Why we need more deputy ministers from the Senate

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Rope in more Deputy Ministers from the Dewan Negara not just based on their capabilities and track record but also taking into account gender and geographical considerations.

In Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Cabinet line-up, there are four Senators. They are International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz; Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir; Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution and Minister in the PM’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Dr Na’im Mokhtar.

I hope that in the deputy ministers’ line-up which Anwar is expected to unveil soon, he will co-opt more from the Dewan Negara. I know many Malaysians do not think that the Cabinet, including deputy ministers, should include so many members from the Upper House.

The popular argument is that Dewan Rakyat MPs have won their mandates in elections and therefore have more “rights” to stake claims in Cabinet positions. While this may be true to a certain extent, we should not deny capable leaders the opportunity to serve in Government, just because they did not stand in elections or lost in the polls.


Unlike the Dewan Rakyat where members are more rowdy and fractious, Senators tend to be more level-headed as they do not need to play to the gallery and score cheap political points. Senators are also less likely to fall into the populism trap which can be detrimental to nation-building.

The nation is at a point in history where we need to have more level-headed leaders, not susceptible to playing the racial-religious card for political self-preservation. For the first time in history, Malaysia is having a unity government.

The formula is untested locally and political opportunists are already waiting to pounce at the slightest opportunity to bring this government down by way of stoking sentiments. As it is, a fake social media post purportedly by the Prime Minister claiming that the Government had recognised the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) had recently gone viral.

The PMO has clarified that the screenshot was doctored but the incident just goes to show that sensible and collected leaders are needed at this juncture. This can be sourced from the Dewan Negara pool, whether from existing Senators or newly appointed ones.

Besides, there are many capable leaders who did not make it to the Dewan Rakyat. A name that comes to mind is ex-Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (although it’d be beneath him to take up a Deputy Minister’s post).

Some of the country’s most sterling leaders had stints in the Dewan Negara. They include Tun Daim Zainuddin; Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz; Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. Some of them were made Minister or Deputy Minister’s on account of their Senatorship and were able to shine at their jobs.

Recently, Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Rais Yatim had said that the Upper House ought to be accorded the respect as the highest legislative body in this country. This can be achieved if more Cabinet members, including Deputy Ministers, are co-opted from the Upper House.

In this respect, I call on the PM to rope in more Deputy Ministers from the Dewan Negara not just based on their capabilities and track record but also taking into account gender and geographical considerations. We want the Cabinet to be as inclusive as possible.

Only then will this Cabinet be able to truly represent the people and lift this country out of the doldrums.

The views expressed here are strictly those of Lim Hong Seng from Petaling Jaya.