Ismail Sabri’s cabinet line-up: What a sham!

It was just an elite game of musical chairs

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The new PM’s cabinet line-up is a reshuffle of old faces, minus former Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin.

We were not expecting miracles, but is this what the people of Malaysia deserve? Netizens have been vocal in their complaints, but if we were honest, did we really expect a more diverse line-up, unity team of some kind? It was way too much to expect.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s new cabinet – just a reshuffle – is a sham. There is no deputy prime minister, at least for now. Or is he following his predecessor? The same faces are still there – 10 from Bersatu, 10 from Umno, four from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, three from Pas, with Barisan Nasional component parties PBS, the MCA and the MIC each given a ministerial post.

Some from Mahiaddin’s cabinet have retained their post while others were moved around like pieces on a chessboard. Was there a master puppeteer pulling the strings from behind?

The new prime minister, in his press conference, has given his ministers 100 days to prove themselves.

Fine, but if any of them do not make the grade, will they be dropped? Hopefully, the PM himself will realise that his work performance will also be scrutinised over these 100 days! And who will decide whether the prime minister and his ministers make the grade? What criteria will be used?

Ismail Sabri added this cabinet line-up will give “new confidence for the country to rise up and unite” against Covid and to “liberate the Malaysian families from misery” arising from the pandemic.

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Seeing that his cabinet is almost the same as the previous Perikatan Nasional cabinet, which did little to ease the people’s pain and despair over the past 18 months, what will this new cabinet be able to do?

Umno has said it is not keen to have this new government known as the PN government but would go along with “kerajaan Malaysia” (Malaysian government) or “keluarga Malaysia” (Malaysian family).

Really? When was the last time a ruling Malaysian government looked into the needs of the average Malaysian family? Or is this a ploy by Umno, which may already be putting out its tentacles, with one eye on the next general election?

Maybe the one big move is Khairy Jamaluddin to helm the Ministry of Health from his previous portfolios covering immunisation, science, technology and innovation. Various people in the MoH have lauded his new post as a breath of fresh air.

But we have been losing to the pandemic even when Khairy was the immunisation minister. Daily Covid cases had surged to around 20,000. Does becoming the health minister give him some new knowledge or insights he did not have before? Will the numbers fall now that he is taking on the health portfolio?

From what we hear, there is little hope of the pandemic going away soon. Data published by US authorities have indicated that the efficacy of Pfizer and Moderna mRNA has fallen from 91% to 66% since Delta appeared. Apparently, the efficacy of the vaccine falls over time. So will a third booster jab be necessary?

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Hopefully, the new health minister will work with international experts and scientists and make informed decisions on how to bring down the numbers soon. So far, 44% have been fully vaccinated in Malaysia with many others waiting to be vaccinated while a minimal number may not believe in the vaccine. What about all the migrant workers in factories, construction sites, restaurants, grocers, supermarkets and the security services sector? The new health minister has his work cut out for him.

The line-up also brought to the fore the lack of women in the cabinet. The standout in the previous administration was Azalina Othman, and it is a pity her worth has not been recognised now. Maybe this new administration does not like strong, outspoken women. Pity!

So what does the opposition have to say about the line-up?

Anwar Ibrahim says it is a “recycled” cabinet and he is “disappointed”; he had hoped for some change but it did not happen. Lim Guan Eng, the DAP secretary general, has questioned the competency of the line-up and does not think there will be any real commitment to finding solutions towards institutional reforms. Really?

A few days before the announcement, the prime minister met opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu. They signed a joint statement which was said to be “truly historic” and supposedly to ensure political stability. Anwar Ibrahim even said “it was a good beginning and he felt positive about working with the new government to heal the nation”.

Do they really believe this now that the line-up has been revealed? Was the ‘meeting’ just a ruse to get their support ahead of a vote of confidence in Parliament? Will the institutional reforms, which they agreed on, be achievable in the next 12-18 months given the focus on combating Covid and its variants? Are the opposition really so gullible?

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So, it will be a game of wait and see. The countdown to mark the end of the first 100 days has begun.

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time

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