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Date: 13 Dec 1999
The New Cabinet Line-Up: A Great Disappointment
Aliran Media Statement http://www.malaysia.net/aliran/
The new cabinet line-up is nothing to crow about. Most ministers retained their posts and the few new faces added on were either unknown or not particularly outstanding. The only surprise was the appointment of the new Education minister Musa Mohamed, who was not a politician nor someone who was publicly active since he last stepped down as vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1995.
Nevertheless, the appointment of Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin, a senator, as the new deputy Education minister is certain to raise eyebrows as he has been directly linked to the conspiracy allegation brought about by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
Other controversial ministers hit by allegations of corruption such as Daim and Rafidah Aziz were retained in their posts, supposedly to sanction their roles in the country's economic recovery. The reappointment of defeated parliamentary incumbent Dr Abdul Hamid Othman as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, presumably to be in-charge of Islamic Affairs, shows that UMNO has hardly any other candidates with strong Islamic credentials to head the department.
A glaring though not surprising move by the Prime Minister was to deny Kelantan and Terengganu any representation in the federal cabinet. What it boils down to is that the federal cabinet is now a government for eleven states and the prime minister a leader for the Barisan Nasional states only instead of for Malaysia as a whole. Yet again, a familiar and oft-used tactic is being employed to "punish" constituencies that have voted opposition. It is time that the citizens of both states question the constitutionality of this provision and insist that, as taxpayers of a federal system, they too should be represented; if not, there should not be any taxation without representation.
Another feature of this new cabinet line-up is the reduction from three to two - a drop of 33 per cent - in the number of ministerial posts given to women. This is not only surprising but is a cruel blow for women especially since the Barisan Nasional depended heavily on its women's wings to deliver the votes and used the issue of women's rights in their campaign gimmicks. When it comes to the real issue of women's political rights, the prime minister refused to reward more of his women party leaders with power.
There were no new and imaginative portfolios created. If there is anything to be expected of the new Malaysian government in the new millennium, it will be "business-as-usual" irrespective of what the people want or think - and that is a great disappointment.
Aliran Executive Committee 11 December 1999