In a twist, Wisma Putra has now declared that DAP's Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai has yet to be appointed the government's special envoy to China.
In a report by The Star, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah clarified that the DAP chairperson is merely the chairperson of the Malaysia-China Business Council (MCBC).
“His current position is chairperson of the MCBC, and as far as Wisma Putra is concerned, he is not a special envoy.
“To this date there is no such letter (for Tan to be made special envoy), so he is, in our context, the chairperson of the Malaysia-China Business Council,” Saifuddin was quoted saying in the report today.
This contradicts an earlier news report that Tan had been named special envoy to China effective Aug 1, replacing the role held by former MCA president Ong Ka Ting under the previous BN government.
The appointment of Tan was also confirmed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Liew Vui Keong, in Parliament.
The de facto law minister informed the Dewan Rakyat that Tan would not enjoy minister status.
In subsequent tweets, Saifuddin clarified the matter, acknowledging the appointment, but stated that at the time of the interview with The Star, he did not know Tan's role as the "Terms of Reference and official appointment letter" was not available.
"Betullah (it's true). He (Tan) has been appointed special envoy. But we have not been informed if he has received the appointment letter. Itu jer (that is all)," the minister tweeted.
Tan's appointment drew flax from opposition leaders, as Pakatan Harapan had previously criticised BN on such appointments, citing wastage of government funds.
However, DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke stated that Tan’s (photo) appointment as the special envoy to China does not go against the Harapan election manifesto.
Loke, who is also transport minister, said the manifesto only stated that there would be no political appointees for government-linked companies (GLCs), but not as government representatives.
To a question from The Star, Saifuddin said there would be no more political appointees as diplomats.
Malaysiakini has contacted Tan for a response.
Meanwhile, MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong took to Facebook to lambast the Harapan government for the contradicting statements made on the matter.
"The question now is, whose words do we follow? The foreign minister or the official parliamentary response? ...perhaps the foreign minister has overruled the decision of the prime minister to appoint Tan as the special envoy.
"Prior to this, Ong was the special envoy for the prime minister, without accepting a salary and at the same time, he was the chairperson of the MCBC. Those are two different posts, don't be confused," Wee, who is the MP for Ayer Hitam, posted today.
Wee also urged the Foreign Ministry to be more "proactive" in coordinating with the Prime Minister's Department in future, to avoid Malaysia from being ridiculed.