Confident Najib pushes into corporate Malaysia

The Malaysian Insight

Oil giant Petronas Berhad appointed a Najib Razak aide, Omar Mustapha Ong, to its board in 2009. The appointment cost its then acting chairman and CEO Hassan Merican his job. – EPA pic, May 28, 2017.

TIMES have changed in corporate Malaysia. There was a time when state-owned companies would push back on government appointees on their board but not any more.

State fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad did not put up a fight when Prime Minister Najib Razak recommended his media operative Habibul Rahman Kadir Shah for a director’s seat on the Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) board this month.

The self-confessed “Najib war general” got it easy compared with another PM aide, Omar Mustapha Ong, who had a tough time getting a seat on the board of oil giant Petronas Berhad.

Both episodes reflect Najib’s increasing strength beyond Putrajaya and into the corridors of power in corporate Malaysia and other state agencies.

Najib had earlier got his way in Khazanah to put former Celcom chief Mohammed Shazalli Ramly, as the new Telekom Malaysia chief executive on May 1, replacing Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa, who is now UEM Sunrise chairman and also an MAB board member.

It is understood that more changes are in the air as Najib prepares his Barisan Nasional (BN) for the next general election, which must be held by the third quarter of 2018.

Government sources said Najib wants his men in corporate Malaysia to ensure government-linked-companies (GLCs) are on the same page with his administration in running the country.

But it was not always so easy for Najib, who took power in 2009.

His first test of putting his men in state company boards met resistance in Petronas.

The Petronas board decided to defer the appointment of Omar, pending an explanation to the prime minister of the reasons behind its disapproval of the former company scholar, the Singapore Business Times reported in June 2009.

Omar, an Oxford-trained economist, was an aide of Najib until he moved to Ethos, a consultancy firm. The Petronas board had rejected him in May 2009 on the grounds that he had defaulted on a Petronas scholarship given him almost two decades ago.

“The episode sparked a debate in the media over the issue of corporate governance and alleged government interference in Petronas, which happens to be Malaysia’s only Fortune 500 company and contributed 45% of government revenue last year,” the Singapore business paper said.

After a protracted battle of wits, Najib got his way and Omar got a seat on the Petronas board. But it cost Petronas acting chairman and chief executive Hassan Marican his job within a year.

Hassan’s fate has been a reminder for many in state funds that their ultimate boss is Najib. 

And in easily getting his media operative a seat on the MAB board, Najib has shown that he still controls the government despite criticism and allegations from the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and flow of funds from SRC International. – May 28, 2017.

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  • Didn't anyone learned lessons from FGV?

    ".....Petronas ... contributed 45% of government revenue last year," Gila-kah? Habis-lah Malaysia!

    Posted 7 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply

  • Hassan pun makan dedak sekarang. Anak perempuannya dari isteri yang kedua (yang kaki botol dan sebelum kahwin Hassan penjual plane ticket) ada kes seks skandal besar dalam syarikat dia kerje McKinsey & Company if not mistaken.

    Posted 7 years ago by Malayan Warrior · Reply

    • tak salah dengan ahli keluarga MO1, dah di tangkap basah dalam pejabat.

      Posted 7 years ago by Malayan Warrior · Reply