OK for personal advisers but CEP must go, MIC MP tells Dr M

Yiswaree Palansamy
Sivarraajh urged the prime minister not to delay the disbandment of the quasi-official Council of Eminent Persons. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — Tun Dr Mahathir can have personal advisers, but not in an official capacity if he doesn’t want to undermine the authority of his Pakatan Harapan (PH) Cabinet however green some of its members may be, MIC’s Datuk C. Sivarraajh said.

The Cameron Highlands MP urged the prime minister not to delay the disbandment of the quasi-official Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) now that PH’s first 100 days in power have passed.

“Dr Mahathir has given them an official portfolio, and they have the power to engage with government servants. More above ministers,” he told Malay Mail in an exclusive interview yesterday.

The MIC Youth leader noted that the CEP was chaired by Tan Sri Daim Zainuddin, and that the latter had made recent trip to China to discuss “some contracts” ahead of the prime minister’s ongoing visit.

He said this was cause for concern as it showed the CEP too much influence, which can be abused.

“The worst was when they invited judges and asked them to resign. That is totally unacceptable,” Sivarraajh added.

He was speaking of the controversy that erupted in early June when the CEP summoned then Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif and the-then Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

Members of the legal fraternity, including PH backbencher Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh Deo, criticised the CEP for overstepping its boundaries, adding that the summons showed interference from the executive against the judiciary.

Dr Mahathir later defended the CEP, saying the meeting was only to seek clarification.

But Sivarraajh did not buy the prime minister’s assertion. Again using Daim as an example, the MIC man cited the former minister’s banking experience, besides his prominence as a savvy businessman.

“Daim has his own personal interest He's into business. It's a conflict of interest,” he added.

Sivarraajh said the prime minister should remove the CEP since its role as a government oversight panel to ensure the PH coalition fulfilled its electoral promises within its first 100 days in power is technically over.

“So I think their roles must be reduced. He can have them as advisers in a personal capacity, but not on an official hierarchy,” he said.

The PH marks its 100 days as a federal government today.

Sivarraajh said Dr Mahathir can retain the panel members in other capacities, and suggested their appointment to a government think tank or elsewhere, “but not as CEP” given that they are not part of the county's constitutional framework.

The other members of the CEP are former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Tan Sri Hassan Marican and economist Professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

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