(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The minor Cabinet reshuffle yesterday is a great disappointment to Malaysians looking for a clear signal that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is capable of far-reaching reforms to end the multiple crisis of confidence in the country, especially with Malaysia facing an economic downturn this year.
In his year-end interview recently, Mahathir had slashed the projected growth rate this year to 5.8 per cent from 7 per cent while other projections had been even more pessimistic, as Asiaweek’s forecast of 5 per cent growth for Malaysia this year.
Apart from the creation of a Women’s Affairs Ministry, the reshuffle was a non-event. DAP welcome the creation of the Women’s Affairs Ministry as we had long proposed it. However, it must be asked whether the appointment of a Women Affairs’ Minister is the result of "strong pressure" and a new commitment to mainstream women’s issues, or whether it is more of a political ploy to outflank PAS on women’s issues. One important test of this is whether the Women’s Affairs Ministry will now become the least important ministry in the Cabinet.
Otherwise, the message of the minor Cabinet reshuffle seems to be that there would be more of the same policies which had forfeited the national and international legitimacy of the Barisan Nasional Government, despite its success to win with a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the last general election less than 14 months ago - that there will be more corruption, cronyism, nepotism, economic mismanagement, violation of human rights and democratic norms, a muzzled media, a stunted civil society - all factors cumulatively undermining Malaysia’s international competitiveness.
I find it very sad that the opportunity had not been taken during this Cabinet reshuffle to appoint an e-Minister to take overall responsibility for the national information age agenda and be the driving force for e-government and e-commerce as Malaysia has seriously lagged behind other countries in the past five years in efforts to develop a fully inclusive information society.