By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad
SPEAKING on 27 March 2020 when he announced the Prihatin economic stimulus package, PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin noted that: “…this Government may not be the Government that you voted for… I accepted the fact that I came in as your Prime Minister not at the best moment.
“I face political, economic and health crises all at the same time…please bear with me and my friends in the Cabinet and the Government. We are not perfect but we are doing the best we can to pull through this crisis together, as one nation.”
By these words, the PM has acknowledged the controversial circumstances in which he came to power, i.e. the so-called ‘Sheraton Move.’
He has acknowledged that he lacks an electoral mandate and indeed that the Perikatan Nasional administration he heads does not reflect the will of the people of Malaysia.
The latter arguably, is likely true not only for Pakatan Harapan supporters, but also for Malaysians who voted for Barisan Nasional or PAS in the last election.
Let me also be clear that fighting the Covid-19 pandemic is our utmost priority. We support the efforts of the authorities, especially the frontliners risking their lives. And all Malaysians should do so as well. This is a crisis that must transcend our political divide.
Let it not be forgotten (or ignored) that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has said that a no-confidence motion in Parliament is not a priority for Keadilan and PH for the sake of ensuring the various stimulus packages as well as other moves to repair the economy are passed.
It is precisely on that point that the government’s latest actions - in removing certain GLC and statutory body leaders - will do very little to heal this chasm or strengthen public confidence.
The contracts of the Chair and seven board members of MARA were ended. The Chairs of KRI, SOCSO, MPOB, HRDF, PTPK and Bank Rakyat have also been removed.
I had spoken out on the removal of the respected Dr Nungsari Radhi, Chair of Khazanah Research Institute, who was appointed as trustee in 2013 during the BN era, retained during the PH era but recently asked to resign by PN.
On 3 April 2020, Bank Rakyat announced that the tenure of its Chair, Datuk Noripah Kamso, expired effective on that day. It was reported that her actual contract finishes at the end of this year.
The bank is under the purview of the GPS Minister of Entrepreneur Development And Co-operatives, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. As a development financial institution, Bank Negara does not have the same control over Bank Rakyat as it has on commercial banks.
Noripah replaced Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh, who was involved in the original 1MDB audit report. She also comes with stellar experience in the financial sector: CEO of CIMB-Principal Islamic Asset Management Sdn Bhd and also CIMB-Principal Asset Management Sdn Bhd.
She was chairman of the Islamic Finance Industry Council, Malaysia-US Chamber Of Commerce and a former president of Malaysian Futures Brokers Association.
The previous chair of Socso is Zakri Khir, the first Malaysian to be appointed as country manager for Allianz Malaysia Berhad. The media reported that he was asked to resign to be replaced by Bersatu Sabak Bernam MP Datuk Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh.
Unfortunately, whoever orchestrated it did not realise that an elected representative is barred from being on Socso’s board.
Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh was asked to resign as chair of MPOB. An experienced plantation man who spent time in Felda, FGV and Sime Darby, he resigned from the 1MDB board in protest at improprieties taking place in the company. Umno Machang MP, Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub takes his place.
The new PTPK Chair is PAS Pasir Mas MP, Ahmad Fadhli Shaari.
There have been media reports that other GLCs and agencies will see personnel changes with the new government.
What is disturbing about some of these changes is that the vacancies they create have or will be filled by MPs from PN.
Now, it is true that every government has the right to fill public positions as they see fit, especially in the case of political appointees.
Yet it is an unhealthy trend if many MPs are appointed to replace professional technocrats as mentioned above.
It seems that the Prime Minister is not confident of the loyalty of backbencher, hvaing had to expand the number of ministers and deputy ministers. The number of ministers has expanded from 27 during the PH era to 32 under PN; whilst deputy ministers increased from 26 to 38.
Is the PM not confident in the loyalty of PN’s component parties that he has to radically expand the concept of the payroll vote to reward so many backbench MPs even at the expense of technocrats?
Lest I be accused of hypocrisy, when PH was still in power, I opposed the wholesale removal of GLC heads who had been appointed by the government we had replaced.
I argued that, while those who had engaged in partisan actions or were implicated in mismanagement and wrongdoing like the 1MDB scandal had to go, other appointees who had shown merit and integrity should have been retained.
I certainly felt then - as I do now - that we need a new modus vivendi for dealing such matters in Malaysia.
If we don’t, each change of government - which, let’s face it, will likely be the norm rather than the exception moving forward - is likely to result in wholesale “purges” in public life.
Something will get lost in the mix - whether it is existing talent irretrievably lost or new blood becoming reluctant to serve because of instability of tenure.
Nik Nazmi is Pakatan Harapan MP for Setiawangsa.