2:57pm 01/02/2023
The boss’ daughter
By:Mariam Mokhtar

Anwar Ibrahim waited two decades before becoming prime minister, but in the end, he proved to be no different from his predecessors.

He promised change and to lead with principles of accountability and transparency.

He vowed to get rid of corruption, cronyism and nepotism.

All that ended when he appointed his daughter, Nurul Izzah, to become his senior economics and financial adviser.

The criticisms about this appointment have nothing to do with Nurul, her degree, her lack of experience in economics, her competency or her honesty. The criticisms focus on the lack of integrity and loss of principles.

If Nurul had not blabbed to The Star when they interviewed her a few days ago, Malaysians would not have found out about her special position in the government, to which she was appointed on January 3.

It was foolish to hide this appointment from the rakyat because they will now think that Anwar’s administration is both deceitful and hypocritical. Anwar will also have earned the rakyat’s contempt and derision.

Things would be different if we’re talking about a family-run business because whom Anwar chooses to hold key posts in the family firm is entirely up to him; but Malaysia is not a family business.

Disappointingly, Anwar has shown that he is like all the other PMs.

Their sense of entitlement is so strong that for them, Malaysia should be run like a family business. Theirs!

Anwar’s folly and error of judgment will have jeopardized his fragile unity government.

However, Nurul is not without blame and she was ill-advised to accept his offer.

She should have declined it because it will have harmed her father more than it will harm her.

Her father will lose all credibility; the Opposition will redouble their efforts to bring him down, and the prospects of Perikatan Nasional and PAS taking over may be sooner rather than later.

If she had turned down the post, Nurul would have emerged stronger, and people would have more respect for her.

Anwar often criticized former PMs for being hypocrites, but the hypocrisy label will now stick on him.

What will Anwar have gained from Nurul’s appointment?

For some people, it will look like a father is rescuing his daughter from political obscurity, especially after her own constituency had kicked her out at GE15.

Others will claim that by giving her valuable exposure and work experience of high office, Anwar hopes to prepare his daughter for her next role as the first female prime minister of Malaysia.

Perhaps the “unpaid role” is a red herring because the true goal is to train her for the highest job in the land. The prime ministership.

Why should Nurul be given this advantage? 

Her supporters can spare us the diatribe that she deserves to be PM because “She sacrificed years of her life to free her father from jail.”

What happened to meritocracy?

If meritocracy was one of Anwar’s promises to the rakyat, then this senior adviser’s post could have been offered to one who was more capable than Nurul.

In the end, Anwar is no different from Umno-Baru politicians who award multi-million contracts to their close friends, and reward their loyal buddies with a senior position in a GLC.

Anwar can call nepotism by any other name, but the stench of nepotism is too overpowering.

In 2018, after  Harapan’s win in GE14, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister and Malaysians were full of hope because many people thought he was a changed man.

We assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that Mahathir was going to put right all the things that he had done wrong during his first tenure as PM.

Three months after being PM, he reverted to type. The mask slipped and we saw the real Mahathir in control.

Now let’s imagine that six weeks after becoming PM, Mahathir had appointed his daughter Marina to be his senior economics and financial adviser.

All hell would have broken loose.

Marina has a degree from an English university, has vast experience with civil society and working with NGOs.

The Harapan supporter would still be livid.

What if Mahathir justified Marina’s appointment by saying that hers was an unpaid role because she is a woman of independent means, she does not need the money, and the appointment was not to misuse power or to enrich her?

Harapan followers would go berserk.

What if Mahathir insisted that Marina had no power, and cannot grant projects worth hundreds of millions of ringgits to family members or friends?

They would still be outraged.

It’s not about dictating policy or granting contracts. She would be the gate-keeper to all who require access to the PM. Think of the power she could wield.

If you disagree with Mahathir as the hypothetical example, let’s choose the DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

If Zahid had appointed his eldest daughter, the full-throated Nuruldihayah, as economics adviser, would you have agreed? I doubt it.

We could go back in time to 2013 when Nedim became the Special Adviser to the then Minister of Tourism Nasri Aziz.

Malaysians cried foul, but today some Harapan supporters have either forgotten about Nedim or think that it does not apply in Nurul’s case.

In November 2022, Harapan had little choice but to work with Umno-Baru to form the unity government.

At the time Harapan supporters were furious because corrupt Umno-Baru politicians occupied ministerial positions.

Harapan supporters reluctantly tolerated this “unity” working arrangement because they loathed Bersatu, PAS and Perikatan Nasional even more than they disliked Umno-Baru.

They would rather Anwar work with Zahid because they did not want to be ruled by Mahiaddin Yassin, Ismail Sabri or Hadi Awang.

They gave Anwar ample leeway in accepting corrupt Umno-Baru politicians, but for many of them, Nurul’s appointment is perhaps the last straw.

Leadership without ego and arrogance is very rare. When a leader is out of touch with his people, the power that was given to him by the people will soon erode.

For Harapan supporters who are furious that their great leader cannot be criticized, this appointment is not about Nurul, her competency or her qualifications. It is about Anwar’s nepotism. It is about misuse of power, his arrogance and his ego.

Anwar can call nepotism by any other name, but the stench of nepotism is too overpowering.

The ground is already beginning to shift away from the initial enthusiasm people had for Anwar.


  1. Malaysiakini: PM: Nurul Izzah’s appointment to ensure contracts are managed ‘orderly’
  2. You Exec: Up the Organization

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)


Mariam Mokhtar
Anwar Ibrahim
Nurul Izzah


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