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Appointment of Anwar’s daughter as senior economic and finance adviser sparks controversy in Malaysia

Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar’s political aide has denied that there is nepotism involved in her appointment.

Appointment of Anwar’s daughter as senior economic and finance adviser sparks controversy in Malaysia

Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar delivering a speech at a college convocation ceremony on Jan 16, 2023. (Photo: Facebook/Nurul Izzah Anwar)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s appointment of his daughter as his senior economic adviser has sparked controversy, with several members of the opposition calling for Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar to step down from the role. 

In a statement on Monday (Jan 30), Leader of the Opposition Hamzah Zainudin called for Mr Anwar to withdraw Ms Nurul Izzah’s appointment as senior economic and finance adviser to the prime minister, calling it nepotism. 

“The prime minister has to withdraw this appointment. Nepotism in PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) cannot be dragged into government administration. Walk the talk please,” said Mr Hamzah. 

Mr Anwar and Ms Nurul Izzah are the president and vice-president of PKR respectively. 

“Pro bono is not an excuse to legitimise nepotism,” the secretary-general of Perikatan Nasional (PN) warned. According to local media reports, Mr Anwar said on Sunday that Ms Nurul Izzah is not getting paid for the senior adviser role. The appointment took effect on Jan 3. 

In his statement, Mr Hamzah called Ms Nurul Izzah’s appointment an act of betrayal to the Malaysian people as it contradicts the values which Mr Anwar has sought to practice under his leadership.  

“The practice of nepotism … is a betrayal to the people of Malaysia.

“This appointment is not only unreasonable, wrong, as well as damaging to the image of the government, but also completely contrary to good governance practices, integrity and freedom from corruption,” said Mr Hamzah. 

He pointed out that Mr Anwar already has an adviser - Mr Hassan Marican, who is the former president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Petronas.

“Apparently, Malaysia Madani is just empty rhetoric because the prime minister's priorities seem to be more directed to his own family members rather than solving the cost of living issues, addressing economic challenges and exploring new markets for Malaysia,” said Mr Hamzah. 

The Malaysia Madani, or Civil Malaysia, slogan conceptualised by the Anwar administration emphasises six core values - sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust and compassion - that are meant to guide government policies.

Besides Mr Hamzah, former prime minister and PN chairman Muhyiddin Yassin also condemned Ms Nurul Izzah’s appointment. 

“It has never happened in the history of Malaysia that a prime minister appoints their child as an adviser,” he said in a statement on Monday, calling on Mr Anwar to get his daughter to resign from her post. 

“Advise Nurul Izzah to resign as prime minister's adviser … Don't let this little misplaced appointment be a black spot on her political journey to a possibly brighter future.”

Mr Muhyiddin also called on Mr Anwar to step down as finance minister and to focus on his duties as the prime minister. 

“It's not too late for Anwar to make things right. Resign as finance minister. Focus more on your duty as prime minister as the people and the country are facing difficult times,” he said. 

Separately, a former member of a pro-Anwar Ibrahim group has also reportedly criticised Ms Nurul Izzah’s appointment.

According to the Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Mr Abdul Razak Ismail - a former member of the “Otai Reformis” group - said that the prime minister will now have to deal with the perceptions surrounding his daughter’s appointment. 

“The perception is simple, out of 32 million people, is there really no one else who can be the prime minister’s adviser?” he was quoted as saying by FMT.

“We have economic affairs minister Rafizi Ramli, is it not enough?”

Mr Abdul pointed out that Pakatan Harapan (PH), the coalition led by Mr Anwar, would have reacted poorly if former prime minister Najib Razak had appointed his wife, Rosmah Mansor, as an adviser. 

According to FMT, Mr Abdul said that a better move would be for Ms Nurul Izzah to join a non-governmental organisation. 

Mr Anwar had previously told local media that Ms Nurul Izzah’s appointment was made based on her qualifications. 

Mr Anwar was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail that he was the finance minister for eight years previously despite not having a finance-related university degree or certificate.

“Even the ministers in (the previous) PN (government) do not have (the relevant) degrees or certificates, but when it comes to us, they bring it up. 

“As for Nurul Izzah, she has an engineering degree and a public policy degree. Indeed, I asked her to help me as an adviser,” said Mr Anwar.  

According to the Malay Mail, Ms Nurul Izzah holds a degree in engineering, as well as another in public and social policy from Johns Hopkins University. 

On Tuesday, Ms Nurul Izzah's political aide Amir H. Ghazali denounced the recent criticism over her new role, adding that there is no nepotism involved as the appointment was made in the interest of the country. 

“I am confident that the appointment has been thoroughly discussed taking into account various elements that prioritise effectiveness in implementing the diverse national agenda,” he said in a statement. 

“After all, Nurul Izzah is not a CEO or chairman who has any authority to approve projects, tenders and so on. So there is no cronyism or nepotism in the administration of the unity government as the appointment was made in the interest of the country.” 

He further said that it was Mr Anwar’s prerogative to appoint Ms Nurul Izzah to the role and that it “must be respected”.   

“I would like to emphasise that whoever is appointed, even one’s own child, is actually the prime minister’s prerogative that must be respected and not disputed,” said Mr Amir, adding that Mr Anwar should also not be pressured to resign as finance minister. 

During the recent 15th General Elections (GE15), Ms Nurul Izzah lost her Permatang Pauh seat which she held for one term. 

The seat has been occupied by a member of her family since 1982 and is currently held by Parti Islam Se-Malaysia’s Muhammad Fawwaz Mohamad Jan. 

Source: CNA/ya(as)


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