PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has recommended institutionalising Putrajaya’s top advisory council in order to better define its role and direction, following news that the group will not be disbanded despite having completed its 100-day mandate.
Independent analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff said if Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad wished to extend the services of the five-member Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), he had to justify his decision to the people.
“The CEP needs to be institutionalised and set up in accordance with the law and the constitution so that no one will dispute its existence.
“There must be clarity on its role, how long it will be and the role of the council members,” he told FMT.
Mahathir recently announced that the CEP, led by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, would continue as he still needed its services.
“I still need their services until all the problems are solved,” he said, adding that he had never said the council would be dissolved after 100 days.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong however said last month that the CEP would be around for 100 days following which it would be disbanded.
Apart from Daim, the CEP consists of former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Hassan Marican, tycoon Robert Kuok and economist KS Jomo.
The council said on Monday that it had completed its mandate and would be submitting its recommendations to Mahathir.
Kamarul urged Mahathir to explain the apparent discrepancy in statements regarding the duration of the CEP’s term.
He also noted concerns from within the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and civil society groups on the extension of the council’s tenure which was said to contradict democratic practices in the country as it was not an elected body.
“It’s not wrong to have a body like the CEP,” he said. “The government just needs to justify it according to the law. It needs to be approved by Parliament, in line with democratic practices.
“Right now, since the appointments were made by Mahathir alone without going through Parliament, it will draw various negative responses.”
Among others, he said, Mahathir might be seen as being distrustful of his Cabinet members.
Oh Ei Sun, who is senior adviser for international affairs at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, said it was understandable that the government wanted the CEP to continue for a while more.
He said the council played an important role in reassuring investors and the business community that Malaysia’s economic management was in good hands.
“It provides Mahathir with seasoned advice, especially on the economic front,” he added.
He said this was necessary as many of the Cabinet members, although professional and people of integrity, were lacking in administrative experience since they were previously from the opposition.
Unlike Kamarul, however, he warned against institutionalising the CEP as it was supposed to be an ad hoc body.
He said institutionalising it would also open it to politicisation as many would be scrambling for membership.