Malaysians have pinned their hopes on this new cabinet to usher in a “new Malaysia”, remarked Mustafa K Anuar.
The swearing in on 2 July 2018 of another 13 ministers and 23 deputy ministers at Istana Negara showcased a number of young faces in the cabinet, as anticipated and desired by Malaysians, on whom an array of old and tired faces from the previous Barisan Nasional administration has long been foisted.
As if to symbolically signal the seriousness of the Pakatan Harapan administration in injecting young blood into national politics, and also to lay the groundwork for the next generation of leaders, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman of Bersatu, who has been given the youth and sports portfolio, led the first batch of ministers who took the oath of office.
The second batch was led by the equally young Bakri MP, Yeo Bee Yin of the DAP (science, technology and innovation).
There are also other relatively young members of the cabinet who can provide fresh and valuable input based on their educational background and experience. For instance, Ong Kian Ming can put to good use at the International Trade and Industry Ministry his research experience at Penang Institute, as well as his illustrious academic training.
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Teo Nie Ching, another young deputy minister, has an important role to play in the Ministry of Education at a time when her boss, Maszlee Malik, is poised to conduct a major reform of the country’s education system.
It is also noteworthy that women have been assigned to important ministries. Apart from Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who holds the key portfolios of deputy prime minister and women, family and community development, Yeo Bee Yin helms a ministry that is not only crucial, but also challenging in our contemporary world that witnesses scientific and technological advancements at a rapid pace.
Equally challenging is, for instance, the ministry headed by Zuraida Kamaruddin, because the issue of housing has become more pressing when the poor and sections of the middle class cannot afford many of the high-end houses built by developers. Also vital for her ministry is the issue of local elections that has been promised a redress (long overdue) in PH’s electoral pledge.
Having said that, the proportion of women ministers compared to their male counterparts still falls short of the proposed 30% quota.
The new cabinet also sees substantial representation from Sabah and Sarawak: three from Sabah – Liew Vui Keong (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department), Darell Leiking (international trade and industry) and Mohammad Din Ketapi (tourism and culture) – and Sarawakian Baru Bian as Works Minister.
These ministers are expected to give an additional dimension to their respective portfolios, i.e. the views and concerns of Sabah and Sarawak.
Also sworn in were two deputy ministers hailing from Sabah – Mohd Azis Jamman (home) and Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis (science, technology and innovation).
Experienced hands in administration, such as PH secretary-general Saifuddin Abdullah (foreign), Dr Xavier Jayakumar (natural resources and environment) and Teresa Kok (primary industries), are cut out to do their work to the best of their abilities.
Given his concern for inter-religious understanding and harmony, Mujahid Yusof Rawa is well suited to his appointment as minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) in charge of religious affairs – just as his fellow politician and lawyer, Mohamed Hanipa Maidin of Amanah, is placed in the department to handle legal matters.
Similarly, cardiologist Lee Boon Chye of PKR has been appointed – rightly so – as deputy health minister, when the country’s healthcare system needs an overhaul.
In this line-up, PKR gained the biggest share of four new ministers, while the DAP, Bersatu and Amanah obtained two new ministers each.
With regard to the ministries allocated under the new administration, what could be of concern to certain quarters, particularly environmentalists, is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. The two categories, which are subsumed under one ministry, are seen to be contradictory because the natural resources expected to be elicited could bring about environmental pollution and degradation.
All things considered, Malaysians pin their hopes on this new cabinet to usher in a “new Malaysia”.