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Parliamentary Select Committee on International Affairs should be formed next week to lobby for support of other Commonwealth Parliaments for Rais Yatim’s appointment as Commonwealth Secretary-General

Media Statement       
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Tuesday): An all-party Parliamentary Select Committee on International Affairs should be formed when Parliament meets next week which should have as its first task the lobby for support of other Commonwealth Parliaments for the appointment of Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim as the next Commonwealth Secretary-General. 

At the April meeting of Parliament, I had first raised the issue of a Malaysian candidate for the post for Commonwealth Secretary-General to replace the incumbent Donald C. McKinnon, whose term ends in March next year. 

Although two contenders have been announced before Malaysia declared its candidacy, namely Maltese Foreign Minister Michael Frendo and Indian diplomat Kamlesh Sharma, it will basically be a two-horse race for the leadership of the 53-nation organization in view of the general understanding that it’s Asia’s turn to hold the post. 

The previous Commonwealth secretary-generals have come from other regions, viz:

1.    Arnold Smith (Canada) 1965 – 1975. (10 yrs)

2.    Shridath Ramphal (Guyana) 1975 – 1990. (15 yrs)

3.    Chief Emeka Anyaoku (Nigeria) 1990 – 1999. (9 yrs)

4.    Don McKinnon (New Zealand) 1999 – 2007. (9 years)

The appointment of Rais as Commonwealth Secretary-General will not only be an international credit for Malaysia, but will be good for the country’s future as a full player on the global stage, whether on the great issues of war and peace, democracy,  inter-civilisational and inter-religious dialogue, development or environment. 

As the new Commonwealth secretary general will be decided at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala in November,  there is very little time left to promote Rais’ candidacy to ensure the appointment of a Malaysian to be the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the main inter-governmental agency of the Commonwealth. 

Ideally, consensus should be secured among Asian Commonwealth nations in endorsing Rais’ candidature, which would mean securing the support of the Indian Government to withdraw its candidature to  give way to Rais Yatim.

I will discuss with the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Parliament on Monday whether the government is prepared to support the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on International Affairs, preferably by way of a parliamentary motion before the end of the month.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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