Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok heading home this week to attend Council of Eminent Persons meeting

Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok was named as one of the five members in the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) three days after Pakatan Harapan (PH) toppled the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok was named as one of the five members in the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) three days after Pakatan Harapan (PH) toppled the Barisan Nasional (BN) government.PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok is set to fly home this week to attend a meeting of the newly-formed Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) committee.

The council's head of media and communication Kadir Jasin confirmed that the 94-year-old billionaire would return to Malaysia, but he was uncertain of the date.

 

"Well, it is no secret that Robert Kuok is not in the best of health now," Datuk Kadir said.

"He has not given us the confirmed date yet but he said he will come," Mr Kadir said.

Tan Sri Kuok was named as one of the five members in the CEP three days after Pakatan Harapan (PH) toppled the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, alongside ex-finance minister Daim, former central bank governor Zeti Aktar Aziz, former chief executive of state oil firm Petronas Hassan Marican and prominent economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unveiled the council on May 12, saying it would provide vital "knowledge or previous knowledge of administration", given that the new government had "little or no experience in running a government".

Tun Daim Zainuddin, who heads the council, had told the Nanyang Siang Pau newspaper in an exclusive interview that he had spoken to Mr Kuok over the telephone about his homecoming for the meeting this week.

He said Mr Kuok has extensive experience in business and finance and is well-versed in the industries of commodities, real estate, hotel and tourism.

"Therefore, his suggestions are important. I can say that he is an all-rounder," said Mr Daim.

Mr Daim noted that Mr Kuok would not be staying too long in Malaysia, and that the chairman of the Kuok-controlled agriculture company PPB Group Bhd, Tan Sri Oh Siew Nam, would attend meetings in Mr Kuok's absence.

 
 
 
 
 

In the interview, Mr Daim said Malaysia was "lucky" because the rise in international crude oil price from US$52 (S$69.90) to US$71 (RM206 to RM282) per barrel allowed the Government to cushion the impact of the abolition of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

"When the crude oil price increases, the Pakatan government must ensure that the extra earnings are spent on the people and not wasted," he said.

On the feasibility of abolishing toll collection, Mr Daim said he believed "everything can be resolved".

He reiterated that CEP only plays an advisory role on a voluntary basis and does not make any decisions.

Decisions would ultimately be decided by the Cabinet, he said, adding that they do not receive a salary or allowance.

So far, he said CEP had invited the heads of 40 agencies and 50 representatives from various industries.

"We want the people to understand ... because some people criticised that we are not elected (representatives) but we are speaking out," he said.

"This has nothing to do with being elected or not. The government just wants us to apprehend the country's overall situation and make suggestions for the problems."

Mr Daim noted the CEP would also call on the government to let capable businessmen manage government-linked companies (GLCs), as the government's involvement in the business sector would often lead to "serious setbacks", with the most obvious example being 1MDB.

Contrary to the "cash is king" approach, Mr Daim said "people are king" is what the government must uphold at all times.

Mr Daim said BN's dominant party, Umno, failed because certain members in the previous Cabinet had "blinded their hearts".

"Umno has good and intelligent leaders, such as former international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, former youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin and former minister in the Prime Minister's Office Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan," he said.

"It's just that they paid more attention to the positions than listening to the people," he said.

"I hope the Pakatan Government can learn from it. People are the real masters. If you make a promise, you must deliver," he added.