Commentary Politics

Talking in riddles & leaving the people still wondering

Mahathir and Daim have conflicting views on whether the CEP's report should be made public.

Written by Aziz Hassan

March 31, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

WHEN first formed last May just days after Pakatan Harapan’s win in the 14th general elections, the group chaired by former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin was known as the Council of Elders. Not a misnomer, since all members were above 65 years old, but along the way its name was quietly changed to the Council of Eminent Persons. That too something no one could dispute.

No one knows until today what its powers and terms of reference were but Malaysians were told that those the council wanted to see had to attend and attend they all did, including some, like the then top two in the Judiciary, who should not have attended or could have said no, like former minister and Johor Baru MP Tan Sri Shahrir Samad.

The council’s main task was to submit recommendations on the economy to the government, or specifically Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad because we haven’t heard about the report being tabled before the Cabinet.

The only other thing the public knew was that the council was to exist for a 100 days and that one of the groups that would report to it was the Institutional Reforms Committee and recommendations from the latter would be just as crucial to where the country is headed.

It’s been months since both groups submitted their reports but Malaysians remain clueless as to the contents and there have been calls for the reports to be made public.

Amongst those who felt that his report should be made public was Daim himself but added something like a disclaimer that the decision ultimately was for Mahathir to make. As for Mahathir himself, his position in plain Mahathir language was that “it was his business” whether the report should be made public.

Now we appear to have been given renewed hope, according to a report by the Star yesterday. At least the headings on both its front page and page two indicated that, with the latter screaming “Daim: I’ll release CEP report” but read through the story and there is again the disclaimer “…. but that is not for me to decide. I was asked to chair the meetings and get the information… That is my role and I shouldn’t go beyond that.”

Back to (last year’s) square one then.

The riddle became more confusing recently when a deputy minister said that the CEP’s report had been classified under the Officials Secrets Act while Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali thought it didn’t involve national security.

And Mahathir himself: “The government cannot make the Council of Eminent Persons report public as some matters are still at the consultation stage.

“I do not know what it is that that we can’t tell as we revealed almost everything, but there are some matters under consultations and we cannot reveal what we are negotiating until a decision has been reached.”

Revealed almost everything?

So it looks like the report will not be made public for a long while yet and may never be made public, leaving people to guess and speculate.

A government needs to have clarity and present clarity if it is to provide confidence to the people and clarity is something we don’t have.

There have been other instances of contradictory statements from ministers and while Mahathir has spoken about the problems with having many rookies in his Cabinet, much of what has been coming from his ministers has nothing to do with lack of experience. Rather it’s been due to lack of wisdom – and this is something some still don’t have even well after their retirement.

Here’s a recent example on how our ministers have often got their wires all crossed:

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Putrajaya has advised the police not to apply the Sedition Act pending its repeal, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.

The minister in-charge of law also reaffirmed the government’s intention to repeal the law.

Liew was responding to Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai) who asked about the progress of the pledged repeal and whether police would refrain from applying the law until then.

Only for this to appear the next day:

KAJANG: The Sedition Act will continue to be used at the discretion of the police until the law is repealed.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the police could continue to use it but must do so prudently.

“We planned on repealing the law so that no party could say the government was abusing it.

“But now, we can see certain individuals making statements and action is taken against them by the police, mostly for issues on race, religion, and the royal institution.”

He said the Cabinet imposed a moratorium on the law last year but this was suspended following the riots over the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple relocation issue.

You better believe it; there’ll be more.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 

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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.