The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) is dismayed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has appointed himself to helm the important finance portfolio.
The electoral reform group said such an appointment weakens the check and balances necessary to ensure that Malaysia does not return to the days of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration where the prime minister almost bankrupted the nation through the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scheme.
Bersih also said it was disappointed that Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who faces 47 corruption charges has been appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister and also as the Rural and Regional Development Minister.
“Though we understand the politics behind his appointment, we regret that principles took a backseat,” it said in a statement.
It added that both these questionable appointments threaten to undermine Anwar’s commitment to fighting corruption.
“To cement his credentials as a reformist, Anwar has to double-down efforts to fulfil PH’s (Pakatan Harapan) election manifesto promises to fight corruption and strengthen the integrity of our key institutions”.
Bersih said the PM and his new cabinet must immediately prioritise the following three actions to remove any doubts of interference in court cases and conflict of interest:
– Make the Solicitor-General assume the role of Public Prosecutor with immediate effect until the necessary constitutional amendments are made to remove that role from the Attorney-General;
– Promote political stability and parliamentary oversight by giving meaningful roles to the Opposition and Government backbenchers in the shadow cabinet and parliamentary special select committees (PSSCs), with commensurate salary, policy research support and access to government information for shadow ministers as well as chairs and deputy chairs of the PSSCs, further enhanced by enactment of a new Parliamentary Services Act and establishment of Parliamentary Budget Office; and,
– Reform the process to appoint and remove key public officers such as MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) chief, EC (Election Commission) and Suhakam commissioners. The process should grant more independence from the executive and include meaningful roles for the Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Bersih welcomed the appointment of Pengerang Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said as the Law Minister.
“We hope that she would drive the reforms promised in both the PH and BN manifestos, continuing with many of the reforms started by some of her predecessors such as the late VK Liew (Datuk Liew Vui Keong) and (Datuk Seri) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
The non-governmental organisation grouping said it is also pleased that Azalina is among five women appointed to lead key ministries such as the Education, Health, Youth and Sports as well as Women, Family and Community Development Ministries.
The Family and Community Development is headed by Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri; Education – Fadhlina Sidek; Youth and Sports – Hannah Yeoh; and Health – Dr Zaliha Mustafa.
“While this Cabinet has the highest representation of women as Ministers, it is still far from a gender-balanced Cabinet”.
Bersih hopes there will be political stability and this administration would be given the opportunity to govern full term and all parties, including the Opposition would play constructive roles in nation-building. – NST