Cabinet Ministers do not have to individually resign when Mahathir retires in October  as under the constitution and by convention his Cabinet resigns with him pending appointment of  a new Cabinet by the new Prime Minister

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): Recent statements reminding Cabinet Ministers that they should be prepared to make way for a new team when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi takes over as the fifth Prime Minister in October are most unusual and even mystifying as they imply two things: firstly, there is doubt or dispute that the retirement of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad after 22 years and three months as the fourth Prime Minister in nine months’ time would involve the automatic  resignation of his present and last Cabinet and secondly, there are Cabinet Ministers who oppose and resist  the notion that Mahathir’s resignation would also mean their resignation as Cabinet Ministers.

There is no other explanation for statements such as the following:

  • Mahathir’s statement in Malacca on Thursday that elected representatives holding government posts, including Cabinet Ministers, should be prepared to make way for a new team when Abdullah takes over as Prime Minister: "I said resign so as to leave it to the new leader to pick his man. He may retain the same person or he may choose another person. That is his right.”
  • Statement by the Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik yesterday that all Cabinet ministers must tender their resignation when Mahathir retires in October in accordance with parliamentary principles and practices: "When a Prime Minister resigns or retires, his entire Cabinet and administration must follow suit and tender their resignation as well.”

This is not the correct interpretation of the Federal Constitution and parliamentary practices and conventions.  Cabinet Ministers do not have to individually resign when Mahathir retires in October  as under the Constitution and by convention his Cabinet resigns with him pending the appointment of a  new Cabinet by the new Prime Minister. The question of whether a Cabinet Minister wishes to resign or not  when Mahathir retires does not arise as this decision is taken out of the hands of the Cabinet Ministers completely!

Article 43 of the Federal Constitution on the “Cabinet”  stipulates:

“43. (1) The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint a Jemaah Menteri (Cabinet of Ministers) to advise him in the exercise of his functions.  

  (2) The Cabinet shall be appointed as follows, that is to say -

(a) the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representative who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House; and

(b) he shall on the advice of the Prime Minister appoint other Menteri (Ministers) from among the members of either House of Parliament;

but if an appointment is made while parliament is dissolved a person who was a member of the last House of Representatives may be appointed but shall not continue to hold office after the beginning of the next session of Parliament unless, if he has been appointed Prime Minister, he is a member of the new House of Representatives, and in any other case he is a member either of that House or of the Senate.

(3) The Cabinet shall be collectively responsible to Parliament.

(4) If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.”

It is clear from the Malaysian constitution as well as established parliamentary practices and conventions that when the Prime Minister resigns, it also involves the automatic resignation of his Cabinet, regardless of the personal inclination of individual Ministers to resign or otherwise – and it is for the new Prime Minister to form the new Cabinet, with or without retaining old  Cabinet members.

This means that when Mahathir retires as the fourth Prime Minister in October, the present and last Mahathir Cabinet automatically resigns with him. It is for Abdullah, after being sworn in as the fifth Prime Minister, to form a new Cabinet which would not formally come into being until the new Cabinet Ministers (which may  include members of the last Mahathir Cabinet) have taken or retaken their oath of office. Until Abdullah’s Cabinet Ministers are appointed and sworn in by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, there would be no Cabinet in the interregnum.

Abdullah’s first test of leadership on becoming the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia is the make-up of his Cabinet – whether he would  re-appoint all the members of the last Mahathir Cabinet in toto unchanged, except for minor and consequential changes arising from Mahathir’s retirement, or whether he would be bold enough to initiate a major shake-up of the Cabinet dropping all the  Ministerial incompetents and deadwoods accumulated over the years who have long ceased to be of useful service to the government,  people and country.

One useful public debate in the next nine months is for Malaysians to conduct a nation-wide  assessment  and opinion poll of the performance of each individual Cabinet Minister as to who among the current members of the last Mahathir Cabinet who should be dropped or retained in the first Abdullah Cabinet after October.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman