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Reuters: Daim quits
By Patrick Chalmers

3/6/2001 8:35 am Sun

[Daim sudah meletak jawatan tetapi itu tidak bermakna apa-apa selagi semua rahsia masih dibiar terpendam. Lagipun Mahathir juga membiarkan Daim bermain dengan wang milik rakyat dan kerajaan sekian lama tanpa berbuat apa-apa. Tidak mungkin Mahathir tidak tahu kerana sudah lama pembangkang, ahli Umno sendiri dan MTUC bising mengenainya. Mahathir melantik Daim kerana dia pun tumpang sekaki juga. Nampaknya kapal sudah karam tetapi yang basah cuma seorang.... - Editor]

Saturday June 2, 5:26 PM

Malaysia's Finance Minister Daim quits

By Patrick Chalmers

KUALA LUMPUR, June 2 (Reuters) - Malaysian Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin ended weeks of speculation about his future on Saturday, quitting his post despite Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's apparent efforts to hold on to him.

The official Bernama news agency quoted Mahathir as saying Daim had stepped down, effective from Friday, and adding the finance chief gave no reason for his decision.

"Two months ago he asked to resign but I told him to go on leave first and reconsider his decision," Mahathir said.

Asked about a possible successor, Mahathir said he had not yet considered it and jokingly asked if anyone wanted the job.

The prime minister said Daim had asked to resign 10 months ago, something he had kept quiet in case Daim changed his mind.

Kuala Lumpur has been thick with talk of a rift between the two men since the prime minister announced in April that his long-time ally had taken leave due to tiredness.

Cryptic public comments and jokes by both in the past few weeks did nothing to quell speculation Daim was on his way out.

Zahari Ab Wahab, a former UMNO youth treasurer, told Reuters the relationship between the two men went back too far for one to turn on the other.

But if Daim did not go of his own accord, and Mahathir did not push him, the pressure within the party to get rid of the finance minister must have become to great for the premier to resist.

The ruling United Malays National Organisation captured less than half the Malay votes in the November 1999 election, as the country's ethnic majority registered their displeasure with the sacking and jailing Mahathir's rival, Anwar Ibrahim -- Daim's predecessor at the finance ministry.

UMNO efforts since to win back Malay support have floundered and disillusion with the government has hardened over some high-profile bail-outs of Malay tycoons wiht close links to Daim.

Daim's departure comes as Mahathir faces quiet jostling for his job within party ranks, shaky support from majority ethnic Malays and opposition taunts about the spread of money politics during the prime minister's 20 years in office.

The Malaysian stock market, which slipped slightly on Friday as speculation about Daim spread, will welcome the end of the uncertainty when it reopens Tuesday after a religious holiday for Mohamad's birthday.

The 100-stock Composite Index, which closed for a three-day weekend on Friday down 0.3 percent at 571.26 points, represents Asia's worst-performing market this year with a 16 percent fall.

"I think the market will be relieved of the uncertainties. Daim served the country well and steered the economy out of the recession. All eyes will now be focussed on his successor," said Manokaran Mottain, an economist at SBB Securities.

Shahrir Samad, an UMNO Supreme Council member and frequent Mahathir critic, said changes were needed in the conduct of the public works programmes and the contracts department to bring in greater openess and transparency.

"I just hope it's not just a change of personality but a change in the government's financial culture," Shahrir said.

Among the potential candidates to succeed Daim is Entrepreneur Development Minister Nazri Aziz, who stood in for him at cabinet meetings for the last two months.

A lawyer by training, Nazri has also held the chairmanship of several companies.

Another could be Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, appointed central bank chief a year ago, while assistant governor Awang Adek Hussin has also figured as he moved up the UMNO ladder.

Abdul Ghani Othman, Chief Minister of the economically strong the southern state of Johor was another in the frame along with Nor Mohamed Yakcop, one of Mahathir's two economic advisors who is also former senior central banker.