Friday, February 26, 2010

Ex-PKR man Zahrain with BN govt’s delegation to Washington?

Ex-PKR man Zahrain defends govt’s Washington talk

By Debra Chong | KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 2010. - malaysianinsider 

Newly-independent MP Datuk Zahrain Hashim (picture) today backed the federal government which has come under attack over a recent seminar organised by a lobby group in Washington DC two days ago.

The federal lawmaker for Bayan Baru, who quit PKR earlier this month, was part of a Malaysian government delegation present in the US capital for a “Governance and Rule of Law” seminar organised by an American lobby group, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with the support of Malaysian Ambassador Datuk Jamaluddin Jarjis.

“The main aim of the delegation was to inform them about the shift in foreign policy of the Malaysian government towards the USA and I think YB Nazri and the ambassador JJ did a good job contrary to what was said in Malaysia Today,” Zahrain said, referring to an account of the seminar posted fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Malaysia Today website.

“I bear witness. The main agenda was the trade issue,” the former PKR Penang chief told The Malaysian Insidertoday in a text message.

“Questions on Anwar trial, Allah issue and caning of three Muslim women were raised but the minister handled it well by emphasising on the rule of law, which I think was accepted by most of the audience,” added Zahrain, who said he was still in Washington DC.

A panel of three were billed to speak but only Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz showed up. Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad failed to make the event.

The DAP’s Lim Kit Siang yesterday slammed the closed-door seminar as a waste of public funds to influence public opinion in the US over issues like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy prosecution.

Lim also claimed that the crowd at the seminar was dismal, saying “one account put it as about 40 people”.

“Has the Malaysian government achieved its purpose in the CSIS seminar, in convincing Washington opinion about the justice, propriety and justification for the Anwar Ibrahim Sodomy II prosecution and persecution?” the DAP parliamentary opposition leader quizzed.

“From all accounts, the answer must be an unequivocal ‘No’. The ‘strangest’ cloak-and-dagger CSIS seminar in Washington is not a coup for the new Malaysian ambassador to Washington, Jamaluddin Jarjis but a major blot on his record book,” Lim added.

“I agree with the former United States Ambassador to Malaysia, John R Mallot, who had described the seminar as the ‘strangest’ he had attended in Washington DC.
“The last-minute conversion of the CSIS seminar into an ‘off-the-record’ session gave it a cloak-and-dagger character that what Nazri said in his speech and Q & A cannot stand public and international scrutiny. Mallot said that it was ‘unusual’ for the session to be off-the-record, which is ‘very rare for a Washington think-tank’,” said the Ipoh-Timur MP.

CSIS had earlier sent out invitations to the media and said the seminar would be on-the-record and open for coverage but changed its stand at the last minute.

Nazri’s speech and the subsequent question-and-answer session were also cut short.

Among other federal lawmakers who had attended the talk were Wee Choo Keong (PKR-Wangsa Maju) and Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (Umno-Pasir Salak) but they did not reply when contacted by The Malaysian Insider.