KL foreign minister chides colleagues for 'interference'

He says it's regrettable some Cabinet ministers took action on Chinese envoy issue without referring to him first

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman is fuming mad, ticking off his Cabinet colleagues for interfering in the decision to summon the Chinese envoy, Dr Huang Huikang, in connection with his remarks last Friday in Petaling Street.

Datuk Seri Anifah warned his Cabinet colleagues not to repeat their actions which he deemed as attempts at usurping his ministerial duties.

Dr Huang raised eyebrows after he said that China "opposes terrorism and any form of discrimination against races", in an apparent reference to a pro-Malay "red shirt" rally that took place on Sept 16.

He also warned that China "will not sit idly by" when there is "infringement on China's national interests or violations of legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens and businesses".

He was speaking a day before another threatened "red shirt" rally in Petaling Street, which did not materialise. The remarks sparked calls in Malaysia for Dr Huang to apologise or to be sent back to China.

NO MEDDLING NEEDED

This matter could have been solved well by Wisma Putra without the interference of other ministers.

MALAYSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH AMAN, on his colleagues' statements over the decision to summon the Chinese envoy

He was also summoned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz took Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican to task for calling in Dr Huang over his remarks.

Over the weekend, with Prime Minister Najib Razak and Mr Anifah in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Datuk Seri Nazri was reported to have met the Chinese envoy.

A photo of the meeting was featured in Sin Chew Daily, which said that Mr Nazri later discussed the issue with fellow Cabinet colleagues, who agreed Dr Huang need not explain himself to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. "The normal practice in Cabinet when one minister is not in the country - only another minister can act on his behalf, not his own deputy minister," Mr Nazri was quoted as saying.

On Monday, Sin Chew Daily reported that Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin - standing in for Mr Anifah - had reversed the decision to summon Dr Huang, after yet another meeting with the ambassador in Putrajaya.

Mr Nazri yesterday acknowledged he made a mistake in meeting the envoy on Sunday, but said he had no intention of interfering in the affairs of the foreign ministry. He was speaking after Mr Anifah said in a statement from New York that it was common practice for his ministry to summon ambassadors, adding that he did not retract instructions to summon the Chinese envoy to seek clarification about his remarks in Petaling Street. Mr Anifah said his colleagues' interference had created a "negative perception" among the public.

He said: "This is not the first time an ambassador has been called by Wisma Putra. Wisma Putra has done the same with the American and Vatican ambassadors and Singapore High Commissioner in the past."

He added: "I was also of the opinion that the issue does not need to be brought to the ministerial level because as a usual practice, it is handled by senior Wisma Putra officers." Mr Anifah said that it was regrettable that several Cabinet ministers had issued press statements and taken action without referring to him first.

"This matter could have been solved well by Wisma Putra without the interference of other ministers."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'KL foreign minister chides colleagues for 'interference''. Print Edition | Subscribe