(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Although the first Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday was a non-event disappointing 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 and take the country to new national and international heights, it nonetheless marks a major deviation in the healthy growth of direct representative democracy in Malaysia.
This is because the minor Cabinet reshuffle has a taint of political and democratic illegitimacy, rendering the latest Mahathir government the most unrepresentative in Malaysian history in having the most number of unelected Senators in any government since Independence in 1957.
A Cabinet reshuffle where 80 per cent, affecting four of the five persons involved, come from the Senate - whether present Senators or new Senate appointments - only confirms the deepening crisis of legitimacy of governance for Mahathir, UMNO and the Barisan Nasional Government since the 1999 general election when more and more political leaders have to enter the government by the backdoor instead of the frontdoor of Parliament.
Is Mahathir prepared to end the crisis of political legitimacy faced by his government by asking all the four of the five persons involved in the reshuffle who are not elected MPs, namely Brigadier-General ® Datuk Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin, Datuk Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Datuk M. Kayveas and Datuk Zainuddin Maidin to first establish their political and democratic credentials and legitimacy through parliamentary by-elections and to drop them from government if they cannot get elected?
Or is not a single one of the four named in the reshuffle winnable in any parliamentary by-election? Or have by-elections become the latest bugbear of UMNO and Barisan Nasional after the Lunas by-election debacle for the Barisan Nasional?
The appointment of Datuk Zainuddin Maidin as parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Information has raised many eyebrows.
Zainuddin is regarded as a "giant" in Malaysian journalism - never mind this is only confined to "mainstream" mass media in the country - and one newspaper had described him after the reshuffle as "synonymous with Malay journalism in the country" in his four decades as a journalist climaxing at the helm of the Utusan Melayu as its group chief editor, 1982-1992.
The question is whether a "giant" of Malaysian journalism in the Malaysian "mainstream" media should accept a "pygmy" political appointment as parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Information?
It would be different if Zainuddin is offered the post as Minister of Information - but for a "giant" of Malaysian mainstream journalism to accept such a "pgymy" political appointment reeks of utter contempt of the political establishment for all journalists, the role of the media, freedom of speech, expression and the press in the country.
If not for himself, at least for the dignity and rightful respect that should be accorded to all journalists, whether "giants" of Malaysian "mainstream" journalism or otherwise, Zainuddin should seriously consider spurning such a "pgymy" political appointment and ask for something more respectable for himself and the profession he is identified.