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‘Hawkins of Arabia’

15 5 0

I have a venerable comrade in the foreign ministry of Australia. His name is Neil Hawkins, and he was the only non-Japanese boss that I ever had during my 27-year diplomatic career. He later became ambassador of Australia to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but our first encounter was in postwar Baghdad in March 2004.

He was the director of development cooperation and senior adviser to the Iraqi Minister of Planning and International Cooperation at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which was virtually an occupational governing entity in Iraq established after the Iraq War of 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussain’s Baathist Iraq.

The CPA was vested with executive, legislative and judicial authorities over Iraq between April 2003 and June 2004. I was seconded to its Office of Development Cooperation from January 2004, succeeding two Japanese diplomats: the late Katsuhiko Oku and Masamori Inoue, who were murdered in Iraq three months earlier.

Hawkins came to our office to coordinate the coalition’s economic cooperation for Iraq. The office consisted of diplomats and engineers from various countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Poland. It was an extraordinary mixture of talent. Our Polish colleague, for example, later became the president of Poland.

Hawkins was indeed the right person to direct the office. He was one of the few men and women inside the CPA headquarters in 2004 who were both aware of the Arab world and fluent in Arabic. I remember he was brought up, if not born, in Cairo and he still speaks beautiful standard Arabic with a perfect Egyptian accent.


© The Japan Times