Abdullah new Cabinet also disappointing because it is too bloated, smacks too strongly of “jobs for the boys and girls” as well as lacking a proper vision for the future for Malaysia

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaTuesday): Apart from failing the criteria of integrity and perception of integrity, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s first Cabinet is also disappointing because it is too bloated, smacks too strongly of “jobs for the boys and girls” as well as lacking a proper vision for the future for Malaysia. 

Instead of trimming an already bloated and flabby Cabinet to a smaller, slimmer, smarter and more professional Cabinet, Abdullah has appointed the biggest Cabinet in the nation’s history – a grand total of 93 comprising 33 Ministers, 38 Deputy Ministers and 22 Parliamentary Secretaries, or almost every one of two Barisan MPs is  a government front-bencher!


Such a big, bloated and flabby Cabinet will be in the full tradition of third-world African countries like Mugabe’s Zimbabwe but not first-world countries like Australia.  Zimbabwe which has a population of 12 million and  a 150-member legislature  has 30 full Ministers alone, while Australia with 20 million population has only 16 Ministers or a total government front-bench of 44 Ministers, junior Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.


I agree with the Indian Progressive Front (IPF) President, Datuk M.G. Pandithan that the Cabinet could have featured at least two Indian ministers.  The Indians in Malaysia has continued to suffer the injustice of under-representation in all walks of national life, whether economy, education or politics – and this is vividly illustrated by having only one out of 33 Cabinet Ministers, which is the abysmal percentage of 3 per cent!


I am puzzled by the allocation of some of the Ministries, the most glaring of which is the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage for Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim – which seems to be a shocking marginalization of his role and influence in the Abdullah Cabinet when he has often been regarded as a “heavyweight” slated for greater things under the Abdullah premiership!


Before Abdullah announced Najib Razak as his choice as the Deputy Prime Minister, Rais was among those  considered as a possible contender for the post – and now he has ended up as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, a post traditionally reserved for Cabinet rookies starting their first climb up the Cabinet ladder.  What happened?


This is most shocking as Rais is one of the few Cabinet Ministers with the gravitas to be entrusted with the challenging responsibility to roll back the erosion of the institutional independence of important organs of state, like the judiciary, Attorney-General’s Chambers, anti-corruption agency, Parliament, etc – a basic cause of the crisis of confidence in the system of governance in Malaysia by Malaysians and the international community.


Rais should be entrusted with the responsibility to implement his observations and recommendations in his  1995 book  on the conflict between the rule of law and executive power in Malaysia "Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia - A study of executive supremacy" - an important  study of great honesty and integrity about how Malaysia degenerated into a semi-democracy, where to quote Rais, "Rule by law and not rule of law supersedes and takes priority in most aspects of ruling the people" producing "a culture of fear in an already non-critical society".


Rais described  the Internal Security Act as "A Tool for Authoritarianism", and was very categorical and definitive in his book not only that Malaysia had lost the independence of the judiciary, but that the future for the rule of law and human rights in Malaysia is "dismal".  

Abdullah should have to given Rais the full responsibidlity to roll back the threats to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, democracy and human rights  and create the conditions for a critical people and vibrant civil society - which had had so eloquently dissected in his book – instead of sending him to pasture in the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor