Maszlee Malik tipped to lead MARA after Perikatan sacks all Pakatan-appointed board members

Maszlee Malik waves to reporters as he leaves Putrajaya January 2, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Maszlee Malik waves to reporters as he leaves Putrajaya January 2, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Former education minister Maszlee Malik has been shortlisted to lead Bumiputera development agency MARA following the removal of all board members appointed by the previous Pakatan Harapan government, according to sources.

The post offering is likely a way to entice the Parti Bersatu Pribumi Malaysia (Bersatu) leader to desert the faction supportive of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is expected to mount a strong campaign against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the upcoming party elections, two sources familiar with the matter said.

“MARA people are saying Maszlee has been named as the likely candidate for the chairmanship,” said a government source.

“I suspect it is to entice him.”

Talks about Maszlee’s appointment followed yesterday’s swift sacking of all eight MARA board members by the new rural development minister, Datuk Abdul Latiff Ahmad.

Abdul Latiff is a member of Bersatu’s supreme council aligned to Muhyiddin and seen as a key player who helped wrest power from PH, prompted Dr Mahathir’s resignation as prime minister, and install the Perikatan Nasional government

The ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Ahmad Jailani Muhamed Yunus said in a letter to inform sacking that the minister’s order was in line with the Cabinet’s directive to terminate the contracts of all political appointments made by the previous administration.

“It is with joy we announce that the Honourable Rural Development Minister on March 17 had agreed to end the contracts of all politically-appointed board members of agencies, companies owned by agencies of the KPLB as decided by a March 11 Cabinet meeting,” the letter said.

“The termination is effective March 18.”

MARA was previously viewed as a crucial political tool for Umno when the party was in power. It kept the agency under its control by appointing proxies in key positions as a way to disburse projects that could boost the party’s Bumiputera support.

Under the PH administration, the coalition implemented a policy against political appointments that entailed the appointment of board members of government-linked funds from the corporate sector.

Previously, half the board would have consisted of politicians or their proxies.

Sources said the sacking of the eight board members would allow the PN government to reinstate that practice, a move that would allow Muhyiddin to secure his position both within Bersatu and as prime minister.

“The minister is empowered to make those appointments but under PH all MARA board members were credible professionals,” said another source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“But now we could see half the members made of politicians.”

Muhyiddin could face an uphill battle to secure his position within his own party after Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of Bersatu founder and former chairman Dr Mahathir, launched a challenge for the presidency.

Dr Mahathir himself, who is believed to remain highly influential among the party grassroots, has said he would contest for the chairmanship, a move set to pit Bersatu’s pro-Muhyiddin national leadership against thousands of its own supporters.

Muhyiddin is seen as one of the key engineers behind the power grab that caused the collapse of the PH administration.

Under his premiership, Bersatu leaders now hold all senior Cabinet posts, appointments political analysts said was aimed at placating the contesting parties and keeping his challengers at bay.

Maszlee could not be reached for comments.

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