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Syed Saddiq rebuts Economist's claim Dr M 'reluctant' to share power

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The Economist's claim that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is reluctant to share power is "false," according to Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

Syed Saddiq, the youth and sports minister, said the article titled "Mahathir's second act" contained several inaccuracies and planned to write to the publication.

"A lot of the allegations here are false. Facts: We’ve already repealed the anti-fake news law.

"The Council of Eminent Persons was not just decided by Mahathir, but by the Pakatan Harapan presidential council.

"The prime minister had decentralised so much power – MACC, cabinet, Finance Ministry," he said on Twitter.

The Aug 18 article in The Economist said civil society activists were disappointed that the government had failed to remedy relatively simple problems relating to human rights, including the repeal of Anti-Fake News Act 2018 and the Sedition Act 1948.

The Dewan Rakyat passed the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Act on Aug 16.

The government had indicated that it will address the Sedition Act, but police still continue to use the law. 

Syed Saddiq said The Economist was right in that more had to be done, but the government cannot rush all of them within one Parliament sitting.

"The writer is correct that more needs to be done. It will be. Reforms are critical but we can’t rush it all through one parliamentary sitting.

"That will take away room for meaningful debates in Parliament and proper checks/criticisms from our opposition. Rule of law is key," he said.

On Mahathir's reluctance to share power, The Economist said: "Despite his self-deprecating jokes about his dictatorial style, Mahathir is clearly reluctant to share power with others. But at least superficially, he has reduced the responsibilities that previously accompanied his job.

"The prime minister rules in the way he knows. He favours the advice of cronies, as well as of an unelected council of bigwigs selected by himself. His autocratic style can make people jump," the article read, referring to the Council of Eminent Persons.

The CEP's 100-day mandate expired yesterday, but Mahathir had indicated that he would like the advisory council to stay on.

In terms of decentralisation of power, the Economic Planning Unit and other agencies related to the economy have been decoupled from the Prime Minister's Department and placed under the newly-created Economic Affairs Ministry.

Mahathir had also ended the convention of the prime minister also holding the position of finance minister.

The Dewan Rakyat House Committee had also announced the setting up of six bipartisan select committees.

This includes the Select Committee on Major Public Appointments, which will vet the appointments of key agency leaders which were previously under the prerogative of the prime minister. 

Others include the Select Committee on Consideration of Bills and Select Committee on the Budget, which will require government legislation and budget to first go through a bipartisan consultation process.

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