AFTER months of anticipation, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim finally unveiled his cabinet reshuffle which after looking at it, I have no idea why it took so long to reveal such a tepid affair.
The only good news is that of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) CEO Amir Hamzah Azizan as Finance Minister II; at least we now have someone who knows a thing or two about finance and economy although we can’t be sure how exactly Amir intends to do in his job.
We don’t know whether Amir will be focusing on strengthening the ringgit, reducing our RM1.5 tril debt or joining any particular trade bloc because he has never really spoken about these things.
Most of us don’t even know who Amir Hamzah is until we were suddenly told yesterday (Dec 12) that he is going to be our new Second Finance Minister.
I suppose Amir’s election here is a throwback to the old days where the people just had to trust their leaders and ministers to do the right thing although their leaders and ministers have not stated what they intend to do in office.
I can understand why this “we just have to trust them to do us right” policy was applicable in the 1960s when most people in the country was illiterate but why we are still having such mentality in 2023 when our tertiary level enrolment is around 40%.
When you have a bunch of geriatrics running the country, inevitably we will end up living in a world that no longer exists or in a time that has passed.
Reasonable deal for Indian
On another note, at least Batu Gajah MP V. Sivakumar is finally removed from his human resources minister post.
I don’t understand why it took so long to remove him from office considering that it has been more than half a year since his aide and private secretary were investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) while he had to sack five of his ministry’s officers for corruption and power abuse along the way.
Requiring six months to remove Sivakumar from office shows you just how poor the government’s responses are.
In the future, let’s hope that if we have a minister whose aides, secretary and officers are investigated by MACC and who are sacked by the said minister himself for abuse of power upon a probe, the minister concerned will be dropped within a week or two.
Indian politicians like former Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy and former Klang MP Charles Santiago are crying foul that Sivakumar being dropped leaves Indians unrepresented in the federal cabinet given Sivakumar’s replacement is not another Indian.
I doubt Indians will be very keen to make a fuss about the fact that Sivakumar is dropped or that his replacement is not another Indian considering Sivakumar himself didn’t leave with a great legacy for Indians to be outraged.
Also, you can’t really blame Anwar for not giving Indians a cabinet placement when Indians are so weak and divided that we are for all intent and purpose are not a significant political force.
It is unreasonable for Ramasamy to ask Anwar to elect two Indian federal ministers for if we want two ministers in the cabinet, it is we who will have to unite as a community and become a force to be reckoned with in the political scene.
If Indians are not given seats as federal ministers even when we are united as a community, then and only then can we take offence at the exclusion.
As for now, to be given three deputy minister positions although our last minister was mired in allegations of abuse of power – and we are in such a weakened and disunited state – should rightfully be taken as a friendly gesture by the Madani government as opposed to an insult.
A very unconvincing affair
Coming back to the topic of the cabinet reshuffle, I have nothing much to say about the rest of the changes because it mostly looks like an old wine in a new bottle to me. In total, five new ministers and five new deputy ministers were announced in the reshuffle.
Some of the existing ministers were moved to a different position while a couple of old ministers who served in the previous administration have been brought back although you can’t really tell that their service in the old administration was exactly sterling.
All in all, I will say that it has been a rather lacklustre week for the Madani government. It had its one-year celebration in Bukit Jalil this weekend but that must have been an insipid affair, too, because it didn’t receive much coverage by the media.
I was actually at Bukit Jalil myself to take advantage of the discount for traffic summons that was offered specifically for summons paid at Bukit Jalil during the three-day celebration but though the size of the crowd I saw there was healthy, it was not obvious to me that people were there to celebrate with the Madani government.
The event had a bazaar-like feel to it with a career fair and a food festival going on. So for all you know, people might just have been there to pay their traffic summons, find a job, pass time and check out the sights and sounds.
The Madani government itself was clearly anxious that people wouldn’t show up because they wouldn’t have resorted to gimmicks like offering traffic discounts to pull in the crowd otherwise.
That Anwar’s speech at the closing day was a closed affair where he spoke to a specially invited crowd is itself an indication that the Madani government is not secure in the knowledge that it commands the support of the people.
If Anwar was more confident about the standing that his administration had with the people, surely it would have been an open affair.
To top off its uninspiring one year in office, the Madani government has now announced an equally uninspiring cabinet reshuffle that has a “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” vibe to it.
All I can say about this reshuffled cabinet is that I hope that it will prove me wrong and provide us with the leadership and management that we desperately need.
How long are we going to be able to keep soothing ourselves by saying “give Anwar time for it has only been a year since he has taken office”?
Well, now it is no longer a year. In the second year, I hope Anwar and the Madani government will hit the road running because patience is running thin. – Dec 13, 2023
Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.