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Long Wait for new Cabinet is over

Almost two months after the 14th General Election, Malaysia finally has virtually a full Cabinet. It is an intriguing line-up that combines multi-term representatives with a number of fresh faces, including the nation’s youngest minister ever.

Many of the 26 ministers and 23 deputy ministers have little or no government experience. This adds to the expectation that there will be a significant difference in how the country will be steered over the next few years.

It is not clear why Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took this long to name the Cabinet members and deputy ministers. The first three members (other than himself and his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) were named on May 12.

Six days later, another nine were added to the list.

Given Dr Mahathir’s vast experience as head of government, most people had thought that the rest of the line-up would be finalised and announced soon after that.

But clearly, it was no easy task because the ministers and deputy ministers were drawn from five parties – the four Pakatan Harapan components and Parti Warisan Sabah – that do not have a history of working together.

It is, of course, hard to please everybody. Despite DAP’s Lim Kit Siang congratulating the ministers and deputy ministers in a well-received statement yesterday, the party’s Socialist Youth chairman Wong Kah Woh said the Cabinet appointments “did not tally with the number of seats won by a party and did not show respect for the suggestions by a fellow coalition party leadership”.

In fact, the Cabinet has room for three more ministers.

It is likely that newly appointed senators will fill these vacancies.

New era: Sultan Muhammad V (centre) posing for a photo with Dr Mahathir and the new Cabinet after the swearing-in ceremony at Istana Negara. — Bernama

Apart from the trio of Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, the majority of the 113 Pakatan MPs and the eight from the Pakatan-friendly Warisan have little or no experience in federal or state governments.  While many of them are graduates and have professional experience, Dr Mahathir took his time to scrutinise each and every candidate proposed by the parties in Pakatan.  Priority was given to those holding leadership positions in the parties.  It is also an advantage if a candidate has government experience, including as a state exco member.  This helped narrow down the possibilities as people speculated on who else would be in the Cabinet. Hence, there was no major surprise when 13 more Pakatan MPs took their oath before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at Istana Negara yesterday.

Nevertheless, history was made when Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was sworn in as Malaysia’s youngest minister ever.  The Youth Chief of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia will only turn 26 in December.  While some may argue that his appointment as Youth and Sports Minister was a natural choice due to his popularity among youngsters, others are more excited about what he can do to take Malaysian sports to a higher level.

“It is a breath of fresh air. I am sure he will do a good job,” said badminton champion Datuk Lee Chong Wei, adding that he hoped that Syed Saddiq would adopt a hands-on approach.

Syed Saddiq broke Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s record as the country’s youngest minister. Najib was 33 when he became Youth and Sports Minister in 1986.

With the swearing-in of the 13 ministers, the Cabinet now has 27, including Dr Mahathir.  Seven of the ministers, including Dr Wan Azizah, are from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which has 50 MPs.  DAP, with 42 MPs, has six ministers – the same number as that of Pribumi, the youngest political party in Malaysia.   In addition, Dr Mahathir is chairman of Pribumi, which has 13 MPs.

Parti Amanah Negara, which won 11 seats in GE14, was given five spots, including the Defence Ministry’s post for its president Mohamad Sabu. Three ministers are from Warisan.  It is not surprising either that Pakatan powerhouse Selangor has the most ministers, with seven.  Johor, meanwhile, contributes five ministers – a clear indication that the state is set to be a Pakatan stronghold, if it is not already one.

Dr Mahathir also re-introduced the Entre­preneurial Development Ministry, which was scrapped in 2010.  Another “old” ministry, the Primary Industries, was also brought back after it had been renamed Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities.  The appointment of Warisan’s Darell Leiking as Minister of International Trade and Industry must have been a pleasant surprise to Sabahans.  This is the first time the portfolio crossed the South China Sea and landed in the Land Below the Wind.  Dr Mahathir also kept the Works Ministry in the hands of a Sarawakian, which may be a sign that the Pan Borneo Highway construction will continue.

Five women have taken up full ministerial posts and four others were made deputy ministers. In comparison, the previous Cabinet of 35 ministers had three women ministers and six women deputy ministers.

  • The Star
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