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Reuters: Daim's Future Uncertainty
By Simon Cameron-Moore

18/5/2001 4:40 pm Fri

[Mahathir sengaja membiarkan khabar angin bertiup kencang maklumat penting apakah Daim akan tersisih nanti. Ini membolehkan beliau mengurangkan liabiliti menghadapi kritikkan di hari muka nanti. Kita berpendapat Daim tetap setia kepada Mahathir kerana mereka berdua saling perlu-memerlui untuk menyelamatkan diri dan khabar angin adalah strategi terbaik untuk menguji reaksi.

Rencana ini menyebut beberapa tali yang menghubung mereka berdua ini yang menjelma dalam kata-kata yang melambangkan suka-menyukai - termasuk oleh Mokhzani. Daim sendiri melahirkan kesetiannya yang tidak berbelah bahagi. Oleh itu - besar kemungkinan Daim tidak akan menghadapi sebarang pertuduhan di mahkamah yang mengaibkan diri seperti Anwar. Apa yang tersiar mengutuk Daim di sana sini seperti dalam buku-buku itu tidak kemana selagi ia tidak ditulis kepada pihak yang sepatutnya - iaitu polis atau BPR. Ia cuma satu resepi terkini untuk menjaga populariti Mahathir dan mungkin juga sebagai satu strategi ugutan Mahathir agar Daim tidak menjalar ke kem Badawi. Terdapat khabar angin Daim mengongkosi projek kem ini kerana sudah bosan dengan Mahathir yang mahu masuk-campur dalam serba-serbi. - Editor] pi_news_id=632361&pi_ctry=my&pi_lang=en

Malaysia still guessing over future of Finance Minister Daim

By Simon Cameron-Moore

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - When Malaysia's "on leave" Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin steps back into the public eye next Tuesday he is likely to revive a guessing game over how much longer he will be in the job.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sent shockwaves through financial and political circles in April by announcing his long-time ally was taking two-months leave because he was tired.

Having stopped over in Washington after an Asian Development Bank meeting in Honolulu a week ago, Daim is scheduled to address the Asia/Pacific Group meeting on Money Laundering back in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Since news broke of his extended break neither Mahathir nor Daim have denied outright the finance minister's two-month retreat is a prelude to leaving the cabinet, though Daim has chided the media for creating a fuss over him taking time off.

Daim has in the recent past said he wants to hand over the reins once Malaysia's economy is firmly back on track.

GDP growth could slow this year to nearly half the 8.5 percent posted in 2000. Falling reserves have fuelled concern over the durability of Malaysia's 3.8 ringgit per dollar fixed exchange rate.

The near term uncertainty over Daim's future is cast against the bigger question of when the Mahathir, 75, will finally step aside. In July, Mahathir will have been 20 years at the helm.

Daim has been with him for most of that time -- beginning his second stint as finance minister in January, 1999, after the sacking and jailing of Mahathir's former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.

Rumours of a rift between Mahathir and Daim have circulated for months, but another version says they are working closely to put affairs in order for the eventual transition of power.


"The rumours are still swirling," one Western diplomat said.

"It's the talk of the town," another added.

But no-one knows which rumour to believe.

Daim is also treasurer of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), controlling myriad investments through a web of complex shareholdings in a Malaysian corporate sector still carrying heavy debts racked up during the Asian crisis.

Prior to going on leave, Daim had missed several UMNO executive council meetings.

Mahathir has appointed two advisers to help him take more control over the running of the economy. The appointment of the second adviser came days before he announced Daim was on leave.

The rumour mill spun a little faster last month when one of Mahathir's son's, Mokhzani, said he was withdrawing from business interests because of mud-slinging by his father's enemies.

Mahathir has recently launched a campaign against money politics in UMNO.

Mokhzani is also Daim's assistant as treasurer of UMNO's youth wing, and a member of the same party division in the northern state of Kedah, where both Mahathir and Daim hail from.

According to sources close to both camps, Daim helped Mokhzani search for a buyer for his businesses.

Mokhzani, explaining his decision to pull out of business in an interview with a local newspaper, paid tribute to Daim. "I have been close to him for very, very long time... He is the second person I refer to -- that is after my father," he said.

A week ago, in Honolulu, Daim was heaping praise on Mahathir as a "committed reformer" and "fine thinker".

Hardly the stuff of feuds, though sceptics will say it could be smoke and mirrors, and the guessing game will go on.