The Centre for Independent Journalism is a non-profit organisation promoting media independence and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
The immediate termination of Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman as Prasarana Malaysia Bhd chairperson is a sign that urgent reforms are needed on the overall appointments to government-linked corporations (GLCs).
In making the call, Center for Independent Journalism adviser Ding Jo Ann said while there would be those who welcomed Tajuddin’s removal, the manner in which it was done is a cause for concern.
“Tajuddin’s termination letter signed by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz merely stated that his services as Prasarana chairperson were terminated with immediate effect and he was thanked for his services.
“If termination could only be carried out with cause, then some form of due process would have taken place before a GLC head’s services are terminated,” she told Malaysiakini.
The Minister of Finance (Incorporated) had on Wednesday night removed Tajuddin as Prasarana chairperson with immediate effect.
While the letter signed by Zafrul did not state a reason for the move, Tajuddin (above) had provoked public outrage over his insensitive remarks made during a press conference on Monday (May 24) night’s LRT collision in Kuala Lumpur which saw over 200 passengers injured.
Ding, who was part of the legal support team for the Institutional Reforms Committee set up in 2018 under the previous Pakatan Harapan administration, said due process would see a GLC head first being suspended and issued a show-cause letter.
“If the responses were found to be insufficient, then that person’s services could be terminated.
“The problem with allowing for immediate termination without cause is that the government can easily get rid of un-performing leaders, but they can just as easily get rid of good leaders too,” she said.
Meanwhile, think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) said the concentration of powers in GLICs (government-linked investment companies) – in this case MOF Inc – has raised concern in the operations of companies including Prasarana.
Ideas public finance unit research executive Nur Zulaikha Azmi said the same concern surrounding the minister’s ability to influence major decisions could also be raised against statutory bodies such as Mara and Felda, where their act itself states that the minister has full authority to elect its chairperson and the board.
“No provisions are made for an inter-ministerial review or vetting process to ensure merit and qualification of the appointed individual.
“There is also no process to ensure no conflict of personal or political interest,” she told Malaysiakini.
“As the chairperson has a large influence on decision-making in state-owned enterprises, it will greatly impact the GLC if the management and the chairperson cannot see eye-to-eye.
“We have seen some strong-willed people in the management of GLCs trying to fight for the best of the company. But we have heard cases where some management-level people leave the company or are forced to leave the company,” she said, describing the situation as frustrating.
Last December, Tajuddin was accused of exerting his authority on Prasarana’s management and seeking significant changes in the board’s decisions, including on appointments of LRT3 subcontractors and the RM1.2 billion proposed Latitud 8 project at the Dang Wangi LRT station.
Tajuddin had at the time rebuffed advice for him not to interfere with the board’s decisions, as well as stating that the Latitud 8 project was granted to his family’s linked company prior to his appointment last May.
Responding to the matter, Nur Zulaikha said Ideas together with Bersih had earlier this week proposed the setting-up of a parliamentary select committee (PSC) tasked with vetting the appointments in all state-owned enterprises, including statutory bodies and GLCs.
“The parliamentary select committee will first receive the list of candidates that the GLIC or minister proposes, which the members of the PSC will vet through before the appointment is confirmed,” she added.
‘End political appointments’
Separately, Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim called for an end to appointments of politicians in GLCs to non-executive positions, describing the move as a form of “political bribery”.
“GLCs can operate professionally with an executive chairperson. GLCs are under control of the minister and the cabinet.
“The duty and responsibility of a backbencher MP is to be a full-time professional lawmaker. That is their real job, not to manage LRTs, for example,” Hassan said in a statement.
He stressed that all GLCs would have a line-up of highly paid executives and there was no justification for added financial burdens through non-executive appointments from the ranks of politicians.