Daim should not  “play games” with the people and come clean as to the real reason for his mysterious “leave” and rift with Mahathir

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): It is bad enough for the country that the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister are playing “political games” when it is in the  midst of the second economic crisis in four years as a result of the United States economic slowdown coupled with the worst crisis of  confidence in the government in the nation’s history.

It is worse when Tun Daim Zainuddin also want to play “games” with the people of Malaysia by giving a “tall tale”  as to why he has taken “leave”.  Daim should not “play games” with the people and come clean as to the real reason for his mysterious “leave” and rift with Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Daim said in Sungai Petani yesterday that  he has taken two months' leave to spend more time to clear files on development projects.  He said that  the projects would not move if the files were not cleared and that had he not taken the leave, he would have little time to go through them.

Daim’s explanation sounds plausible and can even win him praise as a very responsible leader  except that the  “tall tale” collapses when subject to examination.

If it is true that Daim has taken  “leave” to clear the backlog of files on development projects on his table to ensure there are economic activities in the country, then the immediate question is why he is gallivanting in Merbok when he should have also taken leave from his constituency and be out of “sight and sound” furiously clearing the backlog of files on development projects on his table “to ensure that economic activities continue to move in the midst of a sluggish economy".

And why is he wasting time opening the new school, Sekolah Kebangsaan Jalan Datuk Kumbar in Alor Setar, Kedah and attending the "Jasamu Dikenang"     ceremony organised by the Merbok Umno Division in conjunction with Umno's 55th anniversary, distracting him from the important and urgent task to clear the development files on his table when these political  chores could be delegated to party functionaries who do not have more important things to do?

The second reaction is that Daim must be a very incompetent Minister to have such a backlog of files on development projects on his table, impeding economic progress of the country.

In May 1999, Daim had publicly slammed Ministries and government departments for delays in the implementation of government projects, telling the Malaysian District Officers Conference 1999  that 16 ministries and departments experienced a shortfall in development expenditures of between 50 and 100 per cent in the first quarter of that  year which  could  "jeopardise national productivity, income flow and the achievement of national social goals".

He also gave the following disclosures:

This was followed by denunciations in the mass media that delays in the implementation of government projects was akin to "sabotage", and when the then  Second Finance Minister, Datuk Mustapha Mohamad, blamed Cabinet Ministers and their secretaries-general for  the delays, a full media war nealy blew up with Works Minister, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu and the then  Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister, Datuk Sabarrudin Chik the first two to  blame the Finance Ministry for not releasing the money.

However, before other Minsters came to their own public defences, Daim quickly stepped in to call for a moratorium among the Ministers  in the press.

I had strongly objected to such a “cover-up” and demanded that the people had the right to know who were the Ministers who were  obstructing the implementation of the development projects.

Daim has now given an important clue for the delays in the implementation of the development projects - the backlog of files on development projects on his table.

Daim should explain why there is such a mountain of backlog of files on development projects on his table which requires two months to clear, which is a scandalous reflection on his competence and efficiency - a serious lapse which would have warranted serious disciplinary actions to be taken if it had been committed by senior government officials.

Apart from the mountain of backlog of files on development projects, are there other backlogs of other files requiring the Finance Minister’s attention on his other tables?

Daim owes Parliament and the nation an explanation how such a mountain of backlog of files on developments projects requiring two months to clear was accumulated in the first place.

He has two deputy ministers, one parliamentary secretary and one special adviser who is none other than Mustapha Mohamad, the former second Finance Minister until he was defeated in the 1999 general election.

Are they of no help?  Mustapha seems to be spending more time as UMNO Information Chief than as Finance Ministry Adviser - and Daim must explain whether Mustapha is being paid as Finance Ministry Adviser to do the work of UMNO Information Chief -  a clear abuse of power and misuse of public funds!

There are two other grounds destroying  the credibility of  Daim’s claim that he has taken two months’ leave to clear the backlog of development projects on his table - one by Mahathir and the other by himself.

When Mahathir confirmed last Thursday that Daim had taken two-month leave, he did not seem to know that the purpose was to enable Daim to clear the backlog of development files or he would have definitely given that as the reason, instead of the following responses when asked by reporters on Daim’s reason for taking leave:

“Maybe he has been working too hard.”

“Probably he is tired. You all disturb him too much, asking him questions non-stop and criticising him for MAS and this and that.”

“He is still in the office. He still has work in the office.  Even though he is on leave, he still comes in to look at documents and letters.”

"That you've got to ask him. If you ask me and I answer, he might get angry."

"At the moment we have no plans to appoint a new minister of finance because we've not reached that stage."

Although Daim said yesterday that he had asked the Prime Minister to give him time to concentrate on clearing files on his desk, Mahathir clearly did not know of the request until yesterday or he would not have said that Daim has taken two months leave because the Finance Minister was “tired”!

But Daim himself had also demolished this explanation when he was leaving Parliament on Monday after the Prime Minister’s presentation of the Eighth Malayisa Plan, as reported by Star (August 24, 2001):

“Asked whether his leave was a prelude to him leaving the Government, Daim just said: ‘I’m on leave.

“When it was pointed out that he was on leave when the economy was not doing well, he said: ‘It’s just a slowdown’.”

It is clear that the reason that he had taken “leave” to clear files on development projects on his table was thought up by Daim after his encounter with the press in Parliament on Monday so as to give the impression that he had acted in the national interest and not as part of the “power  tussle” with Mahathirl.

This is why Daim should not “play games” with the people and come clean as to the real reason for his mysterious “leave” and rift with the Prime Minister.

As Daim claims that apart from not attending Cabinet Ministers, he is still fully discharging his duties and responsibilities as Finance Minister, he should explain why he had failed  in the past month to sign and gazette the Ministerial order reducing the employees’ EPF contribution by two per cent from 11% to 9% with effect from 1st April 2001, making its implementation by the EPF unlawful.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman