Food Bank Malaysia Programme

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 22 ― The government is confident that the Food Bank Malaysia Programme (FBMP) can lighten the impact of the rising cost of living on the populace and reduce food wastage.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the implementation of the FBMP, to be headed by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, was timely with the focus of the government to lighten the burden in the cost of living of the people especially the B40 (lower income) group.

“This group must be given full attention to enable them access to (cheaper) food supply. This will boost their disposable income which can be use for education and health,” he said in his speech for the launching of the national-level FBMP at Kompleks Masyarakat Penyayang here today. The text of his speech was read out by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Dr Mahathir said the initiative was a voluntary effort which did not have a large financial implication to the government.

“This initiative can be implemented via a high social responsibility commitment and voluntary spirit in the private sector and non-government organisations to together help the government in tackling the issue of food wastage and cost of living,” he said.

He said the issue of surplus food was not a strange matter to Malaysia as its people produced 15,000 tonnes of excess food a day, of which 3,000 tonnes were safe for consumption.

“Almost two million people can benefit from the 3,000 tonnes of excess food if it can be distributed optimally. The issue of surplus food may appear trivial but it has a huge impact on the needy,” he said.

He said that he was told that via FBMP the surplus food would be channelled to the target groups and registered welfare homes.

“I was also told that FBMP will target 186,354 households which are below the poverty line nationwide to receive the surplus food,” he said.

To ensure a more systematic and orderly management of the surplus food and implementation of FBMP, Dr Mahathir said the government had agreed to launch a foundation which would be known as the Food Bank Malaysia Foundation.

“This foundation will become the catalyst in the effort of the government to reduce food wastage and tackle the issue of rising cost of living and will be headed by trustees comprising those with experience and committed in implementing successfully the government agenda,” he said.

He also hoped that with the completion of all mechanisms of operation of its implementation, FBMP could be successfully mobilised to help all needy groups not only in Peninsular Malaysia but also in the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak.

“I also take this opportunity to once again call on all quarters especially corporate bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGO) and also individuals to be with the government in making FBMP a success,” he said.

First published in malaymail.com

Malaysia to introduce ISO anti-corruption certification system in all high-risk sectors of the government

KUALA LUMPUR: In a world first, Malaysia will introduce the International Standards Organisation’s (ISO) anti-corruption certification system in all high-risk sectors of the government, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced yesterday.

The ISO 37001 certification for the Anti-Bribery Management System will be applied in all ministries, agencies, departments and government-linked companies (GLCs) that are at high risk in order to prevent corruption and develop a culture of integrity, he said.

“This effort will make Malaysia the first country in the world to apply the ISO 37001 certification in the public sector,” Dr Mahathir said.

The initiative was among seven policy measures that were discussed at a meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption yesterday, which Dr Mahathir chaired yesterday.

The major drive against graft will begin in January with the launching of the National Anti-Corruption Plan, he said in a statement.

The plan features measures that are designed to strengthen the government’s administrative management system particularly on governance, integrity and anti-corruption, Dr Mahathir said.

The government will establish a public service ethics codes, including a requirement to sign a pledge of compliance by all civil servants and a review of regulations for the rotation of postings so that the public service will continue to be strengthened, he said.

A guideline on Corporate Liabilities and Adequate Procedures will be issued to all companies and from January 2020, Section 17A of the MACC Act, covering offences committed by commercial firms will be enforced, the statement said.

Bernama reported that a detailed study is being made on the proposed separation of functions of the public prosecutor and the attorney-general.

Dr Mahathir said the implementation of the proposal will have to be deferred because it involves amendments to the Federal Constitution.

“Right now we do not have the two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat for the amendment to be approved,” he said.

In a report quoting Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin, he said that the implementation of the proposal requires amending Article 145 of the Federal Constitution and a revision of the laws relating the powers of the public prosecutor and attorney-general provided under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Interpretation Acts 1948 and 1967.

On the political involvement of public servants, Dr Mahathir said that the policy will be fine-tuned to avoid conflicts of interest in the conduct of their official duties and to ensure that these functions are discharged in a fair and just manner.

He said that a detailed study would be conducted into this matter as the committee was currently still unable to determine the extent to which officers can be allowed to get involved in politics.

For example, Dr Mahathir said, officers appointed by Cabinet members have to be involved in politics because they communicate with the people.

Other officers have also been involved in politics, such as those from the Department of Community Development, he said.

