Aiming for a successful 2015 meeting

Malaysia is set to assume the Asean chair in 2015. Competency and professionalism are prerequisites for those given the task to ensure Malaysia’s chairmanship is a success.

FOR two days, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak did not see the Malaysian media who accompanied him on his recent working trip to New York.

They were visible at all his events in San Francisco the previous week.

At a private dinner in New York, he asked an aide if members of the media were okay.

Well, yes, we were but at the same time, no, we were not.

A blunder by a Wisma Putra officer on the second day the Prime Minister was in New York resulted in the reporters representing the print media missing covering his address at an Asean-US business luncheon.

The media was given an address of the luncheon venue and only found out too late that the correct location was about 40 blocks away. They had to give the assignment a miss.

Adding to their misery, they missed another event the same day because the officer felt it was not important enough.

No explanation was deemed necessary from the officer to the media already flabbergasted with her action.

Make no mistake – the Prime Minister has to talk to us, media members, because the trip to the United States was not about fun and games.

It is about telling investors in the world’s biggest economy who we are.

People back home would want to know what the Prime Minister did and what he said during the trip.

Malaysians who think we are the centre of the world tend to forget that we are actually a small country of 28 million only.

Compare this with much bigger countries which are also seeking out the same investors – Brazil, India, and nearby – Indonesia and Vietnam.

The bigger the countries, as long as it is politically stable and with a growing middle class, the easier it would be to attract investors who want to make products and introduce services to them.

Over in Bali this week, overzealous reporters from Hong Kong who hounded Philippine president Benigno Aquino had their press credentials to cover the Apec summit revoked by the organisers.

These reporters thought it was their right to heckle a leader of another country at an event but to any journalists familiar with covering summits, these reporters have lost their chance to be in the thick of action.

These two incidents are good examples of how Malaysian ministries and agencies involved in handling the media could learn as Kuala Lumpur is getting ready to take up the chairmanship of Asean in 2015.

It is an important year as that is the year the Asean Community will be a reality.

Being in the Asean chair means Malaysia will be hosting two summits in April and November that will see leaders including from China, United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and Australia coming to the country apart from regional leaders.

Meetings involving foreign and trade ministers will also be held.

Word has it a separate summit might be held at the end of 2015 to make that special announcement on regional integration.

It is understood committees have been formed at ministries level to deal with the huge logistics, not to mention headache, to organise these meetings.

It is good to know that with the deadline about 18 months away, the ministries are starting to hold preparatory meetings.

The last time Malaysia hosted an Asean summit was 10 years ago, surely any weaknesses identified then could be tweaked this time around.

Another logistic they must take into account is the hundreds of media members, including foreign ones who will be covering these meetings.

They must engage the media and get their feedback as it is in the interest of all parties that journalists can conduct their work with ease.

At a recent media roundtable in Brunei, Asean officials noted that the information sector must play a greater role in Asean community building by disseminating information on Asean and its goals for the 600 million people who live in the region.

“Media acts as a driver to reach the public with the work of their governments, why the Asean community secures their interests, and how they can prepare for deepening regional cooperation,” said a Brunei official.

Dissemination of correct information and regular updates must be made available to the media.

Without any effort to understand the role of the media, one can only hope organising of Asean meetings in 2015 will be a success, especially for the Prime Minister who is a firm believer in Asean.

A little bit of professionalism and competency is not too much to ask for, is it?
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