KOTA KINABALU: Former minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok has been named Malaysia’s first resident ambassador to the Vatican.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the Prime Minister had agreed for Dompok to be the ambassador.
He is expected to begin his duties in January after the necessary paper work is completed.
He said Dompok, a former Sabah chief minister and Upko president, will be based in Rome but would be ambassador for Malta and Albania once his appointment is finalised.
“We feel that he is the right choice in many aspects. He has also met previous Popes during his visits,” the Foreign Minister told reporters after meeting with his visiting Czech Republic counterpart Lubomir Zaoralek here yesterday.
Malaysia formalised relations with the Vatican in 2011 after Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visit there in July that year and was covered by the Malaysian mission in Bern, Switzerland.
Dompok, who quit politics after he lost the Penampang parliament seat in the 2013, was a member of Najib’s delegation that met Pope Benedict XVI and had also accompanied former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to the Vatican in 2002.
Anifah also announced the appointments of two other retired Sabah civil servants – Datuk Ghulam Jelani as ambassador to Brunei and Datuk Adeline Leong as Malaysia’s trade attache to Taiwan.
On the formation of a Sabah committee to study and negotiate with the Federal Government on matters due to the state, Anifah said he expected it by December and negotiations to begin by January.
He said they were selecting neutral individuals from NGOs, academics as well as former leaders like former Sabah ministers Tan Sri Ghani Gilong and Datuk Ayub Aman as well as businessman Tan Sri Majid Khan who was associated with the formation of Malaysia.
He said the terms of reference for the committee would be worked out in due course.
“What we have established so far is that Sabah is a partner in Malaysia and not a state,” he said, adding that the committee would study various rights due to Sabah based on the Constitution, Malaysia Agreement and Inter-Governmental Report.