7 Jun 1998
... continued from page 1
The Security-Council reform is an ongoing exercise which does not seem as it would
conclude in the near future.
Meetings on the reform is expected to fill much of Hasmy's calendar for the two years
or more as it is evident that the US has not been showing much respect for the UN
General Assembly (UNGA), the largely ceremonial august body.
A Japanese diplomat asked me: "Is that so?" Indeed, why are the Americans
so disrespectful of the UNGA? As I perceive it, it is because UNGA is a mere talking
shop (not even a debating place). It exhorts and exhorts and....its resolutions do
not have the force of law.
The real work and fire is in the Security Council which is all powerful. Only the
Security Council is empowered to issue legally binding actions and orders which can
and have indeed been ignored with impunity by Israel but not by lesser powers such
as Libya, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sudan, Iraq and others.
The US does not waste its time with the General Assembly; it puts its greatest attention
and the talent in the Security Council. It is a very, very rare occasion for any
one to see the American permanent representative at his or her seat in the General
It is understandable, after all as one-time American chief delegate, Henry Cabot
Lodge, clearly stated: "The Security Council is a good place for us." Not
the General Assembly he had asserted.
The Security Council has five permanent members or the "Big Five" - the
US, Russia, China, Britain and France - and 10 non-permanent members each elected
for a term of two years. The "Big Five" each has a veto power which renders
any resolution useless if one of the five powers uses it.
I would not be surprised if fewer and fewer heads of government would even bother
to come to New York to address UNGA in the future. Even now the number attending
is small (and decreasing) compared to when I first attended UNGA in the early 60s
accompanying Tun Razak.
Razak came again in 1971 as prime minister when he personally cast our vote in favour
of communist China's admission replacing Taiwan.
Before the currency crisis, we were riding high at the UN and around the world because
we were (and are still) a shining example of an economically successful nation. Prime
Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad evoked much enthusiasm, admiration and esteem
in the developing nations and in several developed countries.
Hasmy's appointment comes at the time when our lustre or distinction is arguably
somewhat diminished. He has a tough time ahead to sustain our international reputation.
However, I am confident he will do his best, and Wisma Putra has assigned one of
the ablest in its stable to do the job. Hasmy has been well received.
Hasmy will continue, I have no doubts, the tradition and trend begun by his illustratious
predecessors (13 of them) such as Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman (out first man at the
UN), Tan Sri Nik Ahmad Kamil, R. Ramani, Ong Yoke Lin, Zainal Sulong, Zakaria Ali,
Zain Azrai and Razali, all of whom were either politicians or career diplomats with
the exception of Ramani who was an eminent barrister.
Malaysians abroad should be proud of being Malaysians; it is interesting and intellectually
challenging at the moment when our Malaysian experience, our politics, business practices
and agenda are being questioned and challenged.
Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )