Aliran is pleased that after such a long delay, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim finally announced the cabinet line-up for his multi-coalition government last night.
We realise it was not a simple task as there are so many coalitions and parties with differing interests to appease and accommodate, while trying to come up with a competent, credible and inclusive cabinet.
We also recognise that these are extraordinary times with the threat of an ethno-religious opposition that could change the very fabric of Malaysian society if it seizes power.
First our disappointments:
We are deeply concerned that Zahid Hamidi has been included in the cabinet, given his ongoing court cases involving corruption. No doubt, this was done out of political expediency.
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The PM’s decision to take on the finance portfolio – even though he is “not inclined” – is also cause for concern, as it reduces checks and balances on the person helming the ministry. Anwar says he needs the portfolio to instil confidence in the economy “in the initial stage” – so he should ensure he does not hold the portfolio beyond that.
We are also concerned about the ‘backdoor appointments’ of those who lost in the general election. Ministerial appointments via the senatorial route should only be made under exceptional circumstances, where the required expertise cannot be found in the cabinet.
Now for the plus points:
We are pleased that the cabinet is a little more multi-ethnic and inclusive, with more representation from Sabah and Sarawak and more women. But with just five women (18%) out of 28 cabinet ministers being women, it is still short of being a gender-balanced cabinet.
To placate public unease, Anwar should take several steps to enhance checks and balances on his administration.
- Enhance the independence of the process to select the attorney general and the chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission through a bipartisan parliamentary select committee
- Nominate a credible person as Speaker of Parliament
- Separate the role of the public prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Chambers
- Revamp the Judicial Appointments Commission to remove any influence the prime minister may have on the selection of judges via his appointments to the commission
- Allow an opposition shadow cabinet and parliamentary select committees to exercise parliamentary oversight on key ministerial functions
While this is being done, the new cabinet should get down to tackling bread-and-butter issues, reducing the people’s cost of living and improving their quality of life – the first point in the People’s Agenda, as endorsed by over 50 civil society groups.
Another key priority is educational reform to provide the next generation with the tools that will empower them in their chosen career paths.
The cabinet should also engage external forensic auditors to vet all the government expenditure that was approved during the period when Parliament was suspended by the Mahiaddin Yasin administration.
The task is daunting and the cabinet has a tough road ahead. We wish the new PM and his team the very best.
Aliran executive committee
3 December 2022