KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirmed last night that he received a letter of support from Deputy Defence Minister Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz purportedly asking for his son to be appointed to Pharmaniaga’s board of directors.
The letter, which went viral on social media yesterday, contained a note believed to be handwritten by Ismail Sabri telling the chairman of the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) that he backed the suggestion, Malaysiakini reported.
The news portal had quoted the defence minister as confirming the June 5 letter, although Ismail Sabri said he stopped short of seeing through the appointment to avert accusations of nepotism.
The Bera MP claimed the support was merely because the candidate had experience in business.
“Yes, I did give my support,” Ismail Sabri said.
“He (Hazlan) is a businessperson, so his experience can be useful. Politically, he is also an Umno Youth exco member,” he added.
“(But) Yes (I agree this could be nepotism). This was why I did not appoint him.”
Boustead Holdings, a major defence contractor whose biggest stakeholder is Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), is Pharmaniaga’s majority shareholder.
The Armed Forces pension fund also owns a smaller stake in Pharmaniaga.
Three of Pharmaniaga’s board members had reportedly resigned prior to the company’s annual general meeting on July 2.
The company later appointed three new members as per its announcement to Bursa Malaysia on August 3.
They are Azhar Ahmad, Najmil Faiz Mohamed Aris and Zulkifli Jafar, Malaysiakini reported.
Malaysiakini said it has contacted Ikmal Hisham for his comments on the matter.
The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre) in an immediate response had criticised the issuance of the support letter, and called for the authorities to launch a probe.
Its director Cynthia Gabriel called the act a blatant abuse of power, Malaysiakini quoted her as saying. Gabriel had also called on Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to respond firmly.
“If this is legit, the Perikatan Nasional government and especially Prime Minister Muhyiddin has a lot to answer for,” she said.
“This is a clear abuse of power by the deputy minister. Issuing support letters is very unwelcomed if the prime minister’s pledges to cut corruption are to be taken seriously,” she added.
“It defeats competition and denies those with no political connections a chance to succeed and shine.”