Selamat jalan, Mr Rommel!
Thierry Rommel, the head of the European Commission to Malaysia, has been ‘irking’ the country’s leaders and officials since he arrived in 2003. The European diplomat has on numerous occasions criticised government policies. Malaysia will not be sorry to see him go soon.
COMMENT BY MERGAWATI ZULKAFAR
IN the last four years since he was posted here as the head of the European Commission, Ambassador Thierry Rommel has travelled the country far and wide.
In the course of his tour with his European colleagues based in Malaysia two years ago, he even met with an accident in Sabah. He escaped unscathed although several other people were injured.
"I did not say that the NEP was discriminatory nor did I call for it to be scrapped" - THIERRY ROMMEL
A quick check in the local newspapers showed Rommel had been given a fair share of publicity – via exclusive interviews, his visits to the states and his speeches.
He even wrote a strongly worded letter to this newspaper a few months ago claiming he was misquoted during a trip to Pahang. The letter was written in a condescending manner, said one editor.
Over in Wisma Putra, those who have had dealings with Rommel describe him as a brash person.
Whether he likes it or not, Rommel is now in serious trouble.
Last week, in front of an audience of about 50 diplomats, and local and foreign businessmen at the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon, Rommel decided to lambast the New Economic Policy.
Rommel was quoted as saying that the Government was using the NEP as an excuse to practise “significant protectionism of its own market,” including the automotive sector, steel, consumer goods, agricultural products, services and government contracts.
Malaysia claims these were “infant’ industries that need to be protected but “in reality ... it is the Malay-centred bumiputr a policy that drives protectionist policies,” he said.
Rommel was later asked by reporters why he had made the controversial remarks. His reply was that it took time for him to understand the country and now he was feeling comfortable.
He also told them his statement was meant to be constructive criticism.
“I did not say that the NEP was discriminatory nor did I call for it to be scrapped,” he said.
Whatever he says, the sentiment is Rommel has interfered in local affairs.
Although he represents no country, he is a bona fide head of a diplomatic mission and thus is expected to behave and speak like one.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was clearly upset and told off Rommel, saying he should not make any comment pertaining to the policies of the country he was attached to.
But this was not the first time the European diplomat had been critical and even disrespectful to Malaysia and its officials.
Last December, he was reported as saying the lack of transparency in government policies and the monopoly of contracts by certain companies had led the negative trend of FDI flow from EU countries.
It is also learnt that soon after his arrival in 2003, he had unilaterally and at the last minute cancelled several appointments for his courtesy call on the Foreign Minister himself.
Surely as an experienced diplomat, Rommel should know better than to speak publicly on his “unhappiness” with the way things were going in the country.
For example, why couldn’t Rommel have quietly expressed his thoughts to Malaysian diplomats? Nobody is denying him access to Malaysian officials.
So, after four long years, Rommel has finally begun to understand what Malaysia is about? But this is a bit hard to swallow.
The criticism against the NEP has really riled the Government. It is the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Rommel is concerned.
And it looks like he has come to the end of his posting to Malaysia. It is understood his tour of duty is ending in September.
Perhaps Rommel consciously made his provocative remarks knowing full well his departure from Malaysia was imminent.
Well then, maybe it is time to say Selamat Jalan to him!
Mr. Rommel, bet you had a bad experience in this so-called 'model, moderate and tolerant' third-world-country-with-no-so-first-class-facilities, eh?
I was just wondering, with all these SIL and the mobs protesting atrocities in Lebanon, wasn't that considered interfering with US' pro-Israeli policies? A country's policy is still sovereign and still their erhmm...local/internal affairs, right? No matter bad or good or how it affects the international community. Now, do you see Dubya summoning our Malaysian ambassador to the US to explain the protest?