Anwar’s selection of deputy ministers ‘crucial’

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As the dust settles over the composition of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s team of cabinet members, all eyes are now trained on the appointment of deputy ministers, who will complete the line-up of the unity government.

While the appointment of deputy ministers usually takes a back seat in terms of prominence, observers believe that it holds far greater significance this time due to the prime minister’s need to quell any dissatisfaction in coalitions, as well as shore up support for the cabinet ministers themselves.

Anwar has yet to identify a specific date when he will announce the appointment of deputy ministers.

Mohd Fadli Hamzah/NST

However, several names have since cropped up as potential candidates. They include elected federal lawmakers and loyalists of parties aligned with the federal government, including Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional (BN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Parti Warisan (Warisan).

Party sources said among them are former PKR information chief Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, who is seen as an Anwar loyalist.

“In the 15th General Election (GE15), Shamsul Iskandar proved his loyalty when he made way for PKR Youth chief Adam Adli Abdul Halim to stand in the Hang Tuah Jaya parliamentary constituency.

“Shamsul Iskandar also has the added experience of being the primary industries deputy minister in the PH government after the 2018 general election (GE14),” said the sources.

In the recent general election, Shamsul Iskandar lost the multi-cornered contest in Bagan Datuk to BN chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who has since been appointed as one of Anwar’s two deputy prime ministers.

Titiwangsa MP Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, as observers indicated, is also one of the deputy minister candidates. The chairman of the Federal Territories Umno liaison committee was among the names touted to take charge of the finance portfolio due to his expertise in the economy and experience, given his stint as second finance minister during the then BN administration.

Anwar announced on Friday that he would take over the finance portfolio himself.

Other names coined as potential deputy minister candidates include Kota Belud MP and Warisan’s Wirawati chief Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, as well as Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib of GPS.

Isnaraissah was the deputy energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister in the PH administration, and her Sarawakian counterpart Hanifah, who is Mukah MP, was the deputy minister in the prime minister’s department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs).

Associate Professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi believes Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman would be given a significant role in the unity government.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that he would become a deputy minister.

“He may be given a bigger role, such as the political secretary to the prime minister,” said the political analyst from Universiti Malaya.

Awang Azman also believes that Anwar could address any simmering dissatisfaction over his cabinet line-up through the appointment of deputy ministers.

Only a day after the announcement of the cabinet, Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said Sabah BN had been sidelined as none of its seven MPs had received cabinet posts.

The Sabah BN chairman drew a comparison with Sarawak, which had five portfolios, including that of the deputy prime minister.

He added that Sabah BN had won the most parliamentary seats in the state in GE15.

Penang DAP also expressed its displeasure yesterday over the absence of its representatives in the cabinet.

State chairman Chow Kon Yeow said his initial view was that there was an imbalanced distribution (of ministers in the cabinet).

“We accept that there are four DAP ministers, but the number is fewer than other parties, and none of the seven Penang DAP MPs were appointed as ministers.

“However, we understand that this is a unity government, and in the end, it is up to the prime minister to choose his cabinet,” Chow said at the groundbreaking of the Kuang Yu National Chinese School yesterday.

Awang Azman believed that DAP’s complaints were valid, and that Anwar may be seeking to reduce the perception among the Malays that he was overly dependent on DAP.

However, he said, Anwar had made no bones about wanting to slim down the cabinet.

“The prime minister wants a slimmer federal cabinet to reduce spending.

“With a limited number of cabinet positions and a large number of qualified candidates, the cabinet announcement had caused dissatisfaction among unity government partners.

“I believe the prime minister will address such dissatisfaction through the appointment of deputy ministers, not only to have a credible team but also to keep intact the unity among the partners of his coalition government.” – NST