Notes on a New Nation, Day 5

Notes on a New Nation
Day 5, Post-GE14 (14 May 2018)

We are inching towards one week post-election day, but it feels like much longer, given the number of events taking place; the changing of the tides is rapid, and equally easily are people swept into its motions unthinkingly.

The word on my mind today is ‘purge’, where the old corrupt members of government are currently being purged and one assumes the ones with a clean record are affirmed. Many senior civil servants and politicians have vacated their posts today, the first official working day since polling day. First, the MACC Chief Commissioner, Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, has resigned, having sent in his resignation letter to the Chief Secretary Tan Sri Ali Hamsa at 8am this morning. Recall that Tun Dr. Mahathir has not minced his words, stating that the heads of several key government institutions, MACC, included, would be investigated for any wrongdoing. Resigning does not mean that Dzulkifli Ahmad would be cleared of his past misdeeds, if any. Mahathir said that a new MACC chief would take office tomorrow (15 May). A former MACC investigations and intelligence officer, Datuk Abdul Razak Idris, lodged two police reports against Najib Razak, one that he had allegedly misused his position for gratification and second that he allegedly owned unexplained properties.

Attorney-General Apandi Ali will be going on leave, and his duties would be taken over by the solicitor-general, announced by Mahathir at a press conference today, while the IGP Mohamad Fuzi said that the police would investigate the former IGP Khalid Abu Bakar if there is a case or report against him. Tan Sri Shahrir Samad, Chair of Felda (Federal Development Land Authority) has also resigned today (the seven-term Shahrir lost his Johor Bahru seat in last week’s election to Akmal Nasir).

Another big name is Tan Sri Irwan Serigar, Treasury Secretary General, whose contract will be cut short by nine months and will end on 14 June instead of 6 June 2019, according to Tan Sri Ali Hamsa. He is the chairman of the 1MDB board that is being investigated. On social media, scores of stories are emerging of people who have dealt with Tan Sri Irwan in the past, mostly shedding negative light on these dealings. These are merely anecdotal and unverified, so they will not be repeated here. So within one day, we witness the exit of the MACC chief, Attorney-General, Chair of Felda and Treasury Sec-Gen.

The Council of Eminent Persons appointed by Mahathir seems to be hard at work, already yesterday having met with the heads of government linked companies and government linked investment companies (GLCs and GLICs), specifically with the managing director of Khazanah Nasional Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, Permodalan Nasional Bhd group president and chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) CEO Datuk Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad, Tabung Haji Group MD and CEO Datuk Seri Johan Abdullah, Armed Forces Superannuation Fund Board CEO Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin and Employees Provident Fund CEO Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan. The meeting seems to have been positive, with the six GLIC heads even issuing a statement thereafter, stating that it is “a very positive step of the process of a national reset from the standpoint of the economy and the markets.” Governance and performance of these institutions would carry on, with a key principle of separating politics and business in managing assets and public interests. One wonders how exactly these GLCs and GLICs will be dealt with under the new government, since GLCs have courted great controversy in their transparency and accountability. Apart from the publicly listed ones which are stringently monitored via Bursa Malaysia and Securities Commission, the many other unlisted ones have relatively little scrutiny and governance measures. No one ministry in the country even has a comprehensive record of all the GLCs in Malaysia, much less the state-related ones. All of this needs to be cleaned up quickly.

Of course, the political parties in PH, especially PKR, are all abuzz with the news that Anwar Ibrahim is due to be released very soon. Initially, a PKR statement circulated encouraging members of the public to be outside Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital to welcome his exit at 10.30am, Tuesday 15 May. However, a later statement retracts this and it is unclear when exactly Anwar will be released (although there were initial plans to have a post-release celebration at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya at 3pm the same day. It is understood that Anwar would need to meet with the Pardons Board first, and then seek an audience with the Agong at the Palace, before he can officially be released. Whatever the case, it will happen soon.

The rest of the PH Cabinet has not yet been announced, although it was confirmed that Amanah has submitted three names to Tun Dr Mahathir for members to be included, while PKR has submitted 10 names for consideration. On this note, PKR’s Wan Azizah was reported to have said that a Chinese should not take the post of Finance Minister, but this was later denied by a senior PKR member. It is unclear of course what the context was of this remark – it could have been that she meant it was not feasible, that it would be a challenge convincing the electorate of its merit? Context is important. Again, race has a tendency to rear its ugly head in Malaysian political dynamics. While we may intend to be neutral on race, there is still a large segment of society that thinks along ethnic lines. How to move beyond race is a subject of great contention, and will require tremendous leadership on the part of PH and the community to resolve.

Story of the states: Shafie Apdal reported for his first day of duty in the Sabah Administrative Office today, although Jeffrey Kitingan (who had previously been sworn in as Deputy Chief Mnister) entered the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry building to apparently begin his first day of work, while Sabah police chief confirmed that Musa Aman had left Sabah after the state Istana handed a letter to the latter that he no longer had the mandate to lead the government. So at least things are settled in Sabah. The Selangor Exco members were sworn in today, many of whom are new faces. They are Teng Chang KhimAmirudin Shari, Ganabatirau, Haniza Talha, Ng Sze Han, Shaharuddin Baharuddin, Hee Loy Sian, Siti Mariah Mahmud, Izham Hashim, and Rashid Asari. Sad to see some familiar faces having left the Exco like Elizabeth Wong, but wishing her well in the future.

Finally, the PH MPs in Kuala Lumpur seem to have publicly committed to holding local elections for the DBKL Mayor (KL City Council), which is long due. Hopefully this will also set the trend for all other states under PH to do the same. All it needs is for the National Council on Local Government to approve it, and the Election Commission, which is permitted to conduct elections throughout the country, would assist in the execution. Local elections are fundamental to the principle of democracy, since citizens are most likely to feel real differences in their ways of life at the council level – clean drains, well-lit roads with minimal potholes, and so on. This was not explicitly promised in the PH Manifesto, but even one city or state would set a great precedent for the rest of the country in the future.

This series will probably end on Day 7.

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