Is Guan Eng Dr M’s puppet or the other way round, ask PH leaders

(FMT) – The Pakatan Harapan (PH) secretarial council today dismissed the notion that Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the “de facto finance minister”, calling such claims an attempt to divide the coalition ahead of the Tanjung Piai by-election later this month.

In a statement, it said the claim made by a Chinese newspaper was to influence non-Malay voters into thinking that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was only a puppet and that PH was in fact controlled by the prime minister and his allies.

“For Malays, on the other hand, Mahathir is depicted as a puppet of DAP and Lim Guan Eng,” it said, adding that this was intended to weaken PH’s support among the people.

The joint statement was issued by PH secretariat chief Saifuddin Abdullah, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution, PPBM secretary-general Marzuki Yahya, Amanah secretary-general Anuar Tahir and DAP organising secretary Loke Siew Fook.

Earlier this week, economist Edmund Terence Gomez said Mahathir had a strong grip on the corporate sector following “covert” reconfigurations after the change of government.

He gave the example of Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), which he said were moved from the finance ministry to the Prime Minister’s Department.

He added that the ministries of economic affairs, rural development and entrepreneur development, led by Mohamed Azmin Ali, Rina Harun and Redzuan Yusof, were headed by close allies of Mahathir.

He said this gave Mahathir control over big businesses, Bumiputera government-linked companies (GLCs), the small-medium enterprise industry and statutory bodies.

However, the council said the claims that the reconfiguration of GLCs was to strengthen Mahathir and PPBM were “clearly confusing”.

It said MoF Inc remains Khazanah’s biggest shareholder despite the move, and that PNB was placed under the Prime Minister’s Department before the change of government.

It added that the economic affairs ministry was established to separate economic and financial functions from the office of the prime minister, with the ministry taking over the economic planning unit.

“This includes PH’s efforts to ensure the prime minister does not carry out duties as the finance minister, so that a check and balance can be conducted to avoid a repeat of Najib Razak’s kleptocratic regime,” it said.

It also pointed out that the PH government had formed the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption to ensure that GLCs and government-linked investment companies are accountable and clean.

It added that more half-truths would emerge as the Tanjung Piai polls approach, citing a report by The Star that Putrajaya was seeking a six-month extension to review the Rapid Transit System Link project.

Mahathir later announced that the project would continue at a lower cost of RM3.16 billion instead of the original RM4.93 billion.

“The people have to be careful with media that are still controlled by elements of the old regime, and not be easily influenced by their propaganda,” it said.