14-member Cabinet unveiled; PM gives up education portfolio

Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali from Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Transport Minister Anthony Loke from the Democratic Action Party. Education Minister Maszlee Malik from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu from Parti Amanah
Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali from Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali from Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Transport Minister Anthony Loke from the Democratic Action Party. Education Minister Maszlee Malik from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu from Parti Amanah
Transport Minister Anthony Loke from the Democratic Action Party.
Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali from Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Transport Minister Anthony Loke from the Democratic Action Party. Education Minister Maszlee Malik from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu from Parti Amanah
Education Minister Maszlee Malik from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali from Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Transport Minister Anthony Loke from the Democratic Action Party. Education Minister Maszlee Malik from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu from Parti Amanah
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu from Parti Amanah Negara.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday appointed the core members of his Cabinet, nine days after his four-party coalition won a shocking electoral victory.

The 14-member Cabinet reflected power sharing of the four Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties that just over a week ago were raucous federal opposition parties.

While several of the Cabinet appointees are first-time Members of Parliament, they can draw from the deep well of experience brought by Tun Dr Mahathir and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, as well as others who have served as top administrators of Selangor and Penang states.

And behind them is the experience of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, who heads a team of eminent persons to advise the government on economic matters.

The ministers will be sworn in on Monday morning, the Prime Minister's Office said yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said yesterday he was relinquishing the post of education minister, just days after saying he would be heading the ministry. This followed criticisms that PH's election manifesto clearly stated that the Prime Minister would not hold a double portfolio, a move to reduce the concentration of power as happened in the ousted Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

"That is the position of the manifesto. I cannot break it at the moment," Dr Mahathir said in a video on the Facebook page of his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).

The four PH members are Datuk Seri Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) that won 48 Parliament seats in the polls, Chinese-majority Democratic Action Party (DAP) with 42 wards, Dr Mahathir's PPBM which won 13 seats and Parti Amanah Negara, a moderate Islamic party, with 11.

The line-up sees only PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail holding a double portfolio, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Women and Family Development.

PKR has two other portfolios, with Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali as Minister of Economic Affairs and its women's wing chief Zuraida Kamaruddas the new Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Questions have emerged if Datuk Seri Azmin would have to relinquish his position as Menteri Besar of Selangor. PKR said Mr Azmin will seek an audience with Selangor's Sultan to discuss his status as chief minister following the federal appointment.

The DAP holds four portfolios. The Finance Ministry is to be helmed by former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng. Mr Lim is expected to be sworn in despite an ongoing corruption case in court, which resumes hearing on Monday. Mr Lim had claimed that the charges against him were politically motivated by the previous administration.

Other DAP appointees are Mr Anthony Loke as Transport Minister, Mr Gobind Singh Deo as Communications and Multimedia Minister, and Mr Kulasegaran Murugeson as Minister of Human Resources.

Apart from Dr Mahathir, PPBM has three other portfolios - Home Minister Muhyiddin, and two first-time lawmakers - Mr Maszlee Malik and Ms Rina Harun, who will hold the Education and Rural Development portfolios, respectively. Mr Maszlee was, until recently, a university professor, and Ms Rina the PPBM women's wing chief.

"While it will be a big learning curve for Maszlee, he is likely to be strongly supported by Dr Mahathir who sees it as a critical portfolio and had earlier wanted to handle this job," said Mr Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Amanah, the smallest PH party in terms of seats and membership, will control three ministries. Its party president Mohamad Sabu is Defence Minister, deputy president Salahuddin Ayub is Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister, and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is Health Minister.

PM Mahathir had said his administration will eventually have a total of 25 Cabinet members, and would not stretch beyond 30 ministers.

"Overall it is a very refreshing line-up, away from the old tired faces of previous regimes, and hopefully not as corrupt as yet," said Dr Oh Ei Sun, principal adviser to think-tank Pacific Research Centre.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline '14-member Cabinet unveiled; PM gives up education portfolio'. Print Edition | Subscribe