- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2008

MALAYSIAN CONTROVERSY

Malaysian political insiders are aghast over reports that a former ambassador to the United States is lobbying to regain his old position in Washington and hoping to win diplomatic approval quietly from the outgoing Bush administration to avoid scrutiny from the Obama White House.

Abdul Khalid Ghazzali, ambassador here from 1999 to 2006, left Washington under a cloud because of his connections to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges a few months before Mr. Ghazzali returned to Malaysia and resigned from the foreign service.

The controversy erupted in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, after the Web blog, Malaysia Today, recently reported that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi planned to reappoint Mr. Ghazzali. Members of Parliament later raised questions about the reports. A spokesman for the Malaysian Embassy in Washington said the government has made “no formal announcement” about a new ambassador.

Another blogger, Abu Muzamil Khan, claimed that the prime minister is trying to “sneak the appointment [through] during the [U.S.] presidential transition.”

In a 2006 news conference, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad admitted that Abramoff received $1.2 million to arrange a meeting between him and President Bush in 2002, but Mr. Mahathir insisted that none of the money came from the Malaysian government.

However, U.S. Senate investigators established links between Abramoff and the Malaysian Embassy while Mr. Ghazzali was ambassador. In a guilty plea, Abramoff admitted that the embassy paid money to a fake think tank, the American International Center, established by an associate of his in a Delaware beach house.

Mr. Khan, in an e-mail, added that political insiders are speculating that Mr. Ghazzali, who still claims close ties on Capitol Hill, is being sent back to Washington to “fend off the likely outcry that is expected as a new politically motivated show trial” begins against Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister under Mr. Mahathir who later led a democracy opposition movement.

In Washington, Ambassador Rajmah Hussain replaced Mr. Ghazzali in 2006 but returned to Malaysia earlier this year.

MCGEE HONORED

As the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, James D. McGee, has criticized government repression, encouraged ordinary Zimbabweans to hope for better times and faced official condemnation for his efforts.

“Ultimately you are working to make life better for the Zimbabwean people, and we deeply hope that that will soon come,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told him Tuesday as she presented him with the Diplomacy for Freedom Award.

“It will come only, though, if there is a concerted international response, especially by the countries of the region, and you lead the effort internationally.”

Mr. McGee took up his position in Zimbabwe a year ago and has never ceased calling on President Robert Mugabe to respect the human rights of the citizens of the southern African nation. However, Mr. Mugabe has attempted to crush any political opposition in a nation wracked by hunger, hyperinflation and a growing cholera epidemic.

Mr. Mugabe’s government publicly acknowledged a national health crisis for the first time Wednesday.

Story Continues →