There is speculation that recent MACC raids on China-linked projects were meant to derail Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairperson Daim Zainuddin’s visit to China, according to Singapore’s The Straits Times.
One theory being floated by Daim’s associates was that rogue elements in the civil service aligned to the previous administration may have instigated the MACC to carry out the raids in a bid to complicate diplomatic ties with China.
Another theory was that the MACC raids were carried out to embarrass Daim, who has come under attack from several political factions in the current government because of the clout he enjoys as CEP chairperson.
Possible motives aside, the report said diplomatic sources familiar with Daim’s meetings in China said Daim was stumped when he was informed by his Chinese counterparts about the MACC raid just moments before meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“Daim, who is Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's chief troubleshooter, and head of the country's powerful CEP, told Beijing the raids were unfortunate.
“He also stressed that Malaysia remained serious about maintaining strong ties with China following the government's decision earlier this month to temporarily suspend the multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects entered into by the previous Najib Abdul Razak administration,” the report said.
Daim had met Wang on June 18, the same day when MACC seized documents related to the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), the Multi-Product Pipeline (MPP), and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP).
These projects were led by the China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau and China Communications Construction Company, and had been suspended by the Pakatan Harapan-led government weeks before the MACC raid.
It was previously reported that the purpose of Daim’s trip was to renegotiate the ECRL, MPP, and TSGP contracts ahead of Mahathir’s visit to China next month, but Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah declined to confirm or deny this, only stating that he went to China for “special reasons”.
Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported that senior Malaysian construction sector executives involved in the projects said their China counterparts viewed the raids as a “hardball strategy” to extract concessions from China in the negotiations.
However, the report also said Daim’s close associates had dismissed suggestions that the raids had been coordinated with MACC for this purpose.
It said Malaysian officials speaking on condition of anonymity also insisted that the raids were unrelated to Daim’s visit and had to proceed without any favour.
Malaysiakini has contacted MACC investigations director Simi Abd Ghani for comment and is awaiting a response.