PETALING JAYA: The Pakatan Harapan federal government was cautioned today against using Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to cull heads of government-linked companies, as the purge may be turned into a racial issue.
Former Umno MP Tawfik Ismail said the purge of GLC chiefs was “one step too far” for Pakatan Harapan to take, even though the coalition had obtained a mandate in the general election.
He said the GLC heads were “the cream of the Malay corporate world, many of them village children made successful by the New Economic Policy (of the previous governments) who had excelled in their chosen field through their innate abilities”.
The continuing purge would hurt the progress of Malays in commerce, he said, while Pakatan Harapan was making things worse by “using Guan Eng as the hatchet man”. It was turning the cull into a racial issue, he told FMT.
“Entrepreneurship is part of many Chinese families’ upbringing. Malays don’t have that, so using Guan Eng to chop out Malays will look wrong to many of the Malays.”
He wondered if the decision to use Guan Eng was a political ploy so that the DAP could be blamed should political fallout arise.
The heads or directors of companies or federal agencies such as Felda, Khazanah Holdings and Telekom have resigned in the wake of Pakatan Harapan taking over the federal government, with speculation that others in companies such as Permodalan Nasional or Sime Darby might also go.
Poor kampung boys who made it to the top
Guan Eng was quoted by Bernama recently as saying that the government had begun measures to ensure less interference from politicians in the affairs of government-linked companies, and political appointees in the companies had been passed the word that they needed to leave to enable a “cleaning process” to begin.
Tawfik, who was Sungai Benut MP from 1986-1990, is also a former member of the G25 group of eminent Malays comprising mostly retired senior civil servants.
He said: “Yes, they enjoyed their position admittedly through patronage, but it would have been a competitive climb for them nevertheless. Is the mood for revenge against the previous regime making us senseless to the long-term damage to Malay progress in commerce?”
There had been a lot of investment in these GLC chiefs, making the move to suddenly cut them off unwarranted.
“It takes 20 years to talent scout a poor Malay, put him through the Majlis Amanah Rakyat to qualify for a place in an accounting or engineering or similar programme, assign him practical training and run him through the mill to the top.”
Tawfik: Wahid is a good manager, Daim isn’t always right
He held up Permodalan Nasional Bhd’s chairman Abdul Wahid Omar as an example. “Wahid is a good manager. Daim is not always right,” he said, referring to former finance minister Daim Zainuddin.
Wahid has been the subject of speculation that he would leave as early as next month partly because of his criticism of Pakatan Harapan’s promise to scrap the Goods and Services Tax.
It prompted a response from Daim who said Wahid should stick to his job at PNB and leave the running of the economy to the new government.
Tawfik also wondered whether those behind the moves were higher-ups in Pakatan Harapan who did not want the coalition’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim to become the next prime minister.
He said there might be moves to make a success of Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali by allowing big deals from San Miguel Corp and Petronas to come under him.
There has been talk about a rift between Anwar’s family and Azmin, who is deputy president of PKR, following the “Kajang move” of 2014 by which Anwar Ibrahim or his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail would take over as Selangor menteri besar after Khalid Ibrahim was forced out.
However, after a prolonged party and Selangor state government crisis, the Sultan of Selangor named Azmin as the new menteri besar, with the tacit support of PAS.