Get to know PM Mahathir’s Council of Elders

The special advisory council will provide “vital knowledge or previous knowledge of administration”.

Three out of five members of the council of elders. From left: Tun Daim Zainuddin; Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz (Photo: Getty Images); Tan Sri Robert Kuok (Photo: Reuters)

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad named three senior cabinet ministers yesterday, two days after he was sworn in as the 7th prime minister of Malaysia. DAP’s Lim Guan Eng is now Finance Minister; Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu as Minister of Defense, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as Minister of Home Affairs.

To advise the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government during the transition of power period, Mahathir has also announced the formation of a ‘council of elders’. Also called the ‘Team of Eminent Persons’, the members of the council will be lending their experience and expertise on economic and financial matters. Here’s a closer look at who they are.


Tun Daim Zainuddin 
Former Finance Minister of Malaysia (1984 to 1991)

(Photo: The Edge Markets)

Known to some as an economic whiz who extracted Malaysia from economic turmoil in the 1980/1990s, Tun Daim Zainuddin had carried out four broad strategic reforms during his tenure as Finance Minister of Malaysia namely the mobilisation of the private sector, the supportive role of the private sector, active external policies and rehabilitation of the public enterprises. He was also credited for creating opportunities for Malay entrepreneurs to be able to compete locally and internationally. Tun Daim, who served as finance minister twice during Tun Mahathir’s 22-year premiership, is heading the ‘council of elders’.


Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz
Former Bank Negara Malaysia governor (2000 to 2016)

(Photo: The Edge Markets)

She started her career as an economic analyst for the South-East Asia Central Bank Training & Research Center, before being appointed Deputy Manager of the Economics Department at Bank Negara Malaysia. She led the bank in 2000, and played significant roles in addressing the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, modernising Malaysia’s financial system, as well as heading the change on Islamic finance in Malaysia and beyond. Tan Sri Zeti, also the first woman in Asia to chair a central bank, was instrumental in the establishment of the International Centre for Education Islamic Finance and the Asia School of Business in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management.


Tan Sri Hassan Marican
Former president and CEO of national oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Petronas (1995 to 2010)

(Photo: Petronas)

Tan Sri Hassan’s experience as a chartered accountant helped Petronas emerged from a small ordinary oil company to become one of the top 500 companies globally in terms of income returns. His leadership has also encouraged Petronas to boldly venture into the automotive industry by producing the first commercial engine in Malaysia. He’s also the chairman of Sembcorp Marine, Singapore Power, Pavilion Energy, Pavilion Gas and Lan Ting Holdings and holds directorships in Sarawak Energy, Lambert Energy Advisory and MH Marican Advisory. The named recipient of the Oil & Gas (O&G) Council’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award is also a senior international adviser at Temasek International Advisers, a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.


Tan Sri Robert Kuok
Business tycoon

(Photo: Reuters)

Hong Kong-based Tan Sri Robert Kuok, who founded Shangri-La Hotels in Singapore in 1971, owns Kuok Group, which has interests in hotels, real estate and commodities. While he is well-known for his sugar business, he has also built business in various sectors that contribute to Malaysia’s economy such as agribusiness, food production, film distribution and property investment. Kuok also mentioned in his memoir that patriotism was the force behind the launch of Malaysia’s leading international shipping line, Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC). He was thrust into the political limelight after being accused of funding the opposition before GE14 to bring down the government then. But many, including Nazir Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir, came to his defence, claiming Kuok as a driven, hardworking and disciplined business icon.


Professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram
Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2005 to 2012)

(Photo: Social Science Research Council)

An esteemed scholar and a prominent economist, Professor Jomo was awarded the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought, and authored over a hundred books besides writing academic papers for the media. Widely known for his unorthodox non-partisan views, the outspoken intellectual was an early advocate of new capital account management measures before the Asian financial crisis in 1997/1998. He now holds the Tun Hussein Onn Chair in International Studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia.



Note: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be naming all 10 key ministers by next week.


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