The country cannot afford the luxury of the Prime Minister taking a month to decide on his new Cabinet because of his timing of the general election, as the government would be hit by a new Y2K and grind to a complete halt on January 1, 2000 without a single sen to operate if Mahathir needs another 20 days to form his Cabinet.
The Prime Minister had acted most irresponsibly in dissolving Parliament in mid-session and in the midst of the 2000 Budget debate, when there was no political or constitutional crisis, and without passing a contingency vote to cover government expenditures for the first three months of next year as it would be impossible for Parliament to pass the 2000 budget before Dec. 31, 1999 with the holding of new general election on Nov. 29, 1999.
Parliament can only be convened after the Cabinet has been formed, the Cabinet Ministers sworn in by the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the first Cabinet meeting held and if Mahathir is going to take until Christmas to finalise his Cabinet line-up, this means that the first traditional Wednesday for the new Cabinet to meet would be December 29, 1999.
If so, there could then be no proper notice for the convening of Parliament to swear in the new MPs and pass a contingency vote for the government’s expenses for the first three months of next year by December 31, 1999 - and the new MPs would have to be summoned to an emergency meeting within 24 hours for the swearing-in of MPs and the passing of a contingency motion to cover government expenditures for the first three months of next year - or the entire government would be hit by the Barisan Nasional Y2K and grind to a halt without a sen to operate!
This will be a very bad start for the new tenth Parliament elected on Nov. 29, 1999, which does not speak well for a new era of good governance of responsibility, accountability and transparency.
To ensure that there is no unseemly 24-hour summoning of the new Parliament for the swearing-in of the new MPs and the passing of a contingency vote to cover the first three months of next year’s government expenditures, Mahathir should finalise his Cabinet line-up by 20th December so that the new Cabinet Ministers could be sworn in on 21st December and hold their first Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 22nd December 1999 to convene emergency meeting of Parliament beginning on 27th December 1999.
With the very days left for the end of this year, it is clearly impossible for the 2,000 Budget to be re-tabled in Parliament this year itself.
The other questions uppermost in the minds of Malaysians are whether Mahathir is prepared to form a leaner and smarter Cabinet so that Malaysia can be better prepared to face the challenges of the new millennium and to re-allocate the distribution of Cabinet seats among by Barisan Nasional parties by reducing UMNO’s quota and giving MCA, Gerakan and MIC an additional Ministerial post each.
In last Monday’s polls, UMNO suffered a great setback and for the first time in UMNO’s history, Barisan Nasional had to depend on the other Barisan Nasional component parties to bring in the Parliamentary seats.
In 1995, Barisan Nasional won 161 Parliamentary seats but on Monday’s
election the Barisan Nasional only won 148 Parliamentary seats - a reduction of 13 seats.
UMNO lost 16 Parliamentary seats, winning 72 Parliamentary seats last Monday compared to 1995 when it won 88 Parliamentary seats.
UMNO was totally wiped out in Trengganu (8 parliamentary seats), retained only one out of 14 seats in Kelantan and in Kedah, PAS won more parliamentary seats than UMNO - 8 PAS and 7 UMNO.
The new post-election Cabinet to be formed should reflect the election result of November 29, 1999 where UMNO secured only 48.6 per cent of the Barisan Nasional parliamentary seats as compared to 54.7% in the 1995 general election.
The 13-hour closure of the North-South Expressway three days after last Monday’s poll at Km 449.6 near Sungai Buloh as a result of mudslide reflecting the failure of the authorities to monitor and enforce the laws to maintain highland stability should be a sober reminder to Mahathir of the need to have a lean but smarter Cabinet to deal with the challenges of the new millennium - and not to have Ministers who blame God for their own failures.
In the last Parliament, there was a 71-member Cabinet comprising 28 Ministers, 31 Deputy Ministers and 12 Parliamentary Secretaries.
This 71-member Cabinet should be reduced to a leaner 65-member team, with the reduction of one Minister, three Deputy Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries as experience have shown that many Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries warm their seats and collect their Ministerial pay without do any much work - not even attending Parliament meetings to account for their responsibilities.
As UMNO’s parliamentary representation in the Barisan Nasional has fallen from 54.7 per cent in 1995 to 48.6% in the latest election, this should be reflected by a lower representation in the Cabinet.
In the last Parliament, UMNO had 17 Ministers, 18 Deputy Ministers and 6 Parliamentary Secretaries, making a total of 41 out of 71-strong government front-bench - or 57.8%.
With the reduction of UMNO’s parliamentary representation in the Barisan Nasional from 54.7 per cent in 1995 to 48.6 per cent on Monday’s election, UMNO’s representation in a new 65-strong government front-bench should be 28 - comprising probably 13 Ministers, 12 Deputy Ministers and three Parliamentary Secretaries.
MCA, Gerakan and MIC should each have an additional Cabinet Minister to reflect the new power configuration of the Barisan Nasional in the new Parliament.