When Mahathir retires in October. Cabinet Ministers do not have to individually resign but Barisan Nasional Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers and  all State Excos should submit their resignations  to AbdullahWhen Mahathir retires in October. Cabinet Ministers do not have to individually resign but Barisan Nasional Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers and  all State Excos should submit their resignations  to Abdullah

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Monday): Speaking at Kepala Batas yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi advised all Barisan Nasional leaders to stop discussing the new Cabinet line-up when he takes over from Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in October.

He said Mahathir is still the Prime Minister and that everyone should focus on their work and heed all instructions given to them, that  all parties must continue to give their support to the Prime Minister until October.

Abdullah said: "I appreciate the gesture shown by many in wanting to give me an opportunity to decide on the new Cabinet line-up. I know they are sincere and that is why I have not given it much thought. However, let's not talk about this now since we still have a lot of work to do.

"Now is not the time to think of other things but to concentrate on work, policies and instructions given by Dr Mahathir since he will still be leading the nation until October. When the time comes, we will think of the other things."

Although Abdullah’s statement on first glance  is quite unexceptional, it is in fact  pregnant with far-reaching  implications of which I would mention three:

This is  the first time that Abdullah had publicly stated so specifically and categorically that Mahathir will be Prime Minister until October which should put to rest rampant speculation that the 16-month transition plan for Mahathir to pass the Prime Minister’s baton to Abdullah could go wrong in the last minute, with Mahathir staying behind to continue as Prime Minister.
Secondly, the attempt by  Abdullah to end the
public controversy sparked by the Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik that all Cabinet members should step down collectively with Dr Mahathir with the statement that this was Keng Yaik’s “opinion” when the constitutional position is very clear and allows for no ambiguity.

It is clear that other especially senior Cabinet Ministers do not agree with Keng Yaik that they have to submit their resignation when Mahathir retires in October.  It is because of such disasgreement that the MIC President and Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu “diplomatically” said he  could not comment on Dr Lim’s opinion as “We do not have comments on other people’s opinion”! 

UMNO Youth leader and Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein also apparently  disagreed, saying that there was no need for Cabinet Ministers to tender or offer their resignation when Mahathir retires in October. He said only Abdullah could decide his position after  Mahathir steps down as it is  the prerogative of the new Prime Minister to select his new Cabinet line-up.

Keng Yaik, Samy Vellu and Hishammuddin are all wrong.

It is clear from Article 43 of 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.

The controversy  of whether a Cabinet Minister  should or should not resign, wishes to resign or not  when Mahathir retires in October  should not have arisen  as this decision is taken out of the hands of the Cabinet Ministers completely!

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 or may not  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.

In the circumstances, the question of the other Barisan Nasional leaders giving Abdullah “an opportunity”  to decide on the new Cabinet line-up does not arise, as it will be his prerogative as the Prime Minister to decide on the  Cabinet line-up!  How can the Prime Minister’s prerogative to decide on his Cabinet line-up be downgraded in such a fashion?

I maintain therefore that when Mahathir retires in October, Cabinet Ministers do not have to individually resign but Barisan Nasional Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers and  all State Excos should submit their resignation  to Abdullah.  This is because the heads of governments in the various states under Barisan Nasional control, though constitutionally answerable to the respective State Assemblies, had been politically appointed by the Prime Minister as head of the Barisan Nasional – and with Mahathir’s resignation in October, the BN Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers and State Exco members should submit their resignation to Abdullah for him to decide whether the state governments  should be retained or replaced.

Thirdly, the advice by Abdullah to Barisan Nasional leaders not to think about the new Cabinet line-up until  Mahathir’s retirement in October.  He can advise the other BN leaders to stop jockeying for positions in the Abdullah administration, but is he seriously suggesting that he has not himself thought about his  first Cabinet line-up when he becomes  the fifth Prime Minister in nine months’ time? 

If true, then it would be an adverse reflection on his leadership qualities. In fact, his Cabinet line-up will be Abdullah’s  first test of leadership as  the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia and he should have given long, deep and serious thought to the make-up of his first  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.

Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs should realize that  one useful and important  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