Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s announcement this past weekend that he is pulling himself out of consideration for the post of Prime Minister deserves accolades all round. Malaysians who want to see change whilst UMNO is imploding at every corner must be happy at this sign of unity amongst the leaders in the Opposition. These leaders should emulate Anwar, who has made a great sacrifice, and move on to agreeing on key matters necessary to form a new government.
We still don’t know if seats in the upcoming polls have been allocated in a way that satisfies everyone, but I would like to think one way to manage any differences in opinion is for the Prime Minister-designate to start discussing who can be a part of the next Cabinet. If all parties are happy with the proposed Cabinet line-up, it would soothe whatever differences they might have on the number of seats their parties need to contest.
While we wait for Opposition leaders to agree on who should be the next Prime Minister, why not ponder my list of possible Cabinet members in the new government. If the leaders take time to reflect on and discuss these issues early, it will show the people we are ready to form a government. It will also prevent new disputes from erupting amongst all parties, which will only undermine this fragile coalition.
For Prime Minister, I believe Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the right candidate. I have already given all my reasons for supporting his appointment in the last six months (much to the dismay of many), so I shall say no more on this matter.
For the post of Deputy Prime Minister, I suggest leaving it vacant. There is no legal requirement to have a DPM, although we have practised having one for many years now. This should send a strong signal to Anwar that the job is his, but that due process must first be followed.
For Minister of Oil and Energy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would be a good choice. PETRONAS must be placed under this Ministry and any future Prime Minister with a gargantuan appetite for money should not be allowed to control our national oil company. (Under the present law, only the PM controls PETRONAS.) The Petroleum Development Act 1974 must be amended to reflect this. Issues such as how much dividends PETRONAS pays out and who should get its big contracts must be decided by PETRONAS alone. Muhyiddin is a senior Minister, and a capable and experienced administrator. It is therefore fitting that this huge responsibility be given to him.
I suggest Azmin Ali from PKR as Minister of Finance. He knows what to do to save the country from further ruin. There must be only one Finance Minister — and never again should the country have an all-powerful Prime Minister who also takes on the Finance portfolio to do what Datuk Seri Najib Razak has done. There must be capable civil servants in the Finance Ministry and the Treasury to reign in political leaders who betray the trust of the people. The Minister of Finance must, of course, have good financial experts and economists of integrity to help him.
The Ministry of Education should go to Lim Kit Siang. It’s about time we look at education seriously, and that means being blind to racial considerations. We need to educate our people properly. We have failed to do that because education has been politicised to the extreme. We no longer have educationists and real academics but political apparatchiks in our schools and universities. Let’s go back to the old days when our best teachers and lecturers came from all backgrounds and races. Let’s make Malaysia a truly great country by having a great education system.
The Home Affairs Ministry is crucial if we want law and order to rule. Whoever helms this post must be prepared to combat corruption in the Police force and make it accountable. The Parliamentary Oversight Committee proposed in 2004 must be implemented in full. This person must be humble and willing to remove all ouster clauses in the present laws so that the courts can restrain and control excess use of the Home Minister’s discretionary powers. This important job can go to someone from Bersatu.
A new post, that of Attorney-General and the Minister of Law, should be created. The new Attorney-General must be a member of the Dewan Rakyat and he must helm a proper Ministry of Law. He must not be the Prime Minister’s boy, for he must serve the public and no one else. He must be willing, by a new law, to create an independent Office of Public Prosecutions and appoint a director involved in the day-to-day decision-making process in any case. The Director of Public Prosecution is the person the Attorney-General and the Government must be able to trust wholly to deal with ALL cases in a manner that is free from political interference. We need a special law to be passed for this to happen. I suggest R. Sivarasa from PKR as the Attorney-General.
Tony Pua is a young talent who should also contribute to the nation’s development. I propose he be made Minister of Trade. There is no need to separate domestic and international trade, so just one Ministry will do. The candidate must promise to cut the deficit — slowly, but cut it he must. He must disband all forms of monopoly in the country, and ensure that small and medium-size companies be given priority in national policies. It’s about time we truly help small business traders and entrepreneurs, regardless of their political affiliation.
