KUALA LUMPUR: Former Perlis Mentri Besar Tan Sri Dr Abdul Hamid Pawanteh was sworn in as the new Dewan Negara president at its sitting here.
He takes over from Tan Sri Michael Chen whose term as senator ended in April.
Dr Abdul Hamid tendered his resignation as MP for Kangar on Thursday to assume his new post.
During a break on his first day on the job at the lobby of Parliament House, Dr Abdul Hamid recalled being asked 10 days ago if he would accept the post as Dewan Negara president.
He said the Deputy Prime Minister, after sensing the offer had taken him by surprise, gave him a day to think it over.
The next day, he said, he told Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that it would be an honour to assume the post.
“I am grateful and awed for the recognition because I do realise the relative importance the position has become, at this stage of transition in leadership,” he said.
Dr Abdul Hamid has three months to divest his interest in the corporate sector.
These include the chairmanship of public listed Amalgamated Industrial Steel Bhd and of Teknologi Tenaga Perlis Consortium Sdn Bhd.
Although the corporate sector was more financially rewarding than the Dewan Negara presidency, Dr Abdul Hamid said he did not regret the sacrifice.
One of the issues he hoped to tackle was to change the widely held misconception that the Dewan Negara was a mere rubber stamp which he believed was “not healthy for parliamentary democracy and for the nation.”
On his first day on the job, Dr Abdul Hamid said he immediately sensed the difference in the quality of debates in the Dewan Negara.
“There is less interjection and less posturing for political mileage, so substance comes through better,” he said. Penang-born Dr Abdul Hamid was a medical officer from 1975 to 1978.
He became Arau MP in 1982 to 1984 and was Dewan Rakyat deputy president from 1984 to1986 before becoming Perlis Mentri Besar, a post he held for 10 years.
In 1999, he became Kangar MP. Shortly after, he declared that he would not be standing in the next general election.