13 more Cabinet ministers take office in Malaysia

New Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu (left), Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during a swearing in ceremony at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, on May 21, 2018.
New Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu (left), Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during a swearing in ceremony at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, on May 21, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Mahathir says he will bring in three more ministers after appointing them as senators

Thirteen more Cabinet ministers in the Mahathir administration were sworn in before the Malaysian King yesterday.

The key new ministers announced included those holding the Foreign, International Trade and Industry, Tourism and Islamic Affairs portfolios.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that he will be appointing three more ministers after first appointing them as senators. A minister or deputy minister must be an MP to be appointed to the post.

But a non-MP politician or a professional in his field could be brought in as a Cabinet member after being sworn in as a senator in the Upper House. The senator can be a minister for only two terms, or a total of six years.

The appointments of the 13 Cabinet ministers added to the 14 who took up their posts in May, including Tun Dr Mahathir himself.

Adding the three senators who would join the Cabinet would bring the total number of ministers to 30.

This compares with the 35-strong Cabinet of the previous Najib Razak government.

There were 23 deputy ministers who were sworn in yesterday. Datuk Seri Najib's last Cabinet had 33 deputy ministers.

Political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi noted that there were many new faces from different backgrounds in the Cabinet. "Even an ordinary person can become a minister. This is a good development in the context of politics and democracy in Malaysia," he said.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties that won the May 9 general election comprise multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), Dr Mahathir's Malay nationalist Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and Parti Amanah Negara, a moderate Islamic party.

In Sabah state, PH's ally is Parti Warisan Sabah.

Political circles have speculated that a vice-president of Amanah, Datuk Husam Musa, and DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong could be appointed deputy ministers.

Mr Husam lost in Kelantan, and Mr Liew in Johor.

The second round of swearing-in yesterday came nearly two months after the PH government swept into power in the May 9 general election.

Among the new batch of leaders and their deputies yesterday were Sabah and Sarawak representatives and a clutch of young MPs.

They included Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, 25, the youngest ever Cabinet minister, and Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin, 35.

Sabah and Sarawak states - which together account for a quarter of the 222 seats in Parliament - now have four full ministers, three from Sabah and one from Sarawak.

There are also three deputy ministers from these East Malay-sian states.

Said Sabah Chief Minister and Warisan president Shafie Apdal of the appointments of three full ministers and two deputy ministers from his party: "This proves that the Prime Minister has faith in us. We knew there were many others in the peninsular who were hoping to get these positions, but he chose to give them to us. This is an acknowledgement to the party and Sabah," he told reporters, as quoted by the Free Malaysia Today news site.

Warisan won eight Parliament seats in Sabah. And the PH parties in Sabah that contested in the state, comprising the DAP and PKR, won another six seats.

In Sarawak, the DAP and PKR won 10 seats, a big jump from just six in the 2013 polls.

Mr James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, said that "Sarawak is the big loser" in the allotment of Cabinet seats under Dr Mahathir.

He said this was expected as the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won 19 of 31 seats in Sarawak in the May polls.

In the previous administration, there were seven full ministers from East Malaysia, as Sarawak BN parties did well.

The four BN parties in Sarawak have since left BN to form Gabungan Parti Sarawak, an independent coalition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2018, with the headline '13 more Cabinet ministers take office in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe