Anwar in PH's top council, but no new Cabinet names emerge

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaking to the media at his home in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Anwar, who was pardoned on Thursday, is now part of the ruling PH's presidential council, the alliance's top decision-making body. (From left) Malaysia's Home Mi
(From left) Malaysia's Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu at a press conference in Selangor yesterday. Tun Dr Mahathir said yesterday that he will take up the education portfolio, and Dr Wan Azizah will take charge of women's affairs and welfare.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaking to the media at his home in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Anwar, who was pardoned on Thursday, is now part of the ruling PH's presidential council, the alliance's top decision-making body. (From left) Malaysia's Home Mi
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaking to the media at his home in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Anwar, who was pardoned on Thursday, is now part of the ruling PH's presidential council, the alliance's top decision-making body.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Core body to be sworn in on Monday and be enlarged from 10 to 13; PM Mahathir takes on education portfolio

The ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) officially incorporated Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim into its top leadership just a day after he was pardoned, as Malaysia's new government continued to roll forward on several fronts.

However, negotiations on Cabinet posts continued to stall, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad revealing no further names, and instead announcing that the core body will be sworn in only on Monday, and will be enlarged from an initial 10 to 13.

"We have four parties, each one wants certain ministries. Sometimes, there are overlaps. We will swear them in on Monday, with the palace's agreement," he told reporters after a PH presidential council meeting yesterday.

The week-old government had so far named five Cabinet members - Tun Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and three chiefs of the four PH parties. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Mr Lim Guan Eng and Mr Mohamad Sabu have been designated home, finance and defence ministers, respectively.

Dr Mahathir said the eight other ministerial posts would be divided equally among the four parties that make up PH.

The total number of Cabinet members will eventually be 25, he has said.

Dr Mahathir said yesterday that he will take up the education portfolio.

Dr Wan Azizah - who is Mr Anwar's wife - will take charge of women's affairs and welfare.

"I took over education because so many people are uneducated in this country," Dr Mahathir said to laughter, when asked by a reporter why he was taking up the portfolio. "But apart from that, I think our way of teaching is outdated. Today, with computers and other things, we should devise new ways of teaching."

Dr Mahathir also said PH's presidential council, the alliance's top decision-making body, will be enlarged with the addition of Mr Anwar.

The council, sometimes referred to as the "top five" in PH, comprises the four chiefs of the PH parties and Dr Mahathir as the group's chairman. This will now become the "top six".

"The top six may meet more often. When there is a problem, they will meet to decide on matters of urgency," Dr Mahathir said.

A new anti-corruption chief has also been appointed, the Premier revealed, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will now be headed by its former deputy leader Mohd Shukri Abdull, who was part of the agency during its investigations into the 1MDB saga, which were abruptly halted in mid-2015.

"His attitude was to protest wrongdoing in MACC, and the role of Datuk Seri Najib (Razak) to obstruct investigations. We want to know in detail what actually happened," Dr Mahathir said, referring to the former premier who was found to have received US$700 million (S$940 million) linked to the debt-laden state firm in 2015.

Mr Najib has denied that the money came from the public coffers, and said it was a donation from the Saudi royals.

This comes as a committee to look into 1MDB has been set up by the Council of Eminent Persons, the government's advisory team of renowned figures, including former finance minister Daim Zainuddin and immediate past central bank governor Zeti Aziz.

The PH presidential council also took further steps to review the government's welfare programme. The current BR1M cash handout will be continued, but will be relooked to ensure it "is not regarded as bribery, or a way of corrupting the people to support the government, but should be regarded as a way of mitigating social problems", Dr Mahathir said.

The 92-year-old leader also said that a special task force will be set up to improve the welfare of disenfranchised segments of society such as women, youth and aboriginals, but with a focus on the ethnic Indian minority.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Anwar in PH's top council, but no new Cabinet names emerge'. Print Edition | Subscribe