Post-cabinet meetings involve only top officers, Mohamaddin says

Yvonne Lim

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi says there is no need for him to announce each time he calls a meeting with staff. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 7, 2019.

CABINET meetings are highly secretive, and so, there is no need for post-cabinet meets to involve anyone other than top officers, said Mohamaddin Ketapi.

The tourism, arts and culture minister said he normally briefs only the “top people” in the ministry after cabinet meetings as government secrets cannot be simply divulged.

“Some people don’t have the sense,” he told a press conference on the sidelines of the International Muslim-Friendly Carnival in Semporna, Sabah.

“They think that (just because) you’ve had a cabinet meeting, you need to have a post-cabinet meeting. What is there to tell if it is a government secret? If it is highly confidential, you don’t call everybody… you call just the top people.”

He was commenting on a report by The Malaysian Insight that quoted a ministry source as saying up till November 29, Mohamaddin had not held a single post-cabinet meeting this year.

“You know what transpires in a cabinet meeting? It’s highly secretive… there’s no need to involve everyone.”

He described the allegation that he had not held even one post-cabinet meeting this year until last week as “a pack of lies”, adding that those who continue with such claims are just asking to be sued.

Confirming that did hold the November 29 meet, Mohamaddin said there is no need for him to announce each time he calls a meeting with staff.

The source said the lack of post-cabinet meetings had more to do with the poor working relationship between the minister and senior officials, despite speculation of a deep state within the civil service.

Mohamaddin chaired post-cabinet meetings last year, but The Malaysian Insight learnt that he was not able to work with former secretary-general Isham Ishak, who had joined the ministry in January.

With Isham now gone, said the source, Mohamaddin chaired the ministry’s first post-cabinet meeting of the year on November 29.

In the ministry’s case, no rules were broken by not holding post-cabinet meets regularly, added the source.

“There is no express provision that a ministry must hold a post-cabinet briefing (for ministry officials) after a cabinet meeting.”

It does, however, show the inability of some first-time ministers to get a handle on their portfolios more than a year after Pakatan Harapan formed the government.

The Malaysian Insight previously reported on the different views on a deep state within the civil service and the alleged sabotage by those still loyal to the Barisan Nasional administration.

While some ministers have blamed it for scuttling Putrajaya’s plans, it is not clear if the deep state is an organised body acting in concert to frustrate the government or individual civil servants who have not adapted to new, and in most cases inexperienced, ministers.

It is understood that the cabinet has discussed concerns about the deep state, while moves to purportedly address it have been made with the transfer of several secretaries-general and senior officials. Among those on the list was Isham.

The ministry source said it is not uncommon for secretaries-general to make decisions on their own without referring to ministers.

There are numerous “little things” that do not need the minister’s permission and on which the secretary-general can decide, including the implementation of certain programmes.

“It has been the practice that as long as the departments and agencies under the ministry operate smoothly, having a post-cabinet meeting or not, is not so important.”

The source added that Malaysia has recorded positive tourism statistics, with tourist arrivals and spending increasing in general, and could have been better if not for the transboundary smoke that blanketed parts of the country some months back.

Recently, Mohamaddin found himself in the dark about some tourism events, such as an exhibition of Egyptian pharaoh artefacts to be held in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

He initially said he had no clue about the plan, but later clarified that the government had approved it. – December 7, 2019.

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