Malaysia's top adviser Daim on shocking abuses by previous govt: 'Luckily I did not have a heart attack'

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

KUALA LUMPUR - Tun Daim Zainuddin says he is lucky to have escaped a heart attack after coming across so many abuses by the previous government.

The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman, wrapping up the body’s 100-day mandate, said none of his other members thought the problems would be that pervasive and systemic.

“While the council took cognisance of the weaknesses in the financial condition and level of poor governance in the (past) government and agencies, we did not expect the magnitude and severity of the problems to be this serious.

“We are disappointed that those entrusted to protect the nation let us down.

“There are so many shocking things. Luckily I did not have a heart attack,” he told a press conference at Menara Ilham here yesterday.

The CEP was formed on May 12 to assist in shaping policies and programmes to achieve Pakatan Harapan’s 100-day promises and to advise the government on economic and financial matters.

Besides Daim, its other members comprised former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Tan Sri Hassan Marican, Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok and economics expert Prof Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

The CEP’s secretariat was led by economist Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid.

There are also two committees under the CEP – the Institutional Reforms Committee and the 1MDB Committee.

A report on the council’s recommendations will be handed to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after his return from China.

Daim, a former finance minister, said the first part of the recommendations dealt with governance and institutional reform.

“We are also fully aware that economic reform on its own cannot bring desired changes unless accom­panied by institutional reform,” he said.

He said the report would have measures to strengthen the independence of Malaysia’s core institutions and enhance their governance framework to end widespread corruption and abuse of power, and would also look into the bumiputra agenda.

He said there was a paramount need to uphold integrity and the country’s regulatory framework to ensure that overspending, non-­beneficial mega projects and financial scandals such as 1MDB did not recur.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’ve completed our task. We have finished our 100 days and everyone has gone back to their respective jobs. Including the secretariat, we’re all volunteers,” he said.

“When he (Dr Mahathir) comes back, I will make an appointment to see him and consult him about what role he has in mind (for the CEP).”

On Thursday, Dr Mahathir said that the CEP would not be disbanded despite ending its mandate.

While he hoped that the recommendations would be made public, Daim said this was the prime minister’s prerogative.

He also laughed off allegations that he was involved in a conspiracy to prevent Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from becoming the next prime minister.

Daim was referring to a report in The Star Online quoting Anwar as saying that there was no basis to link Dr Mahathir, PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and him to such a plot.

Asked if he was concerned who will be the next prime minister, Daim said Pakatan Harapan had long decided that it would be Anwar.

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