Dr Mahathir: CEP will not be dissolved just yet

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on August 17, 2018.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), or the Council of Elders, will continue its advisory role to the government, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, adding that its dissolution date has yet to be determined.

The prime minister said the government still needs the CEP’s services to help solve many of the country’s problems.

The CEP comprises former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petroliam Nasional Bhd chief executive officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican, tycoon Robert Kuok and prominent economist Professor Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Dr Mahathir had announced the establishment of the CEP to advise the new cabinet, shortly after assuming office, following the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s historic victory in the 14th general election on May 9.

Dr Mahathir dismissed talks that the CEP will be dissolved 100 days after the new Pakatan government came into office, which falls today.

“They (rumours) think that the CEP will come to an end [after 100 days], but I never said so. I still need their services until they solve all the problems,” he told reporters after launching the country’s first private cardiac vascular specialist hospital here yesterday.

When asked how long the CEP will continue to function, Dr Mahathir said the council’s services are still needed until many of the country’s problems have been solved, declining to give a specific deadline.

“I myself can’t do all the work,” he said.

Although he gave assurance that most of the issues will be resolved, Dr Mahathir admitted that he is not sure that the five-year term is enough for the Pakatan government to “totally fix” the country.

“The manifesto was written on the basis of what we knew about what the [then] government was doing. But when we took over, we found that the situation is much worse, and much more money was borrowed,” he said.

“The machinery of the government has been subverted. We find ourselves working in an environment that is not really dedicated to what we want to do. [That’s why] we need to remove some people. All these things hinder the progress,” Dr Mahathir said.

He noted that some of the reform initiatives need to be passed by the parliament, hence fulfilling Pakatan’s promises requires more time than initially planned.

“So while we made a promise that we should do things in [the first] 100 days, the most we could do was to start these things,” he added.

Meanwhile, Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali denied that the tenure of the CEP is being extended because the cabinet is underperforming.

“Cabinet functions very effectively,” he said in reply to questions from reporters at the parliament lobby yesterday.

Mohamed Azmin said the CEP has no power to make any “governmental decisions”, as that authority belongs absolutely to the cabinet.

“They (CEP) are not making any decisions. Their role is not to make any decisions; they are just there to pick up recommendations based on the proposals received by various parties, concerned citizens,” he said.

Mohamed Azmin said Dr Mahathir should be allowed to decide on the tenure of the CEP.

“Let the PM decide. He has said that he needs more time, as there are so many issues when we came into Putrajaya.

“The PM has made it very clear that the CEP’s role is to go through some major reports, which were presented to the government,” Mohamed Azmin said.

“Certainly, he needs a team to study and look at the reports. The CEP will put up recommendations to the government, and not necessarily we will agree with those recommendations.

“Finally, all of the recommendations will come back to the cabinet for us to deliberate and discuss,” Mohamed Azmin added.

The Cardiac Vascular Sentral Kuala Lumpur is led by chairman Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang, with a team of 20 experienced specialist doctors. It represents a RM270 million investment by TE Asia Healthcare Partners, its first investment in Malaysia, as the TPG Capital Asia portfolio company looks into building a regional network of specialised medical specialties across Asia.