Should politicians head GLCs?

PETALING JAYA: Appointing politicians as heads of government-linked companies (GLCs) continues to be a point of contention, with analysts taking different stands on this procedure generally practised around the world.

The analysts pointed out these political appointments are not unique to Malaysia as many other countries also do the same.

But what’s important is that appointments must not be seen as a gratification for election losers.

University of Tasmania Professor of Asian Studies James Chin said the reality is it’s natural for governments to appoint politicians from ruling parties to head GLCs.

“When it comes to naming heads of GLCs, you cannot not appoint government politicians.

“The reality is that this also happens in many other countries, as government institutions or government-linked companies by their very nature are political.

“The issue is not about politicians leading GLCs but the way the politicians use their positions in those companies to make money through their proxies.

“It is about the ethical standards of these politicians, rather than politicians heading GLCs.

“Part of the problem we have had, when politicians headed GLCs, it is seen as a reward as compensation for something else. If you are a government MP, and if you were not appointed to the Cabinet or any other government post, then you will get appointed to a GLC.

“Or if senior politicians had given up their seats in the elections, they are rewarded for doing so by getting appointed as heads of GLCs,” said Chin.

He said the more important issue to be addressed is the competency of the one appointed.

“As long as the one appointed is competent and maintains ethical standards while in the position, it is fine. However, this is probably difficult to maintain in the Malaysian context.

“Measuring such appointments by benchmarking those appointed as well as laying out what is expected of them would be a good way of ensuring that these positions are not misused,” said Chin.

Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Azmil Mohd Tayeb said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should do away with the practice of political appointments to GLCs.

Rules of professionalism must be adhered to when appointing people to these strategic positions such as appropriate experience and expertise, he said.

“Anwar’s government also has to publicly justify these appointments to inject an element of transparency,” said Azmil.

Earlier, there had been calls from civil society organisations to review the appointment of politicians to head GLCs.

This came after the appointment of former Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim as Kedah Regional Development Authority (Keda) chairman on April 5.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) had in March also slammed several political appointments to GLCs including Datuk Dr Ashraf Wajdi Dusuki as Mara chairman and Balik Pulau MP Datuk Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik as MyCreative Ventures Sdn Bhd’s chairman.

However, on April 10, Anwar said that there will be a review of the appointment of several government-linked companies’ heads including that of Abdul Azeez.

Two other GLCs also recently announced the appointment of two non-politicians, which did not get public flak.

On March 27, PETRONAS Gas Bhd director Abdul Razak Abdul Majid was appointed chairman of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB). Razak will serve for a two-year term from March 27.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) announced vice-chairman and CEO of United Plantations Berhad Datuk Carl Bek-Nielsen as its new chairman effective May 1.

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