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Meeting the high expectations

  • Ideally, selecting cabinet members must be based on the best-person-for-the-job basis, not on gender, race, religion and what not.

By Mohsin Abdullah

A Singapore newspaper summarized GE14 like this: "Voters not swayed by racial politics in Malaysian GE, but how long will that last?"

If you ask me, my answer is hopefully forever.

But days after the historical election, Malaysian political analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani posted this on his Facebook page: "Guess the country has not moved beyond the racial/religious politics".

In a way, what Asrul said seemed true. And that's sad and disappointing to say the least.

He was referring to the "noises" made by some Malaysians with regard to the new cabinet line-up announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

By "some Malaysians" I mean some Malays who were not happy (or should I say afraid) that a Chinese was named finance minister.

Never mind Chinese had held finance minister post before, during the days of Tunku Abdul Rahman. Never mind the new finance minister has proclaimed to be a Malaysian first.

And some non-Malays who also were not happy or rather afraid that a Malay they see as an "Islamist" was appointed education minister.

The unhappy Malays feared or engulfed in jealousy that nobody among them have the power to manage the national coffers and that the community would be deprived of the national budget, as if Lim Guan Eng is free to do all that or would want do all that in the first place.

The unhappy non-Malays, on their part, were afraid that Dr Maszlee Malik would turn our education system into a Taliban-style one just because he said he respected freedom of expression when commenting the antics of controversial preacher Zakir Naik, as if Maszlee could or would want "Talibanism" in the first place.

Never mind his impressive CV as stated by DAP's Ong Kian Ming and his remarks that Maszlee should not be pigeonholed as "just an Islamic scholar".

Are we back to the old ways of playing racial and religious cards? Or are we to allow ourselves to be exploited again with so-called issues of race and religion?

I sincerely hope not!

Guan Eng and Maszlee will not be doing anything detrimental to the country, or to any particular section of the Malaysian people for that matter.

Both have the credentials to carry out their task, so let's not prejudge them even before they start work.

Instead, let's give them the chance to prove their mettle.

The cabinet is being named slowly, in batches so to speak. The sad thing about us is that picking cabinet members is based on certain considerations -- not only ability of individuals -- considerations like striking the right balance to accommodate ruling parties, a quota of sorts if you like, and as admitted by Mahathir himself being a coalition, components "wanted this and that ministry" and sometimes resulting in overlapping requests.

Then, there's the needs of Sabah and Sarawak which must be looked into and considered.

Hence, the delay in announcing the full cabinet.

Now we are hearing of activists complaining that the new government fails to ensure that women hold a third of its policy-making positions despite the fact the full cabinet is not named.

Ideally, selecting cabinet members must be based on the best-person-for-the-job basis, not on gender, race, religion and what not.

Still, the cabinet named by Mahathir thus far is credible. The minsters are capable or should be able to get the job done well. That's how I see it anyway.

Of course, like everybody else, I too have one or two reservations on Mahathir's choice of ministers.

And like everybody else, I also have my personal choice.

I would like to see Hannah Yeoh, Tony Pua and Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah in the cabinet.

Actually, I had wanted Lim Kit Siang in the new administration, but since he has opted out on his own free will, I will have to respect that.

Besides, it would be for want of a better word, odd, to have Kit Siang in the same cabinet with Guan Eng .

So too Nurul Izzah Anwar with Datuk Seri Wan Azizah as deputy PM.

However, there are no reasons for Rafizi Ramli, R.Sivarasa, Liew Chin Tong, Nik Nazmi Ahmad, Dr Hatta Ramli, Hanipa Maidin and Ong Kian Ming not to be in the cabinet or be given some role to play in the new administration.

The list goes on and I think Mahathir is spoilt for choice.

The reality is, the majority of Malaysians have voted for change. Change for a better Malaysia. Thus far every move the Mahathir administration makes is being hailed and praised.

Mahathir will complete his full cabinet line-up soon. Whomever he chooses, the rakyat want this government to perform well. Needless to say expectations are high. Very high, and at times too high even

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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