Najib: Envoy acted outside his sphere of duty

The Star, November 15, 2007
SINGAPORE: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has dismissed claims by outgoing European Commission ambassador to Malaysia Thierry Rommel that the country is living under “an effective state of emergency.”

The Deputy Prime Minister said the criticism was made outside Rommel’s sphere of responsibility as an envoy.
“An envoy cannot interfere in the domestic affairs of the country he is assigned to and cannot express personal opinions.
“His opinions must reflect the views of the organisation he represents,” Najib, who is Defence Minister, told reporters here yesterday.
Najib, who is here to attend the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting, was asked to comment on a Reuter’s report that quoted Rommel’s criticisms of Malaysia following police action to disperse the Bersih demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
Saying the criticisms were contrary to the truth, Najib added:
“Firstly, Malaysia is not in a state of emergency and, secondly, the police were only enforcing the law. Every country is entitled to have its own laws.”
Najib said police used tear gas and water cannons as a last resort after the crowd refused to disperse from the illegal gathering.
To allegations by Rommel, who completed his tour of duty on Tuesday, that Malaysian elections were unfair, Najib said:
“We subscribe to specific electoral laws. The important thing is, these laws are transparent.
“For example, representatives of opposition parties are allowed to be present at every stage of the counting of votes. Therefore, there is no avenue to cheat.
“Furthermore, the Election Commission is an independent body.
“The point is that the government (ruling party) has lost in elections,” he said, citing the Kelantan state government that is ruled by PAS, a non-Barisan Nasional party.
“In one constituency, an opposition party won by only two votes. If we (the Barisan) could cheat, it would not be impossible for us to manipulate to make the ruling party victorious even in that constituency,” he added.
Najib said political parties were allowed to own newspapers and they could publish news criticising the Government, adding that the opposition also held ceramah where the listeners outnumbered those held by the ruling party.
On another matter criticised by Rommel, the Deputy Prime Minister said the policy to help bumiputras was a national agenda but it did not mean the Government was unfair to non-bumiputras.