Disrespectful envoys should leave
By Sulaiman Rejab (September 15, 2005)
I was appalled to read about British High Commissioner Bruce Cleghorn and Hungarian Ambassador Tomas Toth staging a walkout when former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad was delivering his speech at a human rights conference.
Envoys were doing their job
By MB (September 16, 2005)
I read with a smile Sulaiman Rejab’s breathless demand that British and Hungarian diplomats apologise for walking out during a recent speech by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 - Britain's envoy to Malaysia walked out in disgust on a speech by former premier Mahathir Mohamad on Friday after he used a human-rights conference to accuse Britain and its U.S. ally of murdering Iraqis.
Bruce Cleghorn left the conference room in Kuala Lumpur after Mahathir, an outspoken and veteran critic of the West's approach to human rights, said British and U.S. policies had killed more Iraqis than former ruler Saddam Hussein was ever accused of.
"Unfortunately I found myself listening to abuse and misrepresentation about my country. I therefore left," High Commissioner Cleghorn said in a statement.
Mahathir, whom critics accuse of abusing civil rights during his time in office, told the conference that before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, U.N. economic sanctions had led to the death of around 500,000 infants there.
"At the time this was happening where were the people who were concerned with human rights?" he added. "Did they expose the abusers of Britain and America? Did they protest against their own government? No. It is because they, the enemy, are killed."
Britain and Washington then launched their invasion on false pretences, breaking international laws on human rights, he said, going on to describe U.S. and British bombers as murderers.
"The British and American bomber pilots came, unopposed, safe and cosy in their state-of-the-art aircraft, pressing buttons to drop bombs, to kill and maim real people who were their targets, just targets," he said.
A few other diplomats also walked out on the speech, witnesses said. The U.S. embassy had decided on Thursday not to send its delegate to listen to Mahathir's speech, in line with some human rights groups who also boycotted the speech.
But Mahathir, who sits on a global committee backing Saddam's defence at his upcoming trial, was unrepentant.
"As much as they have the right to criticise me, they should also give me the right to criticise them," said the 80-year-old, who was criticised by some Western governments in the late 1990s over the jailing of his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.
"But if you don't want to hear my criticisms of them, then you are denying my right to speak up."
Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore also walked out on a dinner hosted by Mahathir during a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, after saluting rights activists supporting Anwar.