KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 ― Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has denied allegations of political interference by the advisory Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), saying the panel merely “communicates” with his administration and cannot influence policymaking.
Dr Mahathir told news portal Malaysiakini that the CEP has so far acted within its term of reference, that is to make policy recommendations and communicate their views.
“They're not interfering with the government. They are communicating with me, which is in their terms of reference,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.
“They are there to advise me on what to do, and how to do these things,” he added.
Malaysiakini also reported that Dr Mahathir suggested that the council had merely tried “influencing” decisions, but not to the point of interfering.
The news portal did not explain what the prime minister meant by that.
Last week, Singaporean daily Straits Times claimed alleged internal tussle between government leaders and the CEP over decision-making amid growing speculation that the panel wield to much influence over the PH administration.
The rumours had prompted calls for the CEP to be disbanded after it completed its 100-day mandate but Dr Mahathir announced last week that the council is still needed and would be retained, drawing more scrutiny.
In the interview with Malaysiakini, D Mahathir explained that the CEP remains necessary because he cannot rely on the civil service, which he alleged remains loyal to Barisan Nasional due to corruption by his predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“You know, the executives have been undermined by Najib. They work for the party, not for me, not for the government, not for the people,” he was quoted saying.
“I need people I can trust. I must say that it's difficult to trust people because you don't know their background.”
Dr Mahathir had openly questioned the loyalty senior government officials after he took office, claiming there had been sabotage attempts in the three months since Pakatan Harapan took Putrajaya.
The former prime minister, now seen as leading efforts to reform key government institutions, claimed many of them “obeyed” Najib “like slaves”.
“During Najib's time, they obeyed him like slaves. He tells them to do things that are criminal, like he did with the former attorney-general,” he was quoted saying, referring to Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.
“He hid evidence by putting it under Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA). You cannot hide evidence. Hiding evidence is a criminal act,” he added.
Apandi controversially cleared Najib of any wrongdoing pertaining to the allegations of financial corruption as troubled fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.