Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Cabinet reshuffle: Reaction comment to Joceline Tan

Been under the weather lately - rather weak and disoriented from abstaining a daily prescription. Quarantine to be over soon. With the irritating migraine began to clear, see a need to comment on last week's cabinet reshuffling. 

Since it involves politicians and political parties representation, naturally comments on the cabinet reshuffle tend towards deciphering the political manouvering. 

The other side find fault and in their motivation to do so, they lied. Views from the likes of Fadhli Shaari, Wan Saiful Wan "Jana Wibawa" and Khairy are irrelevent in the bigger scheme of things. 

Unfortunately the so-called independent views from journalists, columnists, and commentaries suffer from lack of appreciation of governance.

Whilst, those too academic and focus on governance refuse to appreciate the real politik. The art of political balancing is necessary, because for a Unity Government with large membership of political parties, representation cannot be ignored.

Joceline Tan's column on Saturday offered the nearest to a balance view. She started out on the right note to title it as Anwar's willingness to listen. 

Neither fully agree nor disagree, her column and our reaction below:  

Anwar shows he is a 'listening PM'



The Star Tuesday, 12 Dec 2023 4:37 PM MYT

THERE had been concern that the much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle would turn out to be another case of moving the furniture around the living room but it was a major shake-up.

The changes suggest that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been listening to voices from the ground and keeping tabs on the performance of his ministers and deputy ministers.

"It shows courage on the part of the PM to make changes in the wake of criticism that his government is not delivering and that his team is not responsive or engaging enough.

"He has also been quite brave to replace those who were not performing and to drop those affected by scandals," said lawyer and political expert Ivanpal S. Grewal.

Or as a key aide to a former senior minister put it, Anwar is aware of what needs to be changed and he has brought in new faces and promoted those whom he sees as performing.

Comment: Cabinet and Ministerial appointment is about governance in which the ideal thing would be purely on capability and needs. 

The current need is to address all aspects of the economic woes, make rakyat's livelihood tolerable, and urgently address fiscal, economic and institutional reform/transformation before the problem gets out of control. 

Not politics or dumb claims of rewards or winning any elections. 

It is also a bigger Cabinet, with four new ministries and it is up to this team to perform and justify the expansion.

Comment:  It is larger in number than 2022 cabinet but despite few Ministries need to be broken up, the 60 full member is smaller than the 77 membered cabinet of Muhyiddin and 70 of Ismail Sabri. 

There is no wasteful Special Envoys, especially the "gaji buta" too old to perform. 

But even before the Prime Minister concluded his 11am press conference, the buzz was that the big winner was Sarawak, or rather Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

It is no secret that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof of GPS had wanted out of his previous Plantations and Commodities portfolio.

In keeping with Sarawak's reputation as an oil state, Fadillah is now the new "energy czar", in charge of the newly-minted Energy Transition and Public Utilities Ministry.

The fact that he has also been given responsibility over Sarawak and Sabah affairs is a measure of how important Sarawak's support is to Anwar and the growing clout of GPS in the Federal Government.

Comment: Differ with Joceline's view of Sarawak as biggest winner. Nothing significantly extra political gain for GPS, but for Fadilah.

The 3-in-1 Ministry was previously offered to Johari Gani in 2022 but he declined, thus given to Nik Nazmi. After a year, it is emotionally too big for Nik Nazmi and his forte seemed to be for social issue related to environment. 

Furthermore the Renewable Energy masterplan is a major initiative appropriate for East Malaysian, especially Sarawakian to take the lead.  

Sabah and Sarawak Affair need a Minister of senior standing and not just a Deputy Minister inside PM Department to address the rollout of the delicate Malaysia Agreement 1963 implementation. 

The change for multi tasking and utility player Nancy Shukry's change from Unity Minister to Women and Family Ministry or maintaining Tiong at Tourism are not significant. So it is an unbalanced view to see it as "balas budi" or pacifying Sarawak. 

Deeper than that, there is a brewing issue beyond knowledge of Malaya not addressed. Need a hound dog nose to sense at the undergrowth in Sarawak to realise. No winner yet.

It was also quite clear that Datuk Amir Hamzah Azizan, formerly Employees Provident Fund CEO, would be made Finance Minister II when he was sworn in as a Senator early Tuesday (Dec 12) morning. He had been the subject of intense media speculation for days.

Many in the corporate world would have preferred Datuk Seri Johari Ghani as the second Finance Minister, whom they feel understands the challenges they are going through.

But Johari is now the new Plantations and Commodities Minister.

Anwar probably feels more comfortable having a technocrat and non-politician as the second man although the talk is that Johari, an Umno vice-president whom Ahmad Zahid views as a threat, is the victim of a power play going on in Umno.

Comment: Amir is a good appointment. If there is any negative snide remark on social media, it is him jumping from one job to another too often [read here.]. 

However, one former Bank CEO commented privately:

Reputedly a capable technocrat. Quietly doing his job in the places he was attached with over the years. He has very diverse experience in different corporate fields and sectors of the economy. Carries a pedigreed name in the form of his late father. On top of his own reputation the government can also leverage on the reputation of the late father, bringing at minimum market confidence that this appointment is a good one. It is worth noting that most of the top leaderships (at CEO and Chairman levels) of the big global fund managers/investors attended the closed door EPF Investors event that he hosted this year unlike recent prior years when only senior or mid level management came. If he can carry through and bring those crucial relationships to MOF then the country will benefit greatly.

His late father was former Petronas Chairman during Mahathir era. His parents hails from Penang and heard there is family link to Anwar. 

The non-politician reason of Amir's appointment has its grain of truth. Anwar needs an assistant to relieve his burden so giving it to Johari would not do justice to him And Johari. 

More so, the murmurs within PKR opposed the idea of UMNO be given Ministerial position in MOF. Its fine and well because it helps UMNO to keep its nose clean as it need to recapture the trust and respect of voters. 

Is Jo still victim of Zahid's powerplay? 

If Jo not join cabinet, it will not look good on Zahid too. Rejecting another offer would make Jo being seen as arrogant. He will have bigger prominence in UMNO. No hurry. 

The Ministry Jo is head needed a dose of vaccine booster to prepare the challenges of ESG. It needed an innovative leader to take it to another level. 

And, someone gung ho to deworm the legacy of Takiyuddin's short stay.    

The same power play explains the rather comical rotation of the three ministers from Umno.

Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan was moved from the Defence Ministry to replace Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir as Foreign Minister.

Zambry replaced Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin as Higher Education Minister and Khaled moved to the Defence Ministry.

Do they think they are playing musical chairs or what? It is little wonder that people think Umno is a sinking ship.

"Zahid is trying to check the influence of Tok Mat and he is probably telling Johari to toe the line," said the above aide to a former minister.

Defence is ranked among the top five in the federal list of portfolios and it is a blow for Mohamad.

Comments: Joceline too politically obsessed to be objective. 

Perhaps stuck in old political mindset that Foreign Ministry was politicians' old folks home from the BN two third majority era. Be reminded that Pak Lah relaunched himself from Wisma Putera to be 5th PM. 

The glass is half full view is to appreciate Foreign Affairs as an important spine position (football talk). 

As a trading nation, Wisma Putera is more important than MINDEF. Under Anifah, it was more important than MITI under Mustapha Mohamed and Wisma actually led MITI work abroad. 

Mahathir and more Najib used diplomacy as the tool to be the salesman of the country. It is not enough just to have a Darkie toothpaste ad model as Foreign Minister. It needs someone with a holistic and strategic view with strong operational, and negotiation skill. 

For many reasons, Zambery was short of it. Wisma Putera needed a  troubleshooter such as Tok Mat, who was effective at MINDEF, to correct the mess of Saifuddin and the complacency of Hishamuddin. 

So shifting Tok Mat, means shifting Zambery. In the pecking order,  Defense has to go with someone senior in cabinet. So nothing comical about the shuffling.

Pity for Noraini who was full Minister for Higher Education but now Deputy Minister under Nancy Shukry. She is not the only one. There is also Shamsul Nasara. Blame Muhyiddin for it.

Another is Kulasegaran.

The other winner in the reshuffle is DAP, which was awarded an extra ministerial portfolio in the form of Digital Minister Gobind Singh Deo.

However, Gobind, who is DAP deputy chairman, came in at the expense of his brother Ramkarpal, who was dropped as Deputy Law Minister.

The reshuffle also saw rising DAP star Steven Sim promoted as Human Resources Minister and the party getting several new deputy ministers.

There had been rumblings among the Chinese base that DAP, the biggest partner in the government with 40 MPs, had only four ministers in the original Cabinet. Anwar has now corrected the imbalance.

The elevation of Taiping MP Wong Kah Woh to replace Lim Hui Ying as Deputy Education Minister was a welcome move among Chinese groups.

Lim had failed to shine whereas Wong did well as chairman of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee.

However, she comes from the powerful Lim family and failure did not stop her from being appointed Deputy Finance Minister.

Comments: Her political reading is logical especially with Lim faction lately raising issues to protect their's and DAP's political turf. 

Back to governance, from the PH 1.0 cabinet, two DAP Ministers are seen as steady - Gobind and Anthony Loke. So it is good that Gobind was brought back to continue his work to put together the digital framework.

Irrespective of his Lim family faction, Steven Sim is a good choice to replace the tainted Sivakumar. A young blood needed to clean-up the "corrupted" Human Resource Ministry and HRDF.  

There was a view that the Lim clan is making their presence against the Loke with Lim Hui Ying as Deputy Finance Minister. Its only Deputy la ... not full Minister. Cannot even Deputise in Cabinet Meeting. 

Aiyeah ... Isham Jalil doing Mahathir-Hishamuddin work. What so big deal about Ahmad Maslan transfered to Work Ministry?  

Not giving justice to his post-graduate Economics degree from Harvard. Would expect him to realised the above. Or is it Wharton?

Whatever DAP will be more exertive in cabinet. So could UMNO.

Anwar also acceded to public opinion about Dr Zaliha Mustafa, who was replaced by Amanah's Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad as Health Minister.

In another odd twist, the failed former health minister is now Federal Territories Minister.

However, the Prime Minister did not have the willpower to change Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek despite public opinion about her.

It is an indication that Anwar values loyalty and friendship because Fadhlina's father was his staunch comrade through his years of ups and downs.

Comments: Good move to bring back Dr Dzul. He did a good job in Selangor during the pandemic. The health reform had his hand and was put at bay.

Too many murmurs on Zaliha heard from businessmen. Others too but her people seemed too gung-ho. 

FT is not the right Ministry for her. The Bandar Tun Razak PKR Cabang head in PMO is handling DBKL already. Merely face saving presence?

Fadhlina deserve to be given another chance. So do all the other PKR ambitous fledglings - Rafizi, Fahmi and Nik Nazmi. Why not bring in Wong Chen?

Announcing big plans is one thing. Talking is another. But its really about doing and following through. There must be an immediate rollout and continuous process. 

Not just pre-announcement hype and formula macro-solution. Again, its more about doing.

For now, blame it on the "failure to communicate". 

It is a serious problem though with Anwar's administration. J-Kom lost focus for the wrong reason. But really, why is the Strategic Communication Director doing Press Secretary work?

PKR was good in propaganda as opposition but seemed clueless on communication as government. They will likely go on attack mode which could be counterproductive.

They should have grasped that the fragmentation of media arising from social media. No one platform can claim mainstream. Need to address the crucial financial survivality of media.

Fahmi .... Take charge of MCMC particularly Network Safety Division. The fate of UG is on Fahmi's lap. So should your political fate.

"Anwar is trying to walk the talk on good governance after the fallout on Zahid's DNAA. He wants to reclaim the mantra of good governance that helped propel him to power. Most of all, he wants to show us he is a listening PM," said Ivanpal.

The reshuffle is aimed at building a stronger team to take the country through the coming years.

It also cemented the ties between the key partners so that the unity government will remain steady and unshaken.

But there is also a powerful subtext to the way Anwar has pulled it off. It is quite clear that he trusts no one else in Umno the way he trusts Ahmad Zahid and he needs the Umno president to keep the party in line.

As a result, Ahmad Zahid was allowed to reward Umno leaders loyal to him and check those whose loyalty is in doubt.

Anwar understands the power of incumbency. He is stamping his authority on his team and he is showing everyone that he is the boss.

Ah Joceline Tan ... still picking on Zahid using perception argument. Is it not said enough on social media? 

Batting for Hishamuddin, the indolence dubbed traitor by a senior journalist as claimed by a late Zakhir? Otherwise, why politicise the DNAA that averted Mahathir's political move to fix-up Zahid on a concorted case? 

The political view is Zahid cannot take chances with Atoq appointed Judges. Still it is not politics, but a court battle with the rule of the game different than politics. 

Let see if Bar Council politically motivated judicial review to challenge constitutionally enshrined authority of AG can do any damage to Zahid. 

Enough of never ending political perception but get down to the facts. Its a promising new Cabinet line-up. Time to deliver. No games, no more still figuring things out, and just take the bull by the horn. 

Thats all to it.

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