|Wong Choon Mei|
KUALA LUMPUR, 7 Mac: Can a leopard change its spots? Especially when one is from the free-wheeling, cut-throat, kill-or-be-killed world that is corporate Malaysia, where politics and big-time business are dubiously intertwined and who you know is more important than what you know.
Apparently not - if a stunning revelation from Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim about former PKR secretary-general Salehuddin Hashim is anything to go by.
In a bid to clear the air, Khalid confirmed that Salehuddin did apply for the chief executive’s post in state-controlled Kumpulan Peransang Selangor, but was rejected.
The information is significant because Salehuddin was accused of betraying his party because he did not get the cushy job.
“The committee decided to recommend another suitable candidate for the position,” Khalid said in response to public demand for clarification.
Asked for only RM1 per month, yet he was rejected
Salehuddin, a former corporate chieftain, recently dumped his PKR party taking along with him a string of federal lawmakers. He and his motley group are believed to be headed for the welcoming arms of Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
Indeed, PKR insiders believe the first couple zoomed in on Salehuddin because of his in-depth knowledge of party members, their strengths and weaknesses. He has been asked to 'persuade' more colleagues to jump ship and keep the Pakatan Rakyat coalition led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim at bay.
Salehuddin has denied the allegations, including the ones by PKR deputy president Syed Husin Ali that he left in a huff after failing to secure the Peransang job, which comes with a huge RM50,000 per month salary.
Instead, Salehuddin claims that it was Anwar who wanted him to join Peransang and he was agreeable only if he was paid not more than RM1 per month!
“I have in my records sent then a confidential e-mail to Dato' Seri Anwar that if it was his instructions for me to take on the job and the responsibilities to fulfill the Party's aspirations, albeit reluctantly. I replied that I would only take on the job if I were to be paid RM1 per month,” Salehuddin said in reply to Syed Husin’s allegations.
It remains to be seen who is telling the truth and who is not. But if the loss of a fat paycheck is not the reason for fleeing PKR, then whoever beat Salehuddin to the Peransang job must be getting less than RM1 per month!
Was part of Halim-Daim coterie
Like his close friend in PKR, John Soh Chee Wen, Salehuddin was not just another nobody when he joined Anwar’s reform movement in the early 2000s.
Both Salehuddin and Soh had wielded tremendous power and wealth at their peak although they fell from grace following the resignation of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin in 2001.
Daim's decision to quit, which came after an alleged tiff with former premier Mahathir Mohamad, created ripple effects in Malaysia's murky corporate world.
Salehuddin's early mentor was none other than Halim Saad, one of Daim's blue-eyed boys from the 1980s, who had built the North-South Expressway.
Having enjoyed a super-luxurious lifestyle, it is unsurprising Salehuddin found it hard adjusting to life at PKR's modest offices in Tropicana, Selangor.
"RM9,000 is a pittance compared to the hours I put in and my last drawn salary before retirement," he countered when Syed Husin chided him for not being satisfied with his PKR salary.
Soh declines comment
Soh - a self-made stockbroker - moved in parallel circles and was linked to former MCA president Ling Liong Sik and his son Hee Leong.
Their paths crossed in Trenergy Bhd, a public-listed oil and gas firm whose ownership was flipped several times.
Speculation has been rife that Soh might follow in the footsteps of Salehuddin and leave PKR.
“No comment,” said Soh's personal aide when contacted by Harakahdaily.
To political watchers familiar with PKR history, the latest development was a time-bomb Anwar had no choice but to defuse especially ahead of inaugural direct party elections.
“PKR must hold direct elections for all party posts including the topmost positions before November. Anwar has to clean up otherwise the party could fall to unseen hands," a veteran analyst told Harakahdaily.
"He has been warned many times before Salehuddin was a potential Umno sleeper who could turn around and bite him. Few business people hold on to political loyalties. They prefer to sway with the wind.”