Dr Mahathir said the involvement of civil servants in politics will undermine the transparency of the country’s administration because they will be bound to the parties they join and their decisions will be biased.

He said that in the previous government administration, many civil servants were involved in politics, including campaigning and wearing the party attire.

“We have to look into the level where we should cut them off. People who do not really make serious decisions might be allowed to be involved in politics but we have not reached a final decision on that,” he said.

The Cabinet Committee also reviewed a proposal for enhancing the jurisdiction of the Judicial Appointment Commission to ensure that no external influence occurs.

In addition, the government has ordered the establishment of the Integrity and Governance Units (IGUs) in all GLCs, companies owned by government ministries and agencies including those under the state government which has been enforced on Oct 5, 2018.

The IGU will be placed under the company’s board of directors while the implementation and reporting of core functions will be regulated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, he said.

“The GLCs are granted a grace period of two years from the date of this instruction to establish the IGU,” Dr Mahathir added.

First published in theedgemarkets.com

I am trying to be a reforming AG in a reforming government

Following are excerpts of the interview, attended by Ho Kay Tat, Tan Choe Choe and S Kanagaraju from TEFD, touching on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), lopsided government contracts, legal reforms and decisions to withdraw charges against Pakatan Harapan politicians and supporters:

Q: What’s your assessment of your first 100 days?

A: The challenges have been much greater than what I had expected. What I said on the first day remains, that I have three priorities. Firstly, everything to do with 1MDB, which is not just the criminal aspects, but there’s also the civil recovery. Secondly, the lopsided contracts, and thirdly, law reforms. Those have always been my focus, and remain my focus. But it was only when I came into the office and sat down and started doing work, that I realised the awesome responsibilities attached to the office. And I think you will not know it unless you are sitting here. It’s difficult for anyone from the outside — certainly not a private practitioner, as I was. Even somebody from this Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) — there are about 1,200 lawyers here — even they won’t understand the amount of responsibilities [of the AG]. So that has surprised me.

Q: How about your officers’ competency? There have been some criticisms that there are not enough competent people dealing with the prosecution. Do you find that a problem?

A: I think that’s unfair. We have tremendous specialisation, but of course also lacking in some areas. For example, in things like AMLA (Anti-Money Laundering Act), very critical in the next few years, and Mutual Legal Assistance — again very critical because we’ve got to deal with different countries — we have top-class specialists. For the review of contracts, we also have excellent people as I’m personally dealing with them. In so far as prosecution is concerned, what I would say is never in the history of the [AG’s] Chambers has there been so much demand for prosecution which is because of past misdeeds accumulated over the years, problems that I’ve inherited.

Whether it’s 1MDB or not, there is a long list of cases waiting once the IPs (investigation papers) are delivered to me. Even if you have 1,000 world-class prosecutors, it’s just not enough. That tells you — it’s a commentary on the alleged crimes built up over the years. So, the pressure is awesome. That’s why we’re setting up the 1MDB unit; we’re setting up different units to cope, because we’ve never done this before. If the AGC had done this from 2011… if prosecutions had taken place from 2011 or 2012, then it would not have built up.

Just to get it in relative terms, please look at the US. Their DoJ (Department of Justice) is obviously world-class because they have so many talented people — forensic accountants, lawyers… unmatched resources; look at how special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are doing. It took more than a year before they charged anybody. Then they went very fast; they’ve charged, I think, about 20 people in the last three months and they have got a few convictions. But it took them one year. And I tell you, the 1MDB scandal is much, much more complex than what [US President Donald] Trump has allegedly done. 1MDB is the world’s greatest kleptocracy!

Q: You mentioned there’re criminal as well as asset recovery aspects with regard to 1MDB. Maybe you can share with us the approach that your office is taking concerning these two aspects?

A: On the criminal aspect, we can’t do anything until the IPs come. Just to remind you that in our system [of investigation] — many countries also have it to prevent too much concentration of power — the idea is to distribute power. For checks and balances, there are four or five investigative agencies in Malaysia, such as the police, the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission), Bank Negara Malaysia, Securities Commission Malaysia, [and Royal Malaysian] Customs [Department] which investigate, but they cannot charge. Otherwise, they would be too powerful. The AG’s Chambers prosecutes; we have the sole monopoly on prosecution, and we should not carry out investigations because we’re already so powerful. So can you imagine how much more powerful we will be if we investigate as well. So I’m against those who say the MACC must prosecute. They don’t know how much power that will give to the MACC, if that happens. The existing system is perhaps the least worst.

