New Cabinet to lean on seasoned politicians

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail taking the oath of office yesterday before King Sultan Muhammad V at the royal palace, in the presence of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Appointees new to federal govt will be guided by veterans like Mahathir and Muhyiddin

Malaysia's new Pakatan Harapan (PH) Cabinet will have to lean heavily on its handful of seasoned politicians, say analysts, with the majority of its 13 federal ministers never having served in central government before.

"The senior and well-experienced leaders may fill the gaps of inexperience in certain portfolios that seem too big a task for some lawmakers such as rural development, defence and agriculture," said Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya.


Malaysia's new Cabinet under the PH administration was sworn in yesterday, nearly two weeks after the coalition's stunning election win that ended Barisan Nasional's (BN) six decades in power.

The ministers took their oaths of office before King Sultan Muhammad V at the royal palace.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had announced the 13 names last Friday, and said the Cabinet will eventually have 25 ministers in total.

The appointments have mainly been distributed among the top leadership in the pact's four member parties, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah).

While many of the appointees are new to federal government, they will be guided by seasoned hands like Tun Dr Mahathir, who first served as PM from 1981 to 2003, and former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who returns to Cabinet with the Home Affairs portfolio. Both men are from PPBM.

Among the novices is first-term lawmaker and former university professor Maszlee Malik, who is now Education Minister. PPBM's women's wing chief Rina Harun, another new MP, is Rural Development Minister. Amanah president Mohamad Sabu bears the hefty defence portfolio, while the party's deputy president Salahuddin Ayub is Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister.

Some have criticised the line-up for being based on seniority within the member parties, and not on ability. These ministers will also have to set aside their party hats - evident in the tussle for Cabinet positions - in the larger interests of the country.

"They need to rise above ethnic, individual concerns if they are to make headway with combating the negative effects of Umno-dominated policies and rule which reigned supreme for several decades," said political analyst Lim Teck Ghee, referring to the former ruling party.

The country received its first female deputy prime minister in the form of Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. The PKR president was also made Minister for Women and Family Development.

Taking on the most sought-after portfolios are Selangor Menteri Besar and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, who is Minister of Economic Affairs, and former Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is Finance Minister.

PKR women's wing chief Zuraida Kamaruddin is the Housing and Local Government Minister.

DAP's deputy chairman Gobind Singh Deo is Communications and Multimedia Minister, and its vice-chairman M. Kulasegaran is Human Resources Minister. DAP's national organising secretary Anthony Loke is Transport Minister.

Amanah's strategy director Dzulkefly Ahmad is Health Minister.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'New Cabinet to lean on seasoned politicians'. Print Edition | Subscribe