CNA – Malaysian Member of Parliament for Pasir Salak Tajuddin Abdul Rahman has dismissed criticisms of his appointment as ambassador to Indonesia, while noting that some of what was said was unfair to him.
Putrajaya’s decision to pick the controversial 74-year-old politician and former chairman of public transport company Prasarana to replace senior diplomat Zainal Abidin Bakar has been heavily criticised.
Malaysian media reported Tajuddin as saying that he was more comfortable in staying silent for the time being, and would only comment at the right time.
He, however, had taken to heart some of the criticisms and accusations, which he said were not fair to him, reported Malay daily Utusan Malaysia.
“They do not know me, but only as an old man when actually I have served the government, country and people for more than 45 years, since the age of 25,” Tajuddin was quoted as saying.
“I will be silent for now and will only speak when the time comes,” he added, after attending a Hari Raya open house in Kuala Terengganu on Friday, according to Utusan.
Tajuddin reportedly said that he would be leaving for Indonesia this week when he would take up his post as ambassador.
Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob confirmed last Wednesday that Tajuddin’s new appointment as an envoy had been agreed upon by Indonesian president Joko Widodo.
Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri noted that Tajuddin has received a letter from the Indonesian president over the appointment.
“We have agreed to appoint (Tajuddin) and Indonesia has also agreed to it,” Bernama quoted Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri as saying.
He also pointed out that Tajuddin was a seasoned and experienced politician. He said that everyone should wait until he has commenced his duty as ambassador.
Tajuddin, who was chairman of Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, a government-owned public transportation company, was criticised for his handling of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) collision in Kuala Lumpur last year.
In a press conference following the crash near KLCC, Tajuddin was reported as saying that the accident which left more than 210 passengers injured was two trains “kissing”.
His service as Prasarana chairman was terminated with immediate effect following public criticisms of his conduct.
He is no stranger to controversy. For example, Tajuddin referred to Muar lawmaker Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman as a “child” during a heated parliamentary debate in 2020.
In 2015, when he was serving as deputy agriculture minister, he said that the Chinese community would be “slapped” if they sought help from overseas over their grouses.
News about Tajuddin’s appointment drew strong reactions from the opposition in Malaysia, with some asking for the appointment to be withdrawn.
A Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) MP Sim Tze Tzin had asked Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri to explain the government’s decision to appoint him, saying that Tajuddin was not fit to fill such an important position.
Another PKR MP Maria Chin Abdullah also questioned whether with the appointment, Tajuddin would also step down as MP for Pasir Salak.
If Tajuddin did not step down as MP, it meant that he was irresponsible and lacked foresight if he did not think about his voters, she was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.
An online petition was started last week by a group calling themselves Bangsa Malaysia to reject the appointment.
It has reportedly garnered more than 20,000 signatures so far.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said that it was the prerogative of the Malaysian government to appoint Tajuddin.
Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah was quoted by Tempo Daily as saying that Indonesia wished to stay out of the internal affairs of Malaysia.
“We are aware of the various commentaries in the local media linked to the dynamics of Malaysia’s domestic politics. We should not get involved,” he said, according to Tempo.