Mahathir gave DAP power, but clipped Guan Eng’s wings, book claims

Author Romen Bose says former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad appointed Lim Guan Eng finance minister, but removed his control over GLCs.

(FMT) – Following Pakatan Harapan’s win at the 2018 general election, Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave the finance portfolio to Lim Guan Eng “to appease DAP”, but stripped the ministry of control over government-linked companies (GLCs) to preserve Malay hegemony, a new book reveals.

In Shattered Hopes, author Romen Bose said Mahathir “was having a hard time with parties like DAP and with certain requests, such as one to make Lim Kit Siang speaker of parliament.”

“However, they (officials close to Mahathir) claimed that Mahathir managed to ‘buy’ the party’s loyalty by giving them key Cabinet posts and appointing Guan Eng as finance minister.”

Mahathir knew he had to work with DAP, Bose said, but that did not mean he would give “significant power” to the Chinese-led party.

“Aides said the old man’s belief in Malay hegemony would not allow him to cede any real power to non-Malays.”

“So, even though Guan Eng was given the finance portfolio, Mahathir stripped the ministry of control (over) the powerful and lucrative GLC sector, which was then given to (economics affairs minister) Azmin Ali,” Bose said.

Khazanah National and Permodalan Nasional Berhad were subsequently placed under the Prime Minister’s Department, with Mahathir making himself Khazanah chairman. All other GLCs were put under the purview of Azmin’s ministry, Bose added.

As a result, Guan Eng had limited control over his own ministry, as Mahathir would later “confess” in an interview with Malaysiakini, Bose added.

The book quotes Mahathir as telling his interviewer: “I think you are insulting me if you think DAP can control me. I was the one who had control. Lim could not simply bring matters into the Cabinet without me looking into whether (they were) appropriate or not.”

What was the CEP really for?

Bose also questioned the setting up of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), formed immediately after Pakatan Harapan came to power in 2018.

Citing a news report, Bose noted that the CEP was not a creature of statute nor was it a body of enquiry under the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950. Neither was it a select committee answerable to parliament, the author noted.

As such, was the CEP an illegal body, Bose asked, and what was it really for?

“There was no report on what the CEP had done or achieved (and) there was no way to tell how successful they were in helping to implement PH1.0’s economic pledges and manifesto.”

The CEP comprised former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, ex-Petronas CEO Hassan Marican, business tycoon Robert Kuok and economist Jomo Kwame Sundram. It was chaired by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin.

Shattered Hopes offers an insider’s perspective on the aftermath of the 2018 elections, when Pakatan Harapan ended Barisan Nasional’s six decades in power.