(Mantin, Sunday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir said last week that the Finance Minister must be a ¡°clean¡± and uncontroversial figure, raising questions as to whether these were the reasons for the resignation of Tun Daim Zainuddin as Finance Minister.
He said the Finance Minister could be a politician or a non-politician, but he did not want to be hurried to decide on the matter.
It is a sad commentary on his failure as Prime Minister for two decades that he has difficulty in finding a ¡°clean¡± and uncontroversial figure, politician or non-politician, to be Finance Minister, although he had more than two months to consider the question as it is now obvious that when Mahathir made the announcement in April about Daim going on two-month ¡°bizarre¡± leave, it was as good as a ¡°quit¡± notice to Daim from Mahathir.
The Malaysian Islamic Economic Council has urged Mahathir to continue as Finance Minister and similar calls had been made in the influential mainstream mass media - which is a further reflection of the poverty of Barisan Nasional leadership that Mahathir seemed to have run out talents to become Finance Minister that to many, he is the only best choice for the post.
Former Finance Minister, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, said in Kota Bahru yesterday that it was unlikely that he would be re-appointed to the post, and I agree with him as he might not even be in Mahathir¡¯s shortlist as the new Finance Minister.
However, I think Mahathir¡¯s first choice is to take back the Home Ministry rather than to continue as Finance Minister, and for this reason it is likely that he might move the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the Finance Ministry on the ground of exposing the future Prime Minister to the important world of finance, although Abdullah¡¯s position as Prime Minister heir-apparent had weakened considerably in recent months.
Mahathir would then return to the Home Ministry to mastermind the break from ¡°international norms¡± on human rights and democracy which he had ominously referred during his speech in Parliament in April when introducing the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2,001-2010.
I do not believe that Mahathir is still scouting for a Finance Minister but he is waiting for the right timing to make the announcement. It is clear that whatever decision Mahathir has decided will not be a popular or a very acceptable one, not only to the Malaysian public but also to UMNO, and this is probably the reason why he wants to wait until after the UMNO General Assembly this weekend before announcing his decision.