Unease in KL over power of council led by Mahathir loyalist Daim Zainuddin

  • Just two days after they were sworn in and at their first meeting on 4 Jul 18, Malaysia’s full 27-member Cabinet sought and gained an assurance that an advisory council led by long-time Mahathir Mohamad lieutenant Daim Zainuddin was merely tasked to make recommendations, and not decisions.
  • The assurance provided by Prime Minister Mahathir reflected growing concern – both in and out of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition – over the implicit power of the five-man Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), which has effected important personnel changes in government, officials told The Straits Times.
  • These included the resignation of the central bank governor and the country’s two top judges as well as the recent selection of the Speaker of Parliament, which left the two largest parties in PH – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) – embarrassed when their nominee Johari Abdul had to withdraw.
  • Tun Dr Mahathir announced the council immediately after being sworn in as Premier on 10 May 18, saying that it was needed to stabilise a government of inexperienced leaders. But the extent of the cull and restructuring overseen by Tun Daim has led to a pushback from PH leaders, several of whom, including DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, warned against the slippery slope of a fullscale witch-hunt.
  • “PH must never give anyone any basis to think that it is finding any and every excuse, even the slightest one, to get rid of the current crop of leadership at government agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs) to replace them with people aligned to PH. The PH government cannot allow these pernicious practices of the past to take hold again,” Mr Lim said early in Jul 18.
  • The Cabinet was told that the CEP would make suggestions involving the economy, including placement of strategic institutions and individuals, but the concern was that these changes will lock in Mr Daim’s influence beyond 100 days without the need for him to be accountable in a formal role. Mr Daim, 80, was a former economic czar in the 1980s and 1990s – when Dr Mahathir first served as premier – and is a successful businessman in his own right.
  • A source with knowledge of the matter said that efforts to renegotiate contracts for the Light Rail Transit and Mass Rapid Transit systems were opposed by Mr Daim, who pushed for these projects to be re-tendered.
  • “The fact that Cabinet approved Lim’s proposal shows that Daim and Mahathir are not totally of the same mind,” said a PH leader, who also noted that both men had their own teams looking into the 1MDB scandal. “But whether many dare to challenge Daim’s authority remains to be seen.”

External Link: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/unease-in-kl-over-power-of-council-led-by-mahathir-loyalist