Saturday, July 21, 2018

CEP the unrepresentative (unelected) swill

Malaysiakini - Do we really still need a council of elders?:

by P Gunasegaram

did anyone elect them? 

On May 11, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was sworn in at 9.30pm a day earlier as prime minister following the May 9 elections, announced a rather abbreviated list of key cabinet ministers which included just three others besides himself - Bersatu’s Muhyiddin Yassin as home minister, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng as finance minister and Amanah’s Mohamad Sabu for defence.

Conspicuous by absence was any minister from PKR, the largest partner in the new ruling coalition with 48 seats, compared to 42 for DAP, 13 for Mahathir’s Bersatu and 11 for Amanah, indicating a schism already developing between Mahathir and PKR.

It will be two days later and after a meeting between Mahathir and de facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim before the latter’s wife, Wan Azizah Ismail was picked as deputy prime minister.

Simultaneously, Mahathir announced a council of elders, which came to be known formally as the Council of Eminent Persons, headed by his old friend, the rather controversial former finance minister and Umno treasurer Daim Zainuddin.

It included as its members business tycoon Robert Kuok, former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Hassan Merican and prominent economist Jomo Sundaram.

That sequence of events indicated that Mahathir was prepared to go it alone if he had to and the appointment of the council of elders probably came as surprise to the other parties in the Pakatan Harapan coalition, especially PKR who was already unhappy with losing the finance ministry to DAP on top of not being consulted.

Now here was a Jedi-like council which was going to hear representations from others and make recommendations. In Mahathir’s words at the press conference, these people (the council) will study a lot of things submitted to them from (events dating back to) 2009 until now because “we want to take action if necessary as quickly as possible. One thing we think is very important is the Ministry of Finance and Defence - we need to have them focus on that, and later Home Affairs have to be advised on what they need to know. That is the decision we have reached this evening.”

Two days after the elections and in the euphoria of the moment after ousting a kleptocracy, very few voiced any reservations and many welcomed the appointment of the council. But on further reflection, is such a council necessary? Or desirable even? Let’s see.

One major concern about the council of elders is Daim himself and his past. Before Bersatu’s formation and entry into Harapan, Anwar had singled out Daim as one of the leaders who may be corrupt. In a recent interview after Daim’s appointment as head of the council, Anwar had this to say:

“He can contribute […] He must be aware that people are also expressing deep consternation that he has not been able to explain some of the major excesses of the past […] To me if you want to talk about democratic accountability, it must not stop at Najib […] although it does not extend to endless witch hunts.

“I discussed this with Guan Eng also, [...] he (Daim) can assist, (but) there are major issues we have to address. He can contribute, I am not saying he should not. But he should be reminded and mindful […],” said Anwar.

Daim, however, in a reply at a press conference, said that “young fellows” were pushing Anwar. “I have met Anwar a couple of times. Anwar is a very polished politician, he knows the ground very well, he knew what the manifesto was.

'[…] Pakatan Harapan offered Tun M as the prime minister for two years [… ] you have to honour the manifesto […] when you sell Tun M as the seventh prime minister you must honour that […] but the young fellows are in a hurry,” he said.

Not everyone happy

Clearly, not everyone was happy with Daim’s appointment as the head of the council of elders. Insiders say that while there are others in the council, all of whom have credentials, Daim does not listen sufficiently to alternative views. Thus, it may be possible that the final recommendations made would be vetted and diluted by Daim.

Also, committees have been set up under the council of elders to study things such as institutional reform and 1MDB but these reports have to be submitted to the council of elders and not directly to the prime minister or the cabinet, giving excessive power to this council and to Daim who heads it.

Quite alarmingly, the council appears to have forced the resignation of some people through intense questioning and questionable methods, contributing to a sort of witch-hunt under which people are made to feel that they must resign.

Apart from the resignation of Bank Negara governor Muhammad Ibrahim, the most prominent example of this was when Daim was alleged to have forced the country’s two top judges, Chief Justice Mohd Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin to quit.

According to a report in Malaysiakini, former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram claimed it was "an open secret" that this occurred during a meeting at Daim's private office. Sri Ram said Daim, who is also a lawyer, should not have demanded Raus' and Zulkefli's resignations, adding it was unconstitutional for anyone other than the prime minister to summon the head of the judiciary.

"Daim is not the prime minister and even if he had been asked by the prime minister to do what he did, he should have declined and left it to the attorney-general, the prime minister and the cabinet to handle it.

"After all, we do not want to return to the old days when there was no respect for the separation of powers and the due observance of constitutional requirements," Sri Ram said.

One wonders what was it that Daim said to obtain their prompt resignations when other calls before that for them to resign went unheeded.

Perhaps the most important question to ask is why have this council in the first place when a new government has been elected? The right thing to have done is to have appointed the cabinet as soon as possible, form committees in the various ministries to study issues, co-opt external experts as necessary and use civil servants who know the ground after many years of experience.

The reports can then be presented to the cabinet for discussion, further input and final approval. That way, ministers become fully responsible for their ministries and if these ministers are appointed with some wisdom and due consideration for their abilities, there is no reason why they can’t do a better job than a council of elders which may have tainted members.

Also, these ministers are eager to work, fresh, and many of them experienced. Barring at most three, the rest are untainted by previous hints of corruption or abuse of power.

