Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On ex-PMs becoming “advisors” …

Tun Abdullah Badawi is now advisor to Malaysia Airlines. The Malaysian Insider says “The Najib administration has manoeuvered around a potentially delicate situation … keeping Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Petronas advisor.”

Apparently there is a “tradition” for a recently retired prime minister to be given the prestigious advisor position in the national oil company. This can’t be a long “tradition”. Petronas was formed only in the 1970s after our first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had retired. Our second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak passed away in office. Tun Hussein Onn was the first such ex-PM “advisor”. And Tun M is the second.

I wonder why this “tradition” developed. The scope and terms of reference of these “advisors” has never been officially disclosed. It is less of an issue in the case of unlisted Petronas. But Malaysia Airlines is a public-listed company, with directors elected by shareholders. Where does Tun Abdullah sit in the overall scheme of corporate governance?

It would be wonderful if Tun Abdullah declines this ‘honour’ and nips this dubious “tradition” in the bud. Cushy GLC (government-linked corporate) positions should not become part of the expected retirement package for ex-PMs.

It would be far more meaningful if ex-PMs apply their influence to champion projects that benefit the ordinary rakyat. For instance, I am thinking of the Tun Hussein Onn Eye Hospital, a wonderful hospital that provides affordable specialist eye-care. Jeff Ooi was a very satisfied patient; and so was I.

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