Lim Kit Siang is “shocked” that the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), formed under the Pakatan Harapan government, never produced a report.
He was responding to former CEP member Jomo Kwame Sundaram’s revelation that a secretariat under former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, and not the council, had produced a report.
The DAP veteran called for the CEP secretariat’s report and the findings of the Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) to be tabled as a White Paper before Parliament adjourned on April 4.
He also wanted an explanation from Daim and asked if the latter “agreed that the report of the CEP secretariat and IRC should be made public”.
“I had all along been under the impression that the CEP, which, besides Jomo and Daim, had former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas president and chief executive officer Hassan Marican and corporate tycoon Robert Kuok, as members, had produced a report.
“When Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister a second time, I had urged him to make the CEP report public,” he added in a statement.
Lim also recalled that Daim had called on the government to make the CEP’s recommendations available to the public.
He added that the former finance minister and close associate of Mahathir had also stated that the CEP interviewed more than 300 individuals, including bankers, businesspersons, civil servants, civil society members and union officials and that those interviewed had revealed a culture of turning a blind eye towards corruption.
In March 2019, Mahathir appealed for more time before revealing the contents of the report, which was classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), because it concerned matters still being negotiated.
“I don’t know what we have not revealed, when we reveal everything, but there are some things that are still in negotiations.
“We cannot reveal what we are negotiating until a decision is made,” he had said.
Following this, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had asked all parties to give Mahathir space to resolve some of the recommendations.
He said although, in principle, Harapan wanted the CEP report to be published, there were some recommendations which could be implemented that needed to be identified so that they could be explained to the people.
However, the Harapan government collapsed in February 2020.
The members of the IRC included former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan, retired Court of Appeal judges KC Vohrah and Mah Weng Kwai, National Patriots Association president Mohamed Arshad Raji, and constitutional law expert Shad Saleem Faruqi.
Earlier, Jomo said the CEP did not collaborate on a report.
“We were given 100 days. The report was prepared by a secretariat under Daim (Zainuddin). But there was no report (by) the entire CEP.
“There is another report by the committee (made up of) mainly five lawyers on legal reforms. That was perhaps an interesting report,” he said.
The prominent economist said this in an online forum titled “Malaysia’s future in a fractured world” organised by The Oxford and Cambridge Society Malaysia on YouTube last night.
He was responding to a viewer’s request for him to reveal the gist of the said report that was never released.
The said report was then submitted at the end of CEP’s term.
Jomo also said that during his time in the CEP, he attempted to push for several reforms, especially in the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Instead of abolishing the GST at that time, he said he mooted an integrated tax authority, rather than a segmented tax authority.
“It is to reduce the regressive character of the GST, through some specific reforms.
“Head of Customs at that time was very open to these reforms.
“Unfortunately, the minister at that time, and perhaps the prime minister never considered these reforms, to my knowledge,” he said, adding that there was no discussion on the matter.
Aside from that, he also pushed for health reforms to improve the health financing sector.
He revealed that he was delighted when former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin last year announced that the nation’s public healthcare expenditure would be increased to five percent of the gross domestic product by the end of 2022.
“But as we know, nothing happened. It was not reflected in the budget that was tabled before the Parliament’s dissolution.
“Even now, we don’t see any commitment from the government to increase health financing,” said Jomo.
Asked about the future of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) when so many contributors are left with so little for their retirement, Jomo said the pension fund has become a “political football”.
“The Umno leadership and others have basically been pushing very hard for some years now to allow the people to withdraw as much money as possible…
“I fear that the old people would have very little choice but to continue to work as they can, which may not necessarily be a bad thing for us to have a longer working life.
“But considering the poor health that everyone is in, I am really concerned,” Jomo said.