Frankly Speaking: The training wheels must go, eventually

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 20, 2018 - August 26, 2018.
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When the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) was formed, it was meant to be a temporary adviser for a fledgling government. Its head, Tun Daim Zainuddin, said early on that he hoped to complete his task within 100 days.

The public interpreted Daim’s remark as indicating that the CEP would be dissolved by 100 days. Hence, many people were surprised when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said last week that he still needed the CEP. This means the council is here to stay at least in the near future.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali stressed that the extension is not reflective of the Cabinet’s capabilities.

The change of federal government following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the 14th general election was unprecedented. Many in the current administration, while long on political experience, now find themselves on unfamiliar footing as the governing coalition.

Having the CEP is invaluable.

Apart from two-time finance minister Daim, its ranks boast a former central bank governor, a former head of the national oil company, Malaysia’s most successful businessman and a prominent economist.

Their inherent experience and wisdom is a comforting bedrock as the new government finds its footing. For its members, who are as old as 94 years old this year, to join the council in what should be their golden years is exemplary public service.

That said, there should be a timeline for the training wheels to be removed. The alternative is to risk eroding the credibility of the government and raise more uncertainty as to how Malaysia is truly managed.

Ultimately, there should come a time when the government leaves its comfort zone and takes charge of the nation, as per the people’s mandate.

Because if a young bird is not allowed to fledge, it may never learn to leave the nest and fly high.

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