(Penang, Tuesday): The speech by
the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday that
"the current leaders may be rather too old to be at the helm and will have
to make way for credible and efficient ones among the younger generation
to carry on the Umno struggle and make us become a
developed nation by 2020" has raised the question as to whether Mahathir is preparing to step down after 20 years as Prime Minister and allow his deputy, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and a new team to take over.
However, the recent Cabinet reshuffle is testimony that Mahathir is not prepared to let "a younger set of efficient and credible leaders" to decide the future destiny of the nation, as the average age of the five persons involved in the reshuffle is 52.4 years. The five are Datuk M. Kayveas, 46, Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, 47, Datuk Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansur, 51, Datuk Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin 57, and Datuk Zainuddin Maidin, 61. Isnít it time for the Cabinet to be injected with more Malaysians from the thirties age-group?
What is even more ominous is that the Cabinet reshuffle marked a regression in the dynamic development of representative democracy as the latest Mahathir government is the most unrepresentative in the nationís history with the most number of unelected Senators.
Mahathir owes the nation an explanation why he could not find "a younger set of efficient and credible leaders" who could enter government and Parliament from the front-door through direct election by the voters instead of having to seek parliamentary entry from the back door via Senatorial appointments through another spate of gross abuses of the Constitution which never intended the Senate to house party hacks!
A Cabinet reshuffle to increase the size of the government, involving more public expenditures for Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, not to provide better services to Malaysians but to help stem the drastic erosion of political support of the Mahathir government is indefensible in the public interest.
What is most disappointing about the Cabinet reshuffle however is the message from Mahathir that his government remains stubbornly unregenerate in refusing to respond to the aspirations of the young for greater openness, transparency and democracy and the peopleís increasing pressures for far-reaching political, economic and social reforms to end corruption, cronyism and all abuses of power.