by P PREM KUMAR / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
Billionaire Robert Kuok, who made his maiden appearance at the Council of Eminent Persons meeting yesterday, has endorsed the capability of the council’s members and the strength of the high level economic team to chart Malaysia’s next growth.
He said the government, under Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has placed “excellent people” as part of the council, and Malaysians should not worry on the effectiveness and outcomes of the committee.
“The council comprises very fine Malaysians. I happen to be living in Hong Kong, so I don’t attend often. But Daim, Zeti, Hassan and Jomo are excellent people. Trust them,” he said, referring to council members Tun Abdul Daim Zainuddin, Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican and Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.
“All of us wish our country well, we hope the people, especially the rakyat, are taken care of,” said the elusive billionaire, who was swarmed by the media in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The council, chaired by Daim, will provide suggestions to the government on how to tackle key issues from 1Malaysia Development Bhd to enhancing the country’s revenue to abolishing tolls.
Kuok’s presence at yesterday’s meeting was the first since the five-member, high-powered council was established two weeks ago.
Clad in a grey suit and blue tie, Kuok, 95, arrived in a white Toyota Alphard accompanied by two bodyguards. The tycoon had entered Ilham Tower via a special entrance yesterday morning to avoid the media.
Kuok is based in Hong Kong and controls several public-listed companies on Bursa Malaysia.
The nonagenarian is fondly known among Malaysians as the Sugar King as he had forged his wealth from trading sugar before expanding to various other businesses especially in Hong Kong.
The media were told that Kuok arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning via a private jet from Hong Kong. Upon landing, he was rushed to the council meeting tower at Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur.
According to Forbes, Kuok is the world’s 96th richest man with a net asset worth of US$14.8 billion (RM58.72 billion) as of last March. Realtime analysis by the site showed that Kuok’s fortune increased by more than US$600 million as of yesterday, valuing him at US$15.4 billion.
He owns Kuok Group, which has interests in hotels, real estate and commodities worldwide. He also has a stake in Singapore’s Wilmar International Ltd, run by his nephew Kuok Khoon Hong.
Among his locally owned companies include PPB Group Bhd, Shangri-La Hotels (M) Bhd, FFM Bhd and Golden Screen Cinemas Sdn Bhd.
Malaysia’s richest man had previously came under fire by several Umno leaders, who accused him of funding DAP. But many Malaysians had come forward to defend the 95-year-old tycoon.