(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Tun Daim Zainuddin should not take up his Cabinet appointment as Minister for Special with Special Functions in the Prime Minister's Department until he had given up all his business interests, including ownership of Hock Hua Bank, or there will be a serious conflict of interest and the DAP will consider legal action to uphold integrity in public life.
Yesterday, when asked whether Daim had to give up his business interests, including ownership of Hock Hua Bank. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir Mohamad said he must, but it would take a little bit of time for him to make these arrangements.
What does Mahathir mean by "a little bit of time" - is it one week, one month, three months or six months?
In any event, if Daim must take "a little bit of time" to give up all his business interests, he must take "a little bit of time" before assuming his new Cabinet position, or he would be guilty of gross breach conflict of interests and impropriety, actionable under the Anti-Corruption Act 1997.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz's statement that Daim's appointment would enhance the linkage between the Cabinet and the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) of which Daim is executive director is most baffling and incomprehensible.
This is because there are already eleven Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, in the 24-member NEAC. Isn't such a linkage overwhelming enough without having to appoint Daim as a Cabinet Minister?
Alternatively, if Daim is to be appointed into the Cabinet so that he could explain to the cabinet decisions taken by the NEAC, there is no need for eleven Cabinet Ministers to sit on the NEAC, and are they going to be dropped from the NEAC?
It is clear that Daim's appointment is a naked power play rather than a move to enhance better economic and financial management and marks an escalation in the worsening of relations between Mahathir and his No. 2, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Daim's appointment is designed to clip the wings and powers of Anwar as far as financial and economic decision-making is concerned.
Mahathir's statement yesterday that implementing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendations such as the shortening of the period of non-performing loans, credit squeeze and increasing credit rates, have further damaged the economy.
He said: "This has damaged companies and put them under under a lot of stress."
There is no reference whatsoever about the lack of will for political reforms or to frontally grapple with the problems of corruption, cronyism and nepotism in Malaysia which have increasingly become issues of national and international concern.
Clearly, these have become the battle lines between the Mahathir and Anwar forces.
The UMNO General Assemblies have not resolved, but only exacerbated the deep divisions in UMNO, as seen by the appointment of Daim as Minister of Special Functions on economic problems in the Prime Minister's Department to check-mate Anwar in Cabinet and Government.
These are clearly negative developments which are not conducive to an early restoration of confidence to effect the quickest economic turnaround and recovery.