Can  Mahathir take the high ground against money politics in next week’s UMNO general assembly arising from Mokhazani’s surprise  quitting of UMNO Youth post after quitting business six weeks ago?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Thursday)The announcement of the quitting of his UMNO Youth post by Datuk  Mokhzani Mahathir has come as a surprise, as six weeks ago, he was the talk of the country when he announced his withdrawal from the corporate world and resignation from all his positions in public-listed companies, including as chief executive officer of two high-profile corporations, Pantai Holdings and Tongkah

At the time, Mokhzani cited as reasons for quitting business his  personal disappointment over groups out to tarnish his name and that of his father, the Prime Minister,  Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, stating that he would  concentrate time on politics and party work.

Since then, Tun Daim Zainuddin has resigned as Finance Minister and UMNO Treasurer, raising the question whether there is any connection between these developments and  Mokhzani’s latest move.

In fact, when Mokhzani’s announced his retirement from the corporate world at the end of April, the intriguing question as to its connection with  Daim had already been raised.

At that time, Daim was taking his “bizarre” leave as Finance Minister from Cabinet but which did not prevent him from going to his Finance Ministry office daily to “clear papers” - raising the even more intriguing the question as to whether the decisions taken by Daim when on his “bizarre” leave could be challenged as being unlawful and of no effect.

Be that as it may, it did not escape notice that when Mokhzani announced his withdrawal from the corporate world to concentrate on politics, it was after he had suffered several setbacks in the hands of Daim both politically and in the corporate world.

Politically, Mokhzani suffered the ignominy of being unable to secure enough nominations to contest for the post of division chief for  Merbok, the parliametnary constituency of Daim, after giving up his post of division youth head, losing out to Daim’s political secretary Arzmi Mahmood.

Before this, Mokhzani had reason to be aggrieved with Daim over the proposed disposal of real-estate firm Avenue Assets Bhd., a listed company in the Pantai group. Avenue Assets holds 18% of Phileo Allied Bhd., a financial-services company that has a  RM1.2 billion cash hoard.  The founder of Phileo-Allied Bhd is Tong Kooi Ong, one of Kuala Lumpur's top financial deal makers and  formerly a close business ally of  former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri  Anwar Ibrahim.

Mokhzani was planning to sell the company to Hong Kong businessman Lee Ming Tee. But the proposed deal, which would have covered much of Mokhzani's personal debt obligations estimated at about RM200 million, was thwarted owing to strict conditions imposed by the Securities Commission directly under the responsibility of  Daim.

In January, the Securities Commission approved the sale of PhileoAllied's core banking and brokerage units to Malayan Banking Bhd. But the agency imposed strict and unprecedented conditions on PhileoAllied's management reserving the right to approve any plan to use the RM1.18 billion in cash derived from PhileoAllied's bank sale.

It was probably no surprise that  Mokhzani left the helm of Pantai, through which he indirectly controlled Phileo, when his plans were scuttled, just as Tong’s plan to build a new media empire after relinquishing PhileoAllied Bank  by acquiring Edge Communications Sdn. Bhd. and Sun Media Corporation Bhd. through NEXNEWS.COM.Bhd. was scuttled in March this year  by political objections from Daim.

What does Mokhzani’s double quitting from his UMNO Youth post and the corporate scene presage?

Would this give Mahathir the opportunity at the UMNO General Assembly next weekend to take the high ground on money politics in UMNO?

Mahathir said at the UMNO General Assembly on November 19 last year: “I have persuaded. I have pleaded. I have cried and I have prayed.”

However, Mahathir has nothing very much to show despite all his fierce talk about the crackdown against money politics in UMNO, apart  from the disciplinary action of membership suspension  against six UMNO division leaders. Mahathir’s rhetorics against political corruption  has been weakened by the failure of the UMNO disciplinary board to take e action against more UMNO leaders despite having over 200 cases of complaints of money politics and the  unpreparedness of UMNO to report the six  suspended UMNO members to the  Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman