PUTRAJAYA, Dec 5 — PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli today defended Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from allegations that Pakatan Harapan (PH) has reneged on its own pledge to limit the prime minister’s power over the country’s coffers.
The economics affairs minister said his party president’s decision to head the Ministry of Finance was borne out of “extraordinary” circumstances because no coalition had the majority to form a government.
“Ideally yes we should separate the prime minister from the finance portfolio and that position hasn’t changed,” Rafizi said at a press conference held after he clocked in on his first day at job here.
“Just because I think the situation forces us to make such a call means we should continue [letting the prime minister control the ministry of finance] but the situation is extraordinary. We are in a situation where no party can form a government and has to coalesce.
“And at the same time, we need a strong economic leadership,” the Pandan MP added.
Anwar and his coalition were heavily criticised after the prime minister announced that he would also head the finance ministry, citing PH's pledge to circumvent the prime minister's control over the country's finances as part of efforts to beef up accountability.
The pledge was made before PH won federal power at the previous general election on the back of widespread discontent against the former Barisan Nasional government over the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal and the prime minister at the time, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Najib was also the finance minister with direct control over the troubled state investment fund. The former BN chairman is serving a 12-year jail sentence for embezzlement and laundering funds from SRC International, a 1MDB subsidiary.
He is still on trial for multiple corruption charges relating to 1MDB, including criminal breach of trust and power abuse.
Despite riding on an anti-corruption platform that targeted BN leaders facing graft charges, Anwar now leads a coalition government comprising some of these leaders including naming current Umno president and BN chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as one of his two deputies, who is also on trial for corruption.
But Anwar has insisted that his coalition government would not compromise on its anti-corruption agenda.
PH leaders who have defended Anwar's cabinet lineup suggested Anwar's dual task as prime minister and finance minister could spur confidence among investors.
Rafizi told reporters today that Anwar's decision was also made to prevent infighting among coalition partners.
"A strong economic leadership is needed as the main thrust of this government. But I'm of the opinion that it was a tough call that had to be made," Rafizi said.
"When you are in a government made of different coalitions, of course many would want the finance minister post to be on their side."