THE recent remarks by US President Donald Trump about a leaked document which carried some honest and hot observations made by Sir Kim Darroch, the UK’s top diplomat in Washington DC about the US president are unfortunate.
Darroch is the classic diplomat, an outstanding loyal civil servant providing his government with certain impressions of his host government through what he believed were secured communication. Governments invest heavily in securing communication networks and leakages, if they occur, are a rarity.
The British ambassador had provided an unvarnished but verified report of what he believed he knew. He acted with honesty, sincerity and dedication with his own government. These are qualities that all governments expect of their diplomats.
In their diplomatic missions they often deliberate and discuss the political, economic and other pressing and prominent issues that affect their host country. These are compiled into dispatches which are sent to their headquarters. The Vienna Convention provides for the immunity and inviolability of these diplomatic premises which are treated like another country’s sovereign territory.
While Trump’s reaction was not extraordinary, it was inappropriate. Silence on his part would have been extraordinary in tiding over a minor hiccup in an important bilateral relationship.
Trump has been largely silent and sympathetic to the wrong party about another incident that took place within another diplomatic/ consular premises. We can recall the brutal butchering of a distinguished Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct 2, 2018.
Khashoggi had gone to his country’s diplomatic mission to obtain a much needed document and this extrajudicial killing took place apparently with the full acquiescence of the Saudi Arabian authorities. Had Trump expressed some concern over that killing that would have shown some humanity and compassion on his part. His silence and inaction suggests collusion with a rogue regime that went the extra mile to kill its own national in its diplomatic premises.
Diplomats represent their countries abroad to safeguard their country’s interest. Their main function is to protect, safeguard and enhance their country’s interests.
To represent their countries well they cannot allow themselves to be compromised in any way by receiving any kind of advantage, bribe, favour or facility that would cloud or weaken their commitment and loyalty to their country.
Yet with all these constraints diplomats are expected to remain diplomatic, civil, cultured, polite and persuasive to their host government. Invariably that would involve some circumspection on their part.
The ultimate sacrifice that a diplomat must be prepared for is to sacrifice his life for the protection, prestige and prosperity of his country.
Datuk M Santhananaban