Najib: Malaysia needs world-class diplomats

(NST) PUTRAJAYA: Diplomats must be equipped to confront the global challenges which the country faces, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.

Only with world-class knowledge and skills can they carry out their duties and responsibilities effectively, including countering attempts at tarnishing the country's image and reputation, he said.

"There have been numerous attempts to run our country down but if we can display our successes and recognition of the country's achievements, the world will know the truth about Malaysia.

"When they know Malaysia well, they will want to have dealings with us," he told diplomats at the opening of the Seventh Heads of Mission Conference and Fourth Honorary Consuls Meeting here yesterday.

He said Malaysia's image as a modern and progressive nation where Islam was the official religion and other religions were fully respected, was recognised globally, including by United States President Barack Obama.

Najib said despite attempts to show the country in a negative light, especially through the new media, many would learn to appreciate Malaysia when they come here for a visit.

It was important to bring foreign visitors over to help increase their confidence in Malaysia and experience for themselves what the country was about, he said.

In his speech, Najib told diplomats to increase their vigilance and creativity, and take advantage of opportunities that arose for the country.

As Malaysian representatives abroad, he said it was paramount for them to be alert and sensitive to changes and be acutely aware of the challenges that impacted the country.

"We in the government can only perform as we should if you provide us with prompt advice on how we can enhance our relations with other countries.

"You must be able to cultivate and establish networking with the media, NGOs, think tanks and civil societies, as in a globalised world, diplomacy is everybody's business."

Najib said he expected diplomats to master the language of the country they were stationed in and serve with integrity.

"They must be mindful of the government's duty to the people and be willing to learn.

"I also expect you to tell me what you think.

"We (the government) do not need sugar coating.

"We need to know the truth to move ahead, take action when needed and exercise caution when required.

"Above all, I expect you to be creative in overcoming our challenges of limited resources and diplomatic talent."

Also present was Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman.