M’sia, now more than ever, needs Cabinet that works.
Prognosis isn’t good on Ismail Sabri’s ‘Cabinet’ without Opposition, subject matter experts.
Newly-minted Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri may have just signed his own political “death warrant”.
He ushered in #KerajaanGagal (FailedGov’t) 2.0, in his own words, on Fri 27 Aug when announcing a 31-member Cabinet line-up. More on that later!
There are almost no subject matter experts in the Cabinet.
It’s not known whether the National Recovery Council (NRC) and the Special Committee on Covid-19 (SC), both left behind by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, will include subject matter experts. Ismail Sabri has invited the Opposition to join both bodies. We don’t know whether the Opposition will take up the invitation.
Already, the brickbats have been coming in thick and fast for the Prime Minister. There have been no bouquets so far, even from the few countries that congratulated him on his Sat 21 Aug appointment.
Performance . . .
The Prime Minister said the Cabinet line-up must perform within 100 days. IS advised Cabinet members that they must work out their own short-term, medium-term and long-term targets.
If short-term targets, presumably within 100 days are not met, patently there’s no hope that medium-term and long-term targets would be met.
M’sians, and the world at large, can only await with bated breath, public announcements on the said targets. Hopefully, IS will announce his personal targets as well.
When the “new” Cabinet fails as expected, Ismail Sabri as well, the Prime Minister would be expected to offer to resign. The new PM, like his predecessor, may probably be unable to decide where politics ends, and where good gov’t, science and data begin.
Alternatively, the Agong can advise the PM to resign, and invite Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim by parliamentary convention to form the gov’t. Once the new PM has been appointed, Ismail Sabri stands automatically dismissed. Under Perak case law 2009, the Agong has residual — i.e. reserve powers — being hereditary ruler as sultan.
No legitimacy . . .
Also, the Ismail Sabri gov’t has no legitimacy, having no consent of the governed. His Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lost GE14 on Thurs 10 May 2018 after 61 years uninterrupted in power. Agong cannot be a party to illegalities i.e. the people losing their sovereignty to a handful of people in Umno, the lynchpin in BN, being behind unelected gov’t.
True, under Article 39 — Executive authority of the Federation — the Agong can delegate executive authority under the circumstances, including Special, detailed therein.
Clearly, such authority cannot be delegated to a Member of Parliament with no consent of the governed. If civilian gov’t fails, the Agong can delegate executive authority to a National Operations Council, headed by a Director of Operations, as in 1969 after disturbances which began on May 13 and lasted at least a week in Kuala Lumpur. The NOC can function until GE15 in 2023 since both sides of the political Divide don’t have a majority.
Leadership . . .
Ismail Sabri, and predecessor Muhyiddin, became Prime Minister because both sides of the political Divide allowed the Agong to initiate a resolution of political conflict and constitutional crisis. Therein lies the spirit of the law on Agong playing a leadership role. If read together with the letter of the law — read Constitution — Agong remains above the fray.
Musical chairs . . .
M’sia, unlike the rest of the world, allows the riff-raff — for want of a better term — to squat on the brightest and best under various guises, preventing the latter from leading the way for all.
The thinking, evident in Ismail Sabri’s Cabinet, has seen a make-over of predecessor Muhyiddin Cabinet which has failed for 17 months, since Sun 1 Mar last year. The Muhyiddin gov’t went viral in the social media as #KerajaanGagal.
The game of musical chairs, presided over by Ismail Sabri, has ushered in #KerajaanGagal 2.0 even before being sworn in on Mon 30 Aug. The Agong had decreed the Cabinet must be formed before Merdeka (independence) Day on Tues 31 Aug.
The head of state had also decreed that “the winners can’t take all, the losers lose all” and called for a “unity Cabinet”. That did not happen.
Muhyiddin mooted the idea of an all-Malay, all-Muslim, all-Bumiputera (Malay and Orang Asal i.e. indigenous) gov’t in Putrajaya before he was appointed Prime Minister on Sun 1 Mar last year.
Nine non-Malay Ministers . . .
Of the 31 Full Ministers in the IS Cabinet, only nine are non-Malay including Orang Asal (indigenous) and Muslim from the Borneo territories. The non-Malay form 49.6 per cent of the population (2010 Census).
The nine non-Malay Ministers . . . Maximus Ongkili (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs), Ronald Kiandee (Agriculture and Food Industries), and Rina Harun (Women and Family) from Sabah; Fadillah Yusof (Works), Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (Law), Nancy Shukri (Tourism, Arts and Culture), and Alexander Nanta Linggi (Domestic Trade and Industry) from Sarawak; and Wee Ka Siong (Transport), and M. Saravanan (Human Resources) from Malaya.
It’s not a must that the Cabinet must reflect the demography 100 per cent, but there’s a case for having at least another three non-Malay Ministers to tap greater talent.
According to the letter of the law, cited in the Istana statement, Article 43 (2) (a) of the Federal Constitution gives the Agong the power to appoint a Prime Minister.
Article 43(2) (b) provides for the appointment of the Cabinet as well.
Article 43(4) covers a Prime Minister who ceases to have majority in Parliament.
Non-Compliant . . .
The Federal gov’t has allegedly been non-compliant on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Borneo rights since 16 Sept 1963, Malaysia Day.
There’s a lack of leadership in Sabah, and S’wak, on MA63 and Borneo rights. There’s no political will in Putrajaya.
The Malay term, under Article 160(2) of the Constitution, covers Muslim in Malaya governed by the Merdeka cutoff deadline, 31 Aug 1957, for classification as a form of identity in law based on the Malay language, Islam, culture, customs and traditions.
The Constitution, based on the rule of law, remains colour-blind.
Except for descendants, Muslim after Merdeka in Malaya and those in the Borneo territories don’t fall under the Malay classification.