Commentary Politics

For Lim Guan Eng it’s follow the leader

Guan Eng

Guan Eng

Written by Aziz Hassan

August 28, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

IT’S been close to four months since Malaysia elected in a new government and in most stable democracies, a clear-cut victory similar to that given by the people to the Pakatan Harapan coalition should have been good enough to allow it to get on with the job of governing, whatever the problems it says it had to inherit from the previous administration.

For one thing, the elections on May 9 meant that all campaigning ceased by midnight the day before and any missile fired onto the defeated Barisan Nasional after that would have been of no consequence, bar some ego trip for the victors. Maybe the (over) excitement of finally being in the government instead of on the opposite side for 61 straight long years was simply too unbelievable and unthinkable to the point that a few of the Pakatan leaders have still managed to shake the excitement off and get on with the job at hand.

Then there is the case of coming out with one statement after another to demonise the previous government, especially former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. As it is now it’s difficult to say if these statements have been a revelation because the allegations have not yet been proven by any independent person or body, certainly not by an audit or by the courts.

A claim of impropriety against a political foe is only of some use if it can be proven while the latter is in office because this may be sufficient to convince voters to boot him and his party out but what gains are there to be had when the man and his party are already out of office?

Thus it leaves one asking where Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was leading to when he made the remark a couple of days ago about Najib and his band of thieves. The advantage about being the government is that you have all the information you need at the snap of your fingers, especially when it comes to money that is disbursed, to who and where it goes to from there.

Mahathir said there were civil servants who got RM200,000 a month but didn’t outline what the money was for, if indeed that much was paid. He also talked about how of the RM300 million approved for projects had a third of it siphoned off, again by government officers. While the first part is not too difficult to comprehend, the latter can be quite muddled because how many civil servants can just run away with RM100 million from an approved fund of RM300 million when many others are involved to get the money moving along the line? If something like this did happen, it then brings into question about what the accountant-general and auditor-general were doing.

If something like the above and some other nonsense had taken place over several years, it makes the two senior appointees looked much worse in terms of living up to what was expected of them and how they did their work.

The best way forward is for the Pakatan government is to not waste time talking about past indiscretions but to take those accused of being responsible to court. Anything less would not do the new government’s reputation any good and is also a most unfair damning allegation against Najib.

Then there is the issue with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who people familiar with accounting say should be an auditor instead of a minister in a senior portfolio. Among those not entirely excited about the Pakatan government, Lim looks to be the most unpopular choice, a joke in fact. His firing of one arrow after another at Najib and the previous government is definitely an overdose but with No. 1 man Mahathir doing the same, it is highly unlikely Lim will find it necessary to finally stop making all these statements against Najib and get on with governing, which is a minister’s utmost responsibility.

The other point the Pakatan ministers appear to completely miss the point concerns contracts and agreements, seemingly adopting a personal position instead of looking at it from a legal perspective.

Surely an employment contract or one between a company and a ministry doesn’t specify that it’s with the “(Barisan Nasional) government” or the “government of Malaysia under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak”. It would simply read between “company X and the Ministry of…..” or “between Mr. XXX and company ABC”.

Which means that it is a lawful and valid contract or agreement, regardless which government agreed to it. To say that a contract will not be honoured because it was decided by the previous government would be acting against the basic principles of the law of contract. Imagine the message this attitude is giving to potential investors.

The two cases that come to mind are the employment contract involving former 1MDB president and chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy, which was made into an issue by Lim, and the agreement with the Armed Forces Fund Board or LTAT regarding the Automated Enforcement System, which Transport Minister Anthony Loke said that the government had no intention of respecting and honouring.

It looks like that is still a lot that the Pakatan government has to do to straighten itself and provide confidence to the people.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.