Highly political cabinet not necessarily a bad thing

Emmanuel Joseph

Opposing sides have been quick to bury the hatchet and form the unity government, for better or for worse. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 14, 2022.

THE full list of ministers and deputy ministers have been unveiled and most commentary about it is neutral, bordering on sceptical, but most people are willing to give it a go.

What’s certain is that it is a highly political cabinet, which is not necessarily a bad thing in the current political scenario.

Let’s take a short stroll down memory lane.

The Perikatan Nasional-Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was unsteady simply because the upper echelons of one side managed to strike a deal with the middle echelons of the other.

Umno’s top leadership wasn’t really in the government. It was kind of represented, but the president and most of his men were left out, under the guise of a “court cluster” excuse. This caused the two to be successively overthrown, both orchestrated by the same people now in Anwar’s government. 

With the names of all government appointees now squarely given by the “true” respective leaderships of all parties, there is no second guessing anymore. 

The cooling between Pakatan Harapan (PH) and BN, too, happened very quickly, with leaderships of both parties burying the hatchet and focusing on their common enemy, PN, and their common goal, which is to quickly solve the economic woes of the people.

Unlike the previous administration that traded barbs from the get-go, this time around, the constituents of the alliance were quick to bury the hatchet, in many cases, even owning the disagreement!

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in the Padang Serai campaign openly admitted to being allergic to PKR’s blue. Steven Sim Chee Keong in 2015 tweeted an anti-Ahmad Maslan quip. 

After being sworn in as deputy finance minister, Sim posted a selfie of him with Zahid on top of his earlier tongue-in-cheek post. 

There were, of course, concessions made within PH parties as well as with their new coalition partners. 

DAP took a much smaller share of cabinet positions disproportionate to their contribution. Sarawak DAP sat out completely on request of Gabungan Parti Sarawak. 

The incoming education minister and her deputy are both newcomers, presumably for grassroots support purposes. Perhaps a fresh look at education is what the country needs as well right now. 

States that delivered were given their due, except Penang, where it was probably presumed that DAP had a strong enough pull to allay any concerns of underrepresentation.

Some who lost the elections like Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, still found themselves in the cabinet. 

On the surface, while these trade-offs seem to run against a reformation agenda, the first goal is to survive long enough to push through the changes in the first place. 

Even before any reformist changes, or even punishing corruption, are the immediate remedial steps needed to alleviate the people’s pressing livelihood issues. 

Next to a PAS-DAP alliance, an Umno-DAP alliance is the most strategic in terms of political value and branding. 

DAP brings to the table a vast majority of the non-Malay/non-Muslim vote, and Umno is an old hand at Malay politics. 

They aren’t direct threats to each other, unlike Bersatu and Umno, who are literally trying to wipe each other out. 

Umno’s experience in the administrative side of government, and with it, accusations of a largesse and corruption-based culture, could be balanced out by DAP’s relatively clean image and few ministers who are known to be on-the-ground workers. 

To restore Malaysia’s political stability while fending off incessant attacks from PN, recover the economy, and restore strained community relations is a tall order that requires all hands on deck.

It requires a sort of political understanding; a willingness to put petty politics second and focus on the immediacy of the tasks at hand, and on the bigger political picture, with a healthy dose of statesmanship thrown in. For that, higher politics may just be what is required. – December 14, 2022.

* Emmanuel Joseph firmly believes that Klang is the best place on Earth, and that motivated people can do far more good than any leader with motive.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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