Politics

Furore over political appointments to Khazanah board

Mahathir Khazanah

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – July 31, 2017: An active  debate in cyberspace has ensued after Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday appointed himself as chairman of sovereign investment fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad.

Those against argue that the decision is yet another that contradicts Pakatan Harapan’s electoral promise that politicians will not be appointed to any government-linked company.

Aside from Mahathir, Economic Affairs Minister cum PKR deputy-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is also on the five-member board to replace the former board that resigned en bloc last week by submitting undated resignation letters.

Twitter user Chevalier Delaisse thinks that the duo’s appointments have negated Pakatan’s reform agenda which is to have a clear-cut separation of power in the government.

“The whole point of Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia) is to change old practices, not to defend them. This looks like a political appointment to me. Are we not supposed to unshackle ourselves?”

Another user, Ismet Raja, pointed out that the controversial appointments reek of hypocrisy, adding that the Pakatan government was simply imitating the so-called wrongdoings of the former Barisan Nasional government.

“I thought this is a new Malaysia? What is so new (about the country) if it’s going to be business as usual? Pakatan had, in the past, said that this kind of appointment is wrong so why is that this time it’s okay,” read his tweet.

Umno Youth deputy chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan also spoke out, adding that it does not mirror the so-called transparent and fairness of the new Malaysia.

“The 22nd promise in the manifesto of Pakatan states that the board of directors of GLCs will be selected based on their professional, not political, merits. It’s clear that Pakatan has broken its promise,” he wrote at Facebook.

Shahril added that what made the matter more worrying was the the appointments were made following last week’s resignations.

“If Khazanah is not giving the government the kind of returns it wants the government must specify the direction,” wrote Shahril in reference to reports that Mahathir had refused to see former managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar since Pakatan won the elections on May 9.

Those who defended the appointments however retorted that the promise in the manifesto only applies to GLCs, not government linked investment companies or GLICs.

“Khazanah is not a GLC but a wholly-owned government strategic investment fund. Pakatan’s promise is for GLCs like companies that are owned by Khazanah. Khazanah’s board should comprise the prime minister, ministers and independent directors,” tweeted Derek Tan.

Facebooker Johaizal Johari echoed Tan’s contention and further argued that the prime minister will almost always chair any of the country’s GLIC given its 100 per cent government ownership.

“What Pakatan wants to avoid is doing BN’s practices such as appointing Tan Sri Isa Samad as Felda’s chairman, Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim as Tabung Haji’s and Datuk Nawawi Ahmad as KTMB’s (Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad),” wrote Johaizal.

While he has no objection with Mahathir chairing Khazanah, Syahredzan Johan, the political secretary of DAP leader Lim Kit Siang, initially tweeted that the government must explains Azmin’s appointment.

“Why Economic Affairs Minister (Azmin) was appointed is something the government must explain because it goes against the manifesto.”

But hours later he insisted that he was okay with the duo’s appointments but still wanted the government to explain, given the manifesto-related controversy the move had created.

Aside from Azmin, the new directors are former Petronas chief executive Tan Sri Hassan Marican, former Bank Negara deputy governor Dr. Sukhdave Singh and Shangri-La Hotels (Malaysia) non-executive director Goh Ching Yin.

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Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]