KUALA LUMPUR: The running of government-linked companies (GLCs) must be free from politics if the new Pakatan Harapan government is serious about reforms, says a political economist.
Prof Dr Edmund Terence Gomez, who is a professor of political economy at Universiti Malaya, said the current reality was that politicians were being appointed to GLCs or GLICs (government-linked investment companies) without public discussion on how they were chosen.
There was a real danger of politicians sitting in GLCs to abuse their positions as seen in the past, Prof Gomez pointed out.
“If we don’t get politics out of GLCs, then we will not see the reforms that we need,” he said during the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) Third Liberalism Conference 2018 here yesterday.
Politicians, said Prof Gomez, must not have a direct relationship with the GLCs’ board of directors as there could be state intervention in the decision-making process.
Citing the Prime Minister’s appointment as Khazanah chairman, he said Pakatan had promised in its manifesto that the GLC board of directors should not comprise politicians.
Agreeing that the system must be dismantled and the GLCs’ management reformed, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chief strategist Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Arif however called for patience while the government “fire fought” over the country’s management.
“I believe we can reform but please understand the context and circumstances,” he said.
“It will happen but please be a little patient because it’s not easy as the system has been anchored for 61 years. Reform will be done,” said Dr Rais, who was one of the panellists at the forum.
He said there were also senior civil servants still loyal to masters of the previous administration and against reforms, said Dr Rais.
In his opening remarks, Ideas founding president Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz said civil society must hold the government to account and speak up about what had not been delivered.
“Civil society is now a permanent feature of the Malaysian public life. We will never be afraid again and it is heartening that some in the government understand this innately,” he said, adding institutions such as Parliament, the Cabinet, the judiciary, police, and various commissions must be kept on track.
Universiti Malaya law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom, who spoke at a separate forum on the freedom of expression in Malaysia post-GE14, said in the push against extremism, the mainstream media must open up more space for moderate voices.
“These are people and bodies like Sisters In Islam who have been pushing against extremism.
“All they get is mockery. They get demonised and they just don’t get the necessary airtime. That’s what I’m hoping will change now,” he said.