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Asiaweek: 'We Are Not At War' - Mahathir - Daim
By Assif Shameen

23/6/2001 9:45 am Sat

[Jika Ku Li tewas di luar dan Anwar tertewas di dalam, tidak mungkin Daim akan menang jika membantah baik dari luar mahupun dalam. Hanya Anwar yang seperti menang di luar - itupun kerana rakyat berdiri dibelakangnya. Siapa yang mahu berdiri di belakang Daim? Wang sudah sukar kerana Mahathir baru sahaja mempromosi kempen anti politik wang. Tiada jalan keluar untuk Daim melainkan berpura-pura dan diam sahaja. - Editor] nations/0,8782,132150,00.html

'We Are Not At War'

Rumors of Daim Zainuddin's arrest set Malaysia abuzz. But you don't jail your co-architect. You just sack him and rebuild the house


Daim Zainuddin laughed out loud when rumors of his impending arrest reached him. Standing in the lobby of the prime minister's office June 18, the former Malaysian finance minister was chatting animatedly with government officials, awaiting an audience with Mahathir Mohamad. When they did meet, Daim handed over the books he had kept as UMNO treasurer for 17 years, then drove away - a neat, white-haired man in his neat, white Proton. "We are not at war with one another," Mahathir said later.

Indeed, the dissolution of a two-decade partnership was never about two generals facing off for command of their army. It was more about two architects - one political, one financial - who disagreed about renovating their comfortable house. Mahathir designed the interior, chose the furniture and threw out servants who crossed him. Daim ensured the bills were paid and there was plenty in the kitty for upkeep. But Mahathir seems to have decided that Daim's contributions were drawing too much heat. "Daim had become a liability," says Lim Kit Siang, leader of the opposition Democratic Action Party. "He had to go."

Twelve years younger than the 75-year-old Mahathir, Daim hails from the same village in Kedah state, Seberang Perak. He made his first millions in real estate in the 1970s and moved into banking in 1981. That same year, Mahathir won the premiership and put Daim in charge of the Fleet Group, UMNO's business arm. "Once he became financial czar, you could never tell where UMNO companies ended and Daim companies began," says Lim. When Daim became finance minister the first time in 1984, he drew heavy criticism for holding majority control of a major bank until he sold out in 1986. Also, under Malaysia's New Economic Policy, it was Daim's job to nurture ethnic Malay entrepreneurs. Rightly or wrongly, he was called the mentor of some of the highest fliers. As their business empires grew, so did Daim's legend. "He was a role model for every aspiring politician," says a former UMNO insider.

But some of those highfliers may have been Daim's downfall. As Malaysia's economy struggled in recent years, their businesses sputtered and their debts ballooned. While Daim and Mahathir did have disagreements over policy, like what to do with the ringgit peg, the final straw seems to have been the government's purchase of shares in Malaysia Airlines at double the market price, and the bailout of a failed telecom share offer using public pension funds. Both deals came under Daim's purview as finance minister, and both provoked huge public outcries.

Daim did not attend the UMNO general assembly. He apologized, saying he would be out of the country. Cool heads in the Malaysian political cauldron say both he and Mahathir have too much to lose to take matters further. There will be no arrest, no trial, no tit-for-tat. "Daim is not by nature a fighter," says Chandra Muzaffar, an academic, now deputy president of the opposition Keadilan party. "Out of office, he will do what he is told." Often it takes a crisis to reveal flaws in the system, Daim once mused. Mahathir may have decided Daim is the flaw.