The institutions of MARA, FELCRA, RISDA, FELDA and Tabung Haji form the cornerstones of a prosperous and peaceful Malaysia. These agencies must be grouped together and report to a new Ministry, and not the Prime Minister. If we want to curb cronyism — the kind where the Prime Minister’s Office controls everything — then we need to change the relevant legislation so that we can take these agencies from the PM. I propose forming a new Ministry so there is more control and accountability for these large agencies. We must deal with the current problems of pilferage and inefficiency. I suggest another young talent for this purpose: Rafizi Ramli from PKR.
Religion is an important matter in this country; religious conflicts are plentiful and potentially explosive because politicians have usurped religion for their own ends. I propose a new Minister of Religious Affairs be appointed. His portfolio would cover all religions practised in the country, and he would deal with any conflict among the civil and shariah courts and state and federal religious authorities such as JAKIM. They must, therefore, report to this Minister and not the Prime Minister. I propose Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa of Amanah for this job. He is a principled and fair person, and also well-schooled in Islamic matters.
The Defence portfolio must be given to someone who does not need or want to make quick money. He must be willing to let his Generals and Admirals decide what equipment to buy and what their respective arms of the national security forces need. The Defence Minister must be someone who is concerned about the security of the country, but who also does not care for taking a cut from contracts or any dealings with foreign powers. Mohamad Sabu from Amanah will do this job well.
The Ministry of Transport should go to Liew Chin Tong of DAP. He is knowledgeable and well-appraised of new means to solve the longstanding public transport woes in the country. He must also address public transport needs in smaller towns as well.
A new Coordinating Minister for Sabah/Sarawak Affairs must be established. I am not familiar with politicians from East Malaysia, but surely there is one among them who can pull together all the relevant issues that we need to discuss intelligently at the Federal level.
The Ministries of Telecommunications, Science and Technology can be grouped as one to emphasise these important subjects. The person in charge must have a genuine interest in promoting science rather than defending the Prime Minister. He must understand the needs of this young country, especially in the area of technology, and he must work with the Minister of Education to achieve this aim. I propose Saifuddin Nasution Ismail from PKR for this post.
Foreign Affairs should be given to someone who will not subject foreign policy to the dictates of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ministry should maintain open and friendly relations with other countries while sticking to independent foreign policies that will protect national interests from the superpowers. Someone senior representing Bersatu should be considered for this post.
For the Minister of Federal Territories, I propose Nurul Izzah Anwar from PKR. She knows the problems of the cities and the poor, but she must promise that the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur will be elected and not appointed. This is the way to effectively solve inefficiency and corruption.
A new Coordinating Ministry of Land Development and Housing must be established and headed by someone who can assume the present duties of the Minister of Housing. We face real land issues that the state authorities are not managing properly, such as the many acres of land that have been left undeveloped. We also have an increasingly acute shortage of affordable housing that must be resolved. The Minister can work closely with state authorities for this purpose. I propose someone from Berjasa for this post
Youth and Sports should go to Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman. He is smart and articulate and can reach out to the young. This is an important Ministry to energise and motivate young Malaysians to having a fruitful life.
I propose that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Child Development be helmed by DAP. I don’t know many women MPs in the party but one of them would do a great job. She must be a strong advocate for the rights of women and children.
There should only be four Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department; otherwise, history will repeat itself. I believe the four Ministers can come from Opposition MPs, even if they are not amongst the top leaders. One of the Ministers must be given the authority to reform Parliament and its archaic Standing Orders. Gobind Singh Deo from DAP would suit this task perfectly. The other consideration is to appoint Khalid Samad as Coordinating Minister for Reforms, particularly for matters relating to the Civil Service and the electoral system.
Other Cabinet posts can be filled up later but these critical ones must be announced now. The Prime Minister-designate has to make sure his Ministers will do the necessary work properly and honestly, and sack them if they don’t. He must make sure checks and balances are implemented and institutionalised, because in the future only institutions can save us, not personalities.
There are of course many other capable Opposition leaders, but we also need them to be Mentri Besarand Chief Ministers. In a federation such as ours, good and capable leaders are needed at the state level as well. If the states are not developed, then they will just borrow more and more from the federal government, which is the principal reason why the present Government has mountains of debt to repay.
I hope these suggestions will start a conversation that can be helpful to the Opposition coalition.
Zaid Ibrahim is a member of DAP party. Articles written is strictly the writer’s personal opinion and it does not represent the views of Malaysian Access.