KOTA KINABALU: Gabungan Rakyat Sabah's (GRS) Papar MP Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali was taken by surprise over his appointment as the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of Sabah and Sarawak Affairs.
The 46-year-old said that he received a call from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a few minutes before the Prime Minister announced the Cabinet line-up on Friday (Dec 2).
"He (Anwar) called a few minutes before the announcement asking whether I'm in KL. Yes, it was a surprise," Armizan said when contacted on Saturday (Dec 3).
He said the portfolio to handle Sabah and Sarawak matters was a challenging one but the issues of East Malaysian rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was close to his heart.
"It is going to be challenging for me as a first-time minister. This is a new and unique political landscape for me to work with a combination of ministers under a unity government," he said.
Nevertheless, he said his portfolio relates to the long-standing voices of the people of Sabah and Sarawak who want to be recognised as two regions in the Federation of Malaysia.
"These two regions of Borneo are aspiring to be given due attention and recognition to meet their aspirations to strengthen the Malaysian Federation," he said, adding that he has been working on the state rights issues under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor since 2020.
Previously, he also worked under the team of former minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who was in charge of Sabah and Sarawak issues.
Armizan's appointment came as a surprise to many in Sabah as GRS was widely seen to be aligned to Perikatan Nasional.
He is the treasurer for Sabah Bersatu, which is a member of the GRS coalition that threw its support for Anwar's unity government after initially supporting Perikatan's Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Armizan is the son of a former Sabah assistant minister, the late Datuk Norjan Khan Bahadar and nephew to Kawang assemblyman Datuk Ghulamhaidar Khan Bahadar, who is Yayasan Sabah director.
Prior to his appointment, Armizan was Hajiji's chief political secretary.