become the main financial undertakers of the organization.

The American suggestion is vigorously opposed by a number of states, and the number is increasing, I am told. Italy is leading the crusade against the enlargement of the Security Council permanent membership as permanent membership proposed by the Americans and their allies.