PUTRAJAYA: Cheras Member of Parliament Tan Kok Wai is not appointed as a Special Envoy but as chairman of the Malaysia-China Business Council (MCBC), Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah clarified.
“His current position is chairman of the MCBC, and as far as Wisma Putra is concerned he is not a Special Envoy,” said Saifuddin.
He was responding to a question on why there were still Special Envoys being appointed amid criticism that their functions overlapped with Wisma Putra diplomats.
It was reported that Tan who is DAP national chairman, was appointed as Special Envoy to China effective Aug 1.
Saifuddin said there was a specific letter of appointment for a Special Envoy.
“To this date there is no such letter (for Tan), so he is, in our context, the chairman of the Malaysia-China Business Council,” said Saifuddin.
He said there was a difference between the past, where the government appointed “too many” Special Envoys, compared to the current situation.
He noted how Tun Daim Zainuddin was appointed as the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to China for a two-day period without pay and with very specific terms of reference.
As Special Envoy Daim made a trip to China last month ahead of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s official visit to the country from Aug 17 to 21.
Saifuddin was also asked whether the government would appoint politicians as diplomats.
“The general understanding is there will be no more political appointees as diplomats,” he said.
However, he added that there was a possibility that an expert in a particular field could be appointed as an ambassador if someone with his or her skills was needed to serve as the country’s representative.
“The problem is that in the past, we have been sending politicians to serve as diplomats but when you compare them to our diplomats, our diplomats are much better.”
Saifuddin was also asked on his comment regarding the appointment of Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor as Malaysia’s facilitator to the Southern Thailand peace process, a move that has been criticised by Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Nurul Izzah is the daughter of PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was assaulted after being arrested on Sept 20, 1998, causing him to appear in court with a black eye.
Abdul Rahim was eventually charged for the assault and received a two-month jail sentence.
He later apologised to Anwar and his family.
“I unequivocally oppose this appointment of a brutal assaulter of an innocent man as he lay there blindfolded & handcuffed – left w/out medical attn for days,” Nurul Izzah tweeted.
Responding to the appointment, Saifuddin expressed his personal opinion.
“I read Nurul Izzah’s tweet on her disappointment, and my personal view is that the family (Anwar’s family) have got their own reason to oppose, and we should respect the family’s position,” he said.