Six months into power, Perikatan Nasional has replaced top civil servants, corporate titans and retired judges in federal-level firms and agencies it controls with politicians and loyal parliamentarians.
True to its promise, PN has rewarded about 13 MPs from Umno, four from PAS and three Gabungan Parti Sarawak with chairmanships in government-linked companies (GLCs) and statutory bodies.
They are joined by four lawmakers from Bersatu, including president Muhyiddin Yassin, who was appointed as chairman of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, to replace former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The 20 Umno, PAS and GPS politicians replaced 16 non-partisan professionals chosen by the former Pakatan Harapan administration that PN replaced in late February.
In a survey of 24 notable GLCs and statutory bodies, The Malaysian Insight found that PH appointed 18 non-partisan individuals.
These experts were the top in their fields, such as a former regional adviser for the World Health Organisation, two retired Federal Court judges, two senior officials in the palm oil industry and a top banker.
PH also picked former ministry secretaries-general and directors-general to head GLCs and agencies in fields which they used to oversee while in the civil service.
These individuals were replaced with politicians loyal to PN.
The names and details of PN’s 24 appointees are in the table below.
PH’s critics have often pointed to how the 22-month coalition failed to reform GLC and agency former Barisan Nasional administration as political rewards.
But The Malaysian Insight’s survey of numerous press reports showed that in 18 of the 24 cases, PH chose professionals rather than lawmakers.
This is in direct contrast to PN’s choices, all 24 of whom were either MPs or assemblymen.
PN’s appointments for chairman of Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Felda, Amanah Raya Bhd, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), Prasarana Malaysia Bhd and Uda Holdings Bhd were among those that made headlines because of the size of these firms.
In all these firms, the politicians replaced industry experts and long-time officials.
But PN’s appointments for some of the lesser-known companies and bodies were also contentious.
This includes replacing Dr Narimah Awin as head of the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), an agency that deals with maternity and child health policies.
Narimah, a 30-year veteran of the Health Ministry and a former WHO regional adviser, was replaced with Mohd Nizar Zakaria.
Other veteran civil servants replaced were Meor Abdul Aziz Osman, a former director-general of the Public Works Department and Mohamad Mentek, a Housing and Local Government Ministry secretary-general.
Meor was a PH appointee heading the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) while Mohamad was chairman of Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Bhd (SPNB).
They were replaced respectively by Tanjung Manis MP Yusuf Abdul Wahab and Gerik MP Hasbullah Osman.
PN’s appointments, said political economist Prof Edmund Terence Gomez, undermine promises Muhyiddin made in the early weeks of his stint as prime minister.
Muhyiddin promised that PN “would increase administrative integrity and management” as well as “fight corruption and abuse of power”.
“Muhyiddin’s grand strategy is one that entails using GLC appointments to consolidate his position in Parliament. There is nothing meritorious in these appointments,” Terence Gomez said in a column.
These appointments have dire consequences as the government needs to drive the economy at a time when the private sector in unable to do so because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Terence told The Malaysian Insight.
“Today, we have an economic crisis. We cannot depend on the private sector to lift the economy,” said Gomez, who authored one of the most comprehensive studies on GLCs in Malaysia.
“The government must intervene to prop up the economy. Here, GLCs of various sorts are crucial,” said Gomez, who wrote Minister of Finance Incorporated: Ownership and Control of Corporate Malaysia.
“But PN is using them for political survival. If we don’t stop these nonsensical political appointments now and use the GLCs effectively, the economic repercussions will be dire.” – TMI