Many talents may be accommodated by appointment as chairs and deputy chairs to parliamentary select committees – one for each ministerial portfolio.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim must find ways to include talented leaders in his administration even if he did have his hands tied due to the nature of the unity government, said political analyst Wong Chin Huat.
Wong said notwithstanding controversial inclusions like Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who is facing a corruption trial and the under-representation of DAP, Anwar managed to form an inclusive team with representatives of all parties, ethnic communities, states, and genders.
“It is not a magic team because Anwar cannot possibly just pick talents and ignore partisan and sectoral representation, after his commitment to have a lean administration.
“The cabinet has 28 ministers, four less than the last two governments. If each minister is to be supported by one deputy minister, then it would be only 56, and 14 less than in previous administrations.
“This would leave out many talents, who may need to be accommodated by appointment as chairs and deputy chairs to parliamentary select committees – one for each ministerial portfolio.
“This can accommodate political ambitions and enhance parliamentary oversights at the same time,” said Wong, adding that Anwar should not resort to government-linked company (GLC) appointments to appease sitting MPs.
Wong, who is a director at UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), conceded that the inclusion of Zahid gave the new government a bad start – in terms of the image projected.
“Hence, the government must take action to do damage control. The first is to quickly start the process to separate the public prosecutor’s office from Attorney General’s Chambers. This will close the door to political acquittals.
“The next is for Pakatan Harapan to sign a coalition agreement with Umno and all other parties in government to establish a party-to-party pact that withstands party leadership changes.
“Thirdly, Harapan must not take sides in any Umno party election to avoid a backlash against Zahid that may cause the party to leave the government subsequently,” he added.
Wong said while Anwar must deliver on the economy, he must fix politics first.
“He also needs Perikatan Nasional (PN) to be a responsible opposition instead of distracting his government with endless communal rows.
“He can extend a good gesture by recognizing PN’s shadow cabinet with commensurate salary, resources, and information access for the shadow ministers,” suggested Wong.
He added that the under-representation of DAP in the cabinet line-up was a sacrifice to fend off the “DAPophobia” campaign by PN.
“However, it also hurts DAP’s standing among its supporters and causes alienation of some of Harapan’s hardcore supporters.
“If such discontent is not managed, it may cause a low turnout in the upcoming state elections and may weaken Harapan’s power base in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.”
While Anwar may compensate DAP by making appointing several of its leaders as deputy ministers, Wong said many may still feel left out.
“Appointing outstanding government backbenchers to the paid position of parliamentary select committees is the necessary way out,” he stressed. – Malaysiakini