Making good on his election promise to prevent Prime Ministers from holding the position of Finance Minister, Mahathir appointed Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary general Lim Guan Eng to the coveted role. The son of veteran DAP politician Lim Kit Siang, Lim was jailed twice by Mahathir, and has served as both a senior politician and chief minister.
Party Amanah politician Mohamad Sabu, imprisoned twice under the Internal Security Act, was appointed Defence Minister, while Parti Bersatu politician and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was named Home Minister.
Lim Guan Eng’s appointment as Finance Minister has been welcomed by some businessmen and observers, as it is believed that he will better understand the financial needs of Malaysians, The Star reported.
Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Emeritus Professor Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid told The Star that Guan Eng had “two essential ingredients” to manage an economy.
“As a trained chartered accountant, he has an analytical mind.
“As a senior politician and former chief minister, he has demonstrated a good understanding of the country’s socio-economic issues,” he is quoted as saying in The Star.
Guan Eng’s immediate tasks, he said, would include making good on Pakatan’s manifesto on GST, managing the country’s debts, balancing the fiscal deficit and reviewing policy on subsidies especially on fuel, crude oil and gas prices.
One of Pakatan Harapan’s election pledges was to abolish the highly unpopular 6 per cent GST within 100 days of being elected.
Another who praised the development was education consultant Lim Bee Hoon.
“Lim Guan Eng is action-oriented. He has brought socio-economic development to Penang,” he told The Star.
“His policies are people-friendly and the state is very clean now.”
Mahathir’s choice of Mohamad Sabu as Defence Minister was also viewed positively by some analysts and army veterans, who believed he would shine in the role as due to his rich experience as a fearless politician imprisoned twice under the Internal Security Act, The Star reported.
However, while some observers approved, Pakatan Harapan squabbled.
In a statement released after Mahathir’s announcement, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli questioned why no PKR members were present at the meeting to finalise the ministers and said that the party assumes that the decision is not final, as all four parties must approve decisions regarding the appointments, The Star reported.
PKR won the largest number of seats in the May 9 election.
Mahathir has since announced that each component party will be fairly represented in the Cabinet and positions will be assigned based on who won the most seats during the election, The Star reported.
He also said yesterday evening that Lim will only be able to assume the role of Finance Minister if he is cleared of charges of corruption.
Lim is currently facing trial in Penang, charged with using his position as a public officer to gain gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to a company, Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd, The Star reported.
He is also charged with using his position to obtain for himself a plot of land and a bungalow from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8mil, a price which he allegedly knew was not commensurate with the property’s market value at the time of RM4.27mil, according to The Star.