Great unease amid fears Daim calling the shots to GLCs – and not the respective ministers

On May 11, last year, barely two days after Pakatan Harapan won GE14, Daim Zainuddin together with three others besides him were appointed as the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP).

The other members of the CEP were tycoon Robert Kuok, former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Hassan Merican and prominent economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The appointment of Daim to head this powerful council shocked, not least because it was done even before the appointment of the full cabinet,and even though he had no public mandate.

Daim usurped the functions of many ministries. He and the CEP became the source from which economic and corporate policy emanated. Ironically, the CEP report remains classified secret under the Official Secrets Act.

Daim and his associates (which later included Dr Muhammad Abdul Khalid, the brother of Daim’s second wife Naimah Khalid, who became the country’s new economic adviser in August 2018) apparently interrogated many leaders of government-linked companies and investment companies (GLCs, GLICs). Stories are still told how some corporate leaders, in tears, appealed to Daim to retain their jobs

Apart from the resignation in June 2018 of Bank Negara governor, Muhammad Ibrahim, the most prominent case of this was when Daim was alleged to have forced the country’s two top judges, Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin to resign too

In June 2018 too, Wahid Omar resigned as chairman of Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) to be replaced by Zeti. In August the same year, Abdul Rahman Ahmad moved to the Sime Darby board from CEO of PNB. He was replaced by Invesco Ltd Singapore investment director Jalil Rasheed. Abdul Rahman is now chairman of Sime Darby, a more ceremonial position compared to his hands-on position as PNB CEO

In August 2018 the entire Khazanah Nasional Bhd board resigned. The Employees Provident Fund CEO Shahril Ridza Ridzuan moved over to Khazanah, and his deputy at EPF, Tunku Alizakri Alias took over as EPF CEO

There was also a slew of changes at places like Felda, FGV, Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera and Tabung Haji, with extensive shifts and moves at the top.

Basically, the whole face of GLCs and GLICs had changed in just three months since the change of power.

Two things may have motivated these moves. One, to replace those who may have transgressed established corporate principles of governance or the law to line their own pockets, with those who would potentially have better standards

The other is less savoury – it may have to do with putting people in the corridors of power over multiple valuable assets who may not have much emotional attachment to selling them and set the stage for a transfer of at least some valuable assets to those who may be sympathetic to Daim, the man who have considerable influence in the economy, business and corporate happenings of the country.

In fact, Daim, even after the 100-day expiry of the CEP, plays a major role in what should be handled by the ministries, such as the renegotiation of the RM44 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, as well as the RM10 billion pipeline project, both with China companies

Sources say Daim is also deeply involved in matters related to 1MDB, which is owned by the Minister of Finance Inc. He also plays a role in settling disputes relating to other projects such as the huge condominium project in the Bukit Kiara park area which is vehemently opposed by residents there

In fact, corporate observers say there is no major government project in Malaysia which escapes the scrutiny of Daim, and hence he, all of which shows that Mahathir has not only an iron grip in all matters related to the government, but to pretty much most of corporate Malaysia as well

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