The recent proclamation by Mahathir that Ministers reserve the privilege to give out contracts so long they are “not in areas apart from their own” is a troubling development.
Let me preface this by saying that it is not new – of course. Mahathir’s first tenure as Prime Minister was characterized by “bumiputera capitalism”.
Mahathir had elected three patron saints – namely himself, Daim Zainuddin (who was finance minister during two phases of Mahathir’s term) and Anwar Ibrahim, prior to his downfall in September 1998.
From the get-go, they embarked on a massive wealth creation drive which included the privatisation of public services included multi-billion projects such as the North-South Highway, water and sewerage, the Bakun dam, Light Rail Transit System and the National Train Service (KTM).
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that the wealth created by these schemes often evaded the average Malaysian – as the only beneficiaries aside from the political parties involved were the corporate vehicles they used to create legitimacy.
When these companies inevitably failed, they were often bailed out. The only loser being the rakyat, who now have to deal with a myriad range of substandard and overpriced public infrastructure.
There are signs that “bumiputera capitalism” is still alive and well. Take for example the recent brouhaha over Opcom?
Just four days after was sworn in as Prime Minister, Opcom Cables was awarded a RM11.16 million contract by Telekom Malaysia. Mokhzani is the chairman and CEO of this Opcom Cables at that time and his brother, Mukhriz (who is Opcom’s co-founder), was the largest shareholder until he turned his shares over to his wife before entering politics.
A few months later, a letter of appointment that addressed as Petron Fuel International Bhd as one of the fuel suppliers for government vehicles went gone viral on social media. Another of Mahathir’s son, Mirzan Mahathir, is a director of Philippine-based Petron Corporation, which owns Petron Malaysia.
On August 29, the shares of Opcom, a company engaged in the manufacture and sale of fiber optic cables and cable related products in Malaysia rose 41.11% in a day.
The timing was pretty suspect given that the government only recently approved a RM 21.6b National Fiberization and Connectivity Plan.
Again with hindsight, could we blame anyone but ourselves at these recent turn of events?
While the old man had always insisted that he was committed to rebuilding Malaysia, he has never talked about the open secret of crony capitalism like this before.
Some may asked what happened to Harapan’s promise of open tenders in the award of government projects?
The answer as so succinctly put by Mahathir – the manifesto is not a bible, only a guide.
As a result, ask anyone interested in going for a government contract. They will either tell you that its business as usual.
Is this what the component parties of Pakatan Harapan had fought for? A simple changing of the guard.
The main thing that is sure is that Pakatan Harapan has lost its teeth. Where are the warriors, for example, Nurul Izzah and Rafizi. Why have has Mahathir burdened us and our taxpayer ringgits with individuals such as Redzuan Yusof and Rina Harun?
It’s clear then that Mahathir has outlived his usefulness. He insists on trampling on everything that Pakatan Harapan once stood for. He may be surrounded by enablers, but everyone knows that they remain around him to suit his own political purposes.
Tanjung Piai should have been the final straw – it was a clear sign that Mahathir as Prime Minister is over.
We do not need a cabinet reshuffle, we need the transition plan.
– Lutfi Shaari