In any case, that is what one would expect in a functioning democracy. The so-called council of elders is therefore unnecessary and ultimately it is a body that bypasses the role of the cabinet in the decision-making process of the country, giving advice directly to the PM.

The life of this council should not go beyond the hundred days allocated to it.


  1. When we had the highly paid “4th Floor Boys” during Badawi’s reign, of which KJ was a member of, or the myraid of “consultants” and huge PMO (Pemandu /Transformasi etc) under Najib’s reign did we complain? No we didn’t. Mind you the Pemandu / Transformasi effort was humongous and where did it lead us to? 1MDB, ECRL, Bandar Malaysia, TRX etc. These people cost the country hundreds of millions a year in fees. Just fees alone.

    Now we have 5 elderly persons who are working for free, have a sunset clause of 100 days, have no political ambition but only to help the country and what do we do?......complain complain complain and call them pig feed....

  2. The CEP is there to allow M to transition to become the President of Malaysia. Already moves are afoot to remove the Royals.

    With CEP running the government, ALL elected Ministers are only 'tambis'.

    We elected MPs, but who elected the CEPs? What kind of democracy is this in MALAYSIA BARU?

  3. The CEP was established because:

    1. Ceasar knows that there are so much reforms needed that is he were to take on alone, it would be humanely impossible for him to do all at his age. If he is young and with time on his side, the CEP might not even be contemplated.

    2. He only trusts certain people whom he can trusts to be diligent and fair minded in giving him the feedback required to make a right decision.

    3. Ceasar knew the politics of race, religion, royalty too well to be played by his opponents and the current mindset of esp. the uninformed and brainwashed Malay and Moslems electorate and needed the CEP as a buffer for the PH coalition when undertaking some drastic reforms.

    Will the CEP be finally disbanded? It looks likely after all the major sensitive reforms are implemented and may lasts longer than the 100 days.

    Can you imagine seeing Ceasar making all the current reforms by himself on so many played up contentious issues already happening and with so many brickbats thrown not at him or the CEP but chiefly against DAP and PKR by the Ketuanan Melayus parties.

    Ceasar is definitely wise to have the CEP as a buffer to carry out reforms in the PH manifestos.

    1. The use of Ceasar is strange but is very appropriate.

      As in a dictatorship, just a one man show.

      We went through an elections process to elect candidates who speak and act for us.

      Since they cannot, PH must disband. Not necessary to fool us that we are in a democracy. No need to hide behind a CEP whose actions are not even transparent.

  4. "The life of this council should not go beyond the hundred days allocated to it."

    Daim has said he wanted to quickly resolve the issues tasked within 100 days & goes to sleep!

    Similar voices from RK!

    Uncertain time calls for unusual approaches. Especially when they r so many horse-tradings to be negotiated within the 4 equal partners!

    Ha! Mamak is back to his old self of one-man-show le! Said that AGAIN, jibby sycophants & liberal breeding hearts.

    The COE is the best interim administrative team for the first 100 days of the new govt.

    Gunasegaram is a good business news writer. But he is sure no expert in administrative issues as reflected in this write.

    Perhaps he SHOULD spend some time to study 曹操 ≪为才而舉≫ - selection of administrative officers during chaotic & turbulence time!

    Meanwhile, kt just selectively pick this as an attack weapon to target PH!

    Tsk… tsk… black heart!

  5. Reading Gunasegaram, one gets the impression that it is a piece of cake to rule a country like our tanah air.

    His cut and dried mathematical method and his idealistic strident call for strict rule-of-law right from the get-go seemed to completely ignore that this PH victory is unprecedented and that all the parties and actors in this new coalition are decades-deep in their past complex relationships with each other, with many issues and old scores still unresolved, and all with the defeated UMNO waiting eagerly at the wings to sabotage and weaken this new government.

    Gunasegaram for all his savvy, cool and mathematical analytical mind, just couldn't get it that with the cart positioned ahead of the horses, the whole carriage couldn't move. For example, the corrupt judges must go before rule of law can be implemented. These powerful and corrupt past leaders like judges, top civil servants, CEOs of GLC and GILC etc, will stubbornly stay put, using delaying tactics to scupper any reform plans by the new team. A frail-in-health 93 year old PM having to deal with a rumbustious coalition partners all clamoring for their 'rightful' rewards, a humiliated, vengeful defeated Umno ever ready to pounce on any slip, and with time running out...whether it is the 100-days deadline or the PM's health holding out, the overwhelming feeling is that most PH supporters are relieved and rather happy that Dr M had the foresight to recruit the CEP to take a huge load off his hands. On his own, it is an impossible mission and many recognize this, except for those blighted by some naivety and those with hidden agendas.

  6. With due respect, Gunasegaram may be an excellent financial analyst but BN was a better secret "concealer", wakakakaka ......... This is in respect of an earlier commentary piece by Gunasegaram on the Malaysia debts, is it RM1 trillion or RM687 billion? Now with all the 'warms & shit' crawling and spilling out, he may have to revise his opinion, I'm sure. But I wouldn't blame him as incompetence because so much information he was not privy to. Likewise, what he commented on the CEP is so obviously logical except that there are so much more Tun has to weigh and consider of which Gunasegaram is not aware which I am sure he would on hindsight also agree with.