Has Abdullah to continue heading the two important Ministries of Home and Finance apart from being Prime Minister because he has no confidence to relinquish either one to another Cabinet Minister?
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): When Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over the premiership from Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on Oct. 31 and also assumed the Finance Ministry portfolio on top of the Home Ministry post, it raised eyebrows although it was explained and accepted as a short-term measure as there had been no Cabinet reshuffle.
However, when Abdullah retained both Home and Finance Ministries apart from being Prime Minister after his first Cabinet reshuffle yesterday following the long-delayed appointment of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as Deputy Prime Minister, it has pushed eyebrows higher and raised the question whether Abdullah has to continue the unprecedented practice of heading the two important ministries of Home and Finance because he has no confidence to relinquish either one to another Cabinet Minister.
Although there were political pundits who expected Abdullah to do the unexpected on the appointment of his No. 2, Najib’s appointment was really no surprise – as the real surprise would be if Najib had been passed over as the Deputy Prime Minister.
In the event, the real surprise turned out to be Abdullah’s holding on to two major Cabinet portfolios, which is completely unprecedented in Malaysian political history. Despite Abdullah’s statement that he wanted to “hear the truth”, there seems to be the beginning of a new culture of political feudalism and sycophancy, with certain subjects becoming political taboo – such as whether Abdullah should be Prime Minister, Home Minister as well as Finance Minister all in one.
The appointment of Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, the Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister, as the second Finance Minister is clearly to provide Abdullah the professional expertise and even political reliability he needed in the Finance Ministry.
While Nor Mohamed’s professionalism is not doubted, his commitment to the principles of accountability, transparency and good governance is highly questionable, particularly in view of the still unaccounted Bank Negara foreign exchange speculation scandal of 1992 and 1993 which resulted in over RM10 billion losses and his pivotal role in the operation when he was the third in command in Bank Negara before his resignation.
Now that Nor Mohamed is in the public forefront as the Second Finance Minister, who will be more of a de facto Finance Minister than his predecessor, Datuk Dr. Jamaludin Jarjis, the time has come for a full disclosure and accountability for the over RM10 billion Bank Negara foreign exchange losses a decade ago, not only as a lesson of financial responsibility but also of political accountability.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman