All eyes on Malaysian PM Mahathir's Cabinet line-up

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Pakatan would unveil a "small Cabinet" with only important ministries.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Pakatan would unveil a "small Cabinet" with only important ministries.PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad will name his Cabinet on Saturday (May 12) - and the names and portfolios he names will be closely watched by Malaysians to see if Pakatan Harapan makes good its pre-election promises.

They include ensuring the Prime Minister does not hold the Finance portfolio as well as the promise of a much slimmer and trimmer Prime Minister's Department - comprising only three ministers instead of the 10 serving the previous government.

 

In a press conference on Friday, Dr Mahathir said Pakatan would unveil a "small Cabinet" with only important ministries - Finance, Home, Defence, Education, Rural Development, Economy, Works, Transport, Multimedia, Science and Technology; as well as Foreign Affairs. Strangely, Health - a crucial portfolio - has been left out of the initial list.

This is a much smaller Cabinet compared to the previous administration which had 25 ministries.

The pre-election government had a team of 35 ministers including the prime minister and the deputy prime minister.

Analysts said expectations are high among Malaysians for the administration to unveil a team of ministers that truly represents them and their aspirations.

They include representation from Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sabah and Sarawak, ministers with different backgrounds of qualification, expertise and experience as well as a good composition of male and women ministers.

Analysts also said the public were anticipating Dr Mahathir to name personalities such as DAP's Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Tony Pua and Hannah Yeoh; PKR's Nurul Izzah Anwar, Dr Xavier Jeyakumar; Amanah's Mohamad Sabu and Salahuddin Ayub as well as Pribumi's Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman in his Cabinet team.

An interesting point is that some of those expected to be made ministers comprise "father/mother-son/daughter" teams.

With Dr Mahathir already helming the Government and PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as his deputy, the question now is whether it is appropriate to have Mukhriz and Nurul Izzah, as well as appointing both father and son - Kit Siang and Guan Eng - into the team.

But political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said this should not be an issue.

"If they can deliver, why not? We should look beyond family ties. If they are capable, then they should be allowed to serve in the Cabinet," he said.

 
 
 

With Mukhriz now sworn in as Kedah Mentri Besar, it is unlikely that he will be offered a ministerial post.

Since the Prime Minister will not be leading the Finance Ministry, speculation is rife over who among the MPs will get the coveted post.

Apart from Finance, the Home and Defence posts are usually filled by senior politicians. In the past, they came from Umno.

In the case of Pakatan, Muhyiddin and Parti Warisan Sabah's Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal are among the seniors and they have an advantage, given their experience in serving the government under Barisan Nasional.

Muhyiddin had served in various ministries including Education and Agriculture and Agro-based ministries before his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister while Shafie led the Domestic Trade, Consumer Affairs and Cooperatives as well as the Rural and Regional Development ministries.

"These three posts are crucial and I believe the Prime Minister should assign them to seniors," said Prof Sivamurugan.

Despite his young age of 26, many are expecting Syed Saddiq, the newly-elected MP for Muar, to be made a minister.

The political analyst explained that it was only logical for him to be appointed as he was the pull factor for votes from the youth.

The people's focus will also be on how soon this new government and its Cabinet can deliver its promises. Among them is to set the Goods and Services Tax to zero, reintroducing fuel subsidy and to abolish tolls - all in 100 days.

"The public is interested to see if the new government can deliver on these promises. This is on top of how the Government can bring down prices of goods and living costs so that the masses can have a better life," he said.

Prof Sivamurugan said the 10 ministries listed by Dr Mahathir are sufficient for now, pointing out that these are crucial ministries to get the Government up and running.

"Dr Mahathir does not need a large Cabinet, so the 10 ministries are good enough to allow him to start work. But eventually, I think he should set up a few more ministries to deal with issues such as youth, women and family," he said.