Daim should explain why he had not signed and gazetted  the Ministerial order for the two per cent cut in employees’  EPF contribution for it to become law from April 1 nearly a month after its announcement by Mahathir

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Saturday): The  press today carried photographs of Tun Daim Zainuddin “on leave” for two months  as Finance Minister, doing what the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has said, “visiting the office to go through all his documents and letters”, comfortably in slippers in the  Treasury office yesterday.

I do not know how this bizarre arrangement will affect general office morale and discipline in the Treasury and government, but Malaysia has clearly added  another item to its “world’s first”  list, the first time any senior Minister took official leave to be absent from Cabinet meetings but still visits his office regularly but casually to “look at papers and documents”, with no Acting Finance Minister but a junior Minister to represent him in the Cabinet.

The government, Parliament, Malaysians  and the world are mystified as to who is currently carrying out the functions and powers of the Finance Minister!  Is it still Daim?

The pertinent issue here is who is “signing” the documents and papers as Finance Minister!

For instance, Daim should explain why he had not signed and gazetted  the Ministerial order for the two per cent cut in employees’  EPF contribution for it to become law from April 1 nearly a month after its announcement by the Prime Minister when introducing the RM3 billion economic stimulus package on March 27, 2001?

As there has been no gazette of the change of the statutory minimum rate of employees’ EPF contribution from 11% to 9%  by the order of the Finance Minister as required under  Section 74 of the EPF Act 1991, the EPF is committing an unlawful act to implement the two per cent cut in employees’ EPF contribution from April 1, 2001 and open itself to challenge in the court of law.

Why hasn’t Daim signed and gazetted the two per cent cut in employees’ EPF contribution in the past four weeks?  Is it because he is now no more the person who should be signing such papers as the Finance Minister?  If he is still the person to sign papers in the capacity as Finance Minister,  is this a sign of his protest in the deepening rift between him and Mahathir?

If he is no more the person to sign papers as the Finance Minister in the two months that he is on leave, then who is such a person as Mahathir has said that there would not be an Acting Finance Minister?

Or will all the major financial decisions during these two months be taken by the Prime Minister, now that he has appointed as his second economic adviser, Tan Sri Ali Abul Hassan Sulaiman who had  broken with Daim when he was Bank Negara Governor by supporting the Prime Minister in scuttling Daim’s plans to merge all banks and financial institutions into six core groups and expanding them to ten?

Daim’s aide has claimed that apart from not attending Cabinet meetings, Daim’s routine as Finance Minister is unchanged and that he would on Monday officiate the International Seminar on Corporate Finance.

If so, is Daim continuing to  accept full responsibility and accountability both inside and outside Parliament  for the various financial scandals in the recent bail-outs and buy-outs using public funds, whether MAS, Time dotCom, Putra and Star, or over the recent upsurge of concern by the 9.7 million EPF contributors over the safety, liquidity and quality of their RM181 billion EPF funds?

Up to now, EPF has not been able to give full and satisfactory answer to my various questions, including:

Today, I have two  new questions about the EPF:

Firstly, whether it is true that on 30th March 2001,  EPF disposed of 216,000 Tenaga shares valued at RM2.55 million at approximately RM11.80 per share. In the previous few months, Tenaga shares were traded between RM12 to RM13 per share. Why did EPF dispose of the 216,000 Tenaga shares at a loss?

Secondly, between April 2 - 9, 2001, EPF purchased 6.3 million  Tenaga shares valued at RM64,203,100.  The question arises as to whether EPF is in the stock market for long-term investment or  primarily to play the market and if so, for whose benefit?

Does Daim still accept responsibility  as Finance Minister for the portfolios of EPF and prepared to go to Parliament to stand before the MPs, both Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative, to account for the EPF’s use of some RM40 billion in the Kuala Lumpur stock market?

Is Daim also prepared to go before Parliament to expain why the   Pensions Trust Fund (KWAP) has not learnt from its RM360 million loss in its disastrous and irresponsible investment in the Time dotCom IPO bailout, as to further incur some RM44 million losses in its recent acquisition of  24.4 million CAHB shares?

Mahathir  gave a cryptic answer on Thursday to the question whether there were plans to choose a new finance minister, when he said: “We’ll cross the bridge when we come to it. At the moment, we don’t have any plans to choose a new finance minister as we have not reached that stage yet.”

Will “that stage” be reached on the expiry of Daim’s two-month bizarre leave when it would be necessary to “cross the bridge”?

New Straits Times report on Friday gave the headline “PM: Daim not leaving Cabinet - Dr. Mahathir quashes rumour of Finance Minister resigning”.

Only Daim, and not Mahathir, can “quash” the rumour of Daim resigning as Finance Minister, unless Mahathir is contemplating sacking Daim in the way he sacked Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998.

Daim should surface publicly on Monday and make clear his position as Finance Minister, whether he is resigning or not, whether he is still the person to sign all papers in the capacity of Finance Minister, and why he had not signed and gazetted the two per cent cut in employees’ EPF contribution for the last four weeks.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman