Council played advisory role: Daim

Tun Daim Zainuddin (second from left) chairing a meeting of the CEP on Friday, with council members (from right) Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Hassan Marican and Zeti Akhtar Aziz, and council secretariat and economist Muhammad Abdul Khalid (far left).
Tun Daim Zainuddin (second from left) chairing a meeting of the CEP on Friday, with council members (from right) Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Hassan Marican and Zeti Akhtar Aziz, and council secretariat and economist Muhammad Abdul Khalid (far left).PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysia's Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) ended its 100-day mandate with chairman Daim Zainuddin denying yesterday that it has interfered with decisions made by the fledgling Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, or any involvement in an alleged conspiracy to stop Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from becoming prime minister.

Although Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that the CEP was still needed as problems that his government inherited from the ousted Barisan Nasional coalition have yet to be resolved, Tun Daim said he had not been informed of any extension.

"As far as I am concerned, the 100th day is over and the last day was yesterday. We have gone back to our previous jobs. Including the secretariat, we are all volunteers," he told a news conference. He added that he would consult with Tun Dr Mahathir after the premier returns from his visit to China.

Dr Mahathir established the CEP on May 12, two days after he was sworn in as head of a government made up mostly of leaders who had never been in government. The council, also comprising former central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, tycoon Robert Kuok, former Petronas chief Hassan Marican and renowned economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, was to help stabilise and advise the administration.

But questions soon swirled over the reach of the council's powers, especially over Mr Daim, a longtime right-hand man to Dr Mahathir from the days of the latter's reign as prime minister in the 1980s.

Critics have alleged that Mr Daim forced the central bank governor and two top judges to resign. Mr Daim was also criticised for taking a trip to China last month on behalf of the government.

Two Parti Keadilan Rakyat leaders also accused Mr Daim of masterminding a plot to keep their president-elect, Mr Anwar, from taking up the premiership after an undefined transition period as agreed by PH before the May 9 election.

"You better read Anwar's latest statement. I don't get involved," he said, referring to the former deputy premier's assertion earlier yesterday that the allegation was baseless.

Mr Daim also insisted the council merely played an advisory role and denied interfering with the operations of the government or powerful state firms.

"What powers do we have? Other than to gather information and provide advice? Surely the Prime Minister can appoint anyone he wants as an adviser," he said in response to a question about the CEP's powers.

Although he said that it would be up to Dr Mahathir to decide on any future role for the council, or to take up the council's recommendation, Mr Daim did single out the Finance Ministry, now led by Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, as being the most in need of improved governance.

"It must bring in revenue for the country and make sure expenditure is not wasted and there must be no corruption. And don't politicise the civil service," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Council played advisory role: Daim'. Print Edition | Subscribe