High Commissioner to Singapore vacant for six months? Quite normal, says Foreign Minister

KUALA LUMPUR: It is "quite normal" for foreign dignitary positions to be left vacant for a while as Wisma Putra has to ensure that the host country completes its vetting process before anyone is appointed, says Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein.

The Foreign Minister said that this time also allows for Wisma Putra to complete the necessary due process, and added that having no Malaysian high commissioner in Singapore has not affected the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

He was commenting on the issue of the position of the Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore which has been left vacant for the past six months.

On Nov 10, the Johor government had appealed for the position of the Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore to be filled soon to better facilitate issues involving thousands of Malaysians there as Singapore has one of Malaysia’s most important foreign missions.

"The process of appointing an Ambassador or High Commissioner involves a process of vetting, not only on the part of Malaysia but also on the part of the host country. This process as far as Singapore is concerned, is ongoing, ” said Hishammuddin.

He added that the development of the Green Lane and the movement of people between Malaysia and Singapore have not been affected by the vacancy.

"It does not become an issue and it happens in many counties. Bilaterally, we have had travel bubbles even without a High Commissioner. It is not that we have no qualified people but because there is a process of vetting which is beyond our control. Sometimes it is quick and sometimes it takes longer," said Hishamuddin.

He said this while speaking to the media after attending a series of preparatory virtual meetings with his foreign counterparts in conjunction with the 37th Asean Summit due Nov 12 at a hotel here.

On Nov 10, Johor state works, transportation and infrastructure committee chairman Mohd Solihan Badri said the Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore’s post has been left vacant for six months.

“Singapore has one of Malaysia’s most important foreign missions as we have thousands of Malaysians staying and working there. I was taken aback when told that the position has yet to be filled. The Johor government has asked the Foreign Ministry to expedite the task of filling the vacancy.

“The Mentri Besar visited the border checkpoint to check on people entering the country from Singapore using the PCA (Periodic Committing Arrangement) and Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) in August and he was not updated on the issue, ” he said.

Mohd Solihan said while all services at the High Commission were still continuing, including immigration matters, it was important for Malaysia to have its top diplomat in Singapore in place.

“This is especially when it comes to handling problems involving Malaysian workers or even negotiating the border reopening with the Singapore government, ” he said.

The previous Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore, Datuk Zainol Rahim Zainuddin, retired in April.

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