In a recent statement, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) has raised concerns about the continuation of political appointments in government-linked companies by Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The statement comes as the appointment of YB Wong Chen, a Member of Parliament from Anwar’s party (People’s Justice Party, PKR), as the Non-Executive Chairman of Malaysia Debts Ventures Berhad (MDV), a state-owned enterprise, is under scrutiny.
According to an official announcement on MDV’s website, Mr Wong has been appointed as the new Non-Executive Chairman of MDV, effective from Tuesday (May 23), succeeding Mr Khairul Azwan Harun, whose term concluded on December 31, 2022.
Mr Wong was also elected as a member of PKR’s Central Leadership Council for 2022-2025.
MDV is a subsidiary under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and is owned by the Ministry of Finance (Incorporated) [MKD].
As mentioned in the statement, Mr Wong who is currently serving his third term as the Member of Parliament for Subang, brings over 22 years of experience in corporate law and information technology law.
“He obtained his law degree from the University of Warwick, UK, and pursued further education at the United World College of Southeast Asia, Singapore, to deepen his understanding of global issues and international security,” the MDV statement highlighted.
Aside from his keen interest in climate change and human rights issues, YB Wong Chen is also well-versed in fiscal matters, economics, international trade, and policy-making, as noted in MDV’s statement.
“With his extensive experience and expertise, MDV believes that under the leadership of YB Wong Chen, the company will continue to enhance its performance in developing technology-based companies and technology startups in Malaysia, thereby contributing to the nation’s prosperity.”
BERSIH demands transparency in appointments to GLCs and statutory bodies
In response to Mr Wong’s appointment as MDV’s Non-Executive Chairman, BERSIH has issued a statement on Thursday (25 May), calling on the current Malaysian government, led by Anwar, to bring an end to the long-standing practice of political appointments and patronage that have historically resulted in corruption and mismanagement within government-linked companies (GLCs).
“Let the appointment process be open and transparent so that qualified Malaysians who want to serve their country through GLCs and statutory bodies can apply.”
While BERSIH acknowledges Mr. Wong’s self-imposed limitations, which include abstaining from chairing board committees on risk management, remuneration, audit, and financing and investments to mitigate potential conflicts of interest, the organization questions the necessity of his appointment.
The group raise concerns about whether Malaysia truly faces a scarcity of talent that warrants the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Mr. Wong.
The organization clarifies that they do not doubt Mr. Wong’s qualifications or his ability to lead such an enterprise.
“In fact, Wong Chen has proven to be an able MP and he has also been appointed by his parliamentary colleagues to Chair the important Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) on International Relations and Trade, as well as being the Chair of the All Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Political Financing. ”
BERSIH suggests excluding elected representatives as candidates for GLC positions
BERSIH argues that while Mr Wong underwent vetting by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), such appointments should also be subject to scrutiny by the relevant Parliamentary Special Select Committees (PSSC).
BERSIH also recommends excluding elected representatives as candidates for GLC positions, with exceptions made only for key statutory bodies responsible for overseeing and directing government policies.
“The scrutiny by PSSCs will ensure that only qualified individuals are appointed to key positions in GLCs and statutory boards as these enterprises are custodians of public wealth, and not private businesses.”
The statement commends Economic Minister YB Rafizi Ramli’s recent call for qualified candidates to apply for CEO positions in two government-linked companies under his ministry, Teraju and Peneraju, suggesting that this approach should be adopted and incorporated into the new standard operating procedure (SOP) for GLC and statutory board appointments.
Mr Wong previously held the position of Deputy Chairman of the Special Select Committee on Finance and Economy and served on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Additionally, he has been involved in international organizations, including being a member of the High-Level Working Group on Science & Technology of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), representing the Asia-Pacific region, and a member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
He is also one of the founders of the Southeast Asian Community group (SEAC).