But the disadvantage of this is if the agencies do not give us the IPs, then the AGC cannot do much. We cannot do anything until the IPs are given to us. So until today, there is not a single 1MDB IP given to us. When it comes to Jho Low (who was charged in absentia for money laundering), the AGC asked the police to share their investigations, and we then charged him. So, on 1MDB, not yet, but hopefully it will happen soon.

Q: Do you know how many IPs have been opened as far as 1MDB is concerned?

A: No, I don’t know. And of course you know the MACC’s public position — I think they reiterated that about two weeks ago — is [that the investigation is] 60% [completed]. They’ve been saying that to me from the time I took office. So what they’ve told me is what they’ve told the public: 60% of the first IP on 1MDB is done. And of course, ‘1MDB’ is a shorthand description of a massive fraud done over five to six years across the world, in numerous transactions. You really have to look at it the way the fraudsters had planned it. The fraudsters designed one transaction after another, deal by deal. So there could be a 2011 fraud, a 2012 fraud, a 2013 transaction, a 2014 deal and so on.

Q: Your immediate predecessor Tan Sri Apandi Ali has been accused of conspiring in covering up the 1MDB scandal. Can we expect charges to be brought against him as well?

A: I don’t know anything about that. We have not gone in that direction. What I can tell you is — and all of you know it — there were no prosecutions during his three-year tenure on 1MDB, that’s a fact. You have to ask him why there were no prosecutions, and none during the previous AG’s time too. Because as you know, the origin of 1MDB is the TIA (Terengganu Investment Authority). Anyone living in KL would be aware that there were things horribly wrong. I was aware of things that were questionable in 2009 and 2010 just by mixing with the business community, journalists and politicians. Those in KL with an informed opinion knew something was wrong in 2009 and 2010. So why didn’t my predecessors do anything about it? You have to ask them.

Q: Do you have any authority to ask investigators to provide you with updates or to speed up things?

A: Yes, they do provide updates and all that. But that’s of no use; I would rather not be updated. I want the complete IP. It’s better to have the complete package, otherwise you’re reading it twice. If you ask my team to read it when it’s at 60%, they would have to reread it when the 100% comes. So it’s of no help and of no practical assistance, unless they give us the complete package.

Now I must answer the civil part. The civil part is absolutely neglected. Everybody forgets that because the criminal dimension is ‘sexy’ and ‘newsworthy’.

Civil recovery is the one that’s underrated and not understood at all. It is essentially to recover as much of the stolen stuff as possible, and most of them are [found] abroad.

So we start with the US. The DoJ, as you know, has been successful. They began in 2016, with [former US attorney-general] Loretta Lynch’s press conference with the filing of complaints where they have frozen assets — which we say, and the US government does not deny — belong to us in trust. Because taxpayers’ money was used, indeed stolen, to buy these assets. So they are assets that belong in trust to Malaysia, but were held by other people who misused them. So we have to stake a claim. Again, we lost three years of it.

I must remind you that the previous government had distanced itself [from these assets] — its public position was these weren’t Malaysian assets, when actually they are. Until GE14 (the 14th general election), Malaysia’s official position was they were not Malaysia’s assets. Seldom would a beneficiary tell the world “these are not my assets”, and that’s what Malaysia was doing. We only started telling the truth after GE14.

So that’s the US, [and] we have to intervene. We have appointed lawyers and they’re going to intervene in court proceedings because it’s quite technical and related to sovereign immunity and jurisdictional questions. We are receiving advice, and hope to make a decision shortly.

Then in Singapore, it has also started. Again, it’s the same process. We have appointed lawyers and they are appearing in court. We’ve got some low hanging fruits. But where there are opposition and contest, it’ll take five to six months. This first group of defendants did not object at all. They relinquished all claims. They surrendered, so it’s no problem. And Singapore wants the identities of the defendants to be anonymous. One can understand because Singapore wants to encourage more claimants to give up their claims, and in return Singapore would keep their names confidential. That makes sense. We just want the assets.

Q: It (the identities of the defendants) will be kept anonymous forever?

A: That I don’t know; it is a matter for Singapore to decide. But for us, we want the monies returned to Kuala Lumpur.

Q: Does your office have an indication how much money is involved in Singapore? The US DoJ has mentioned US$4.5 billion in its suit.

A: Singapore has not really mentioned it because they’re not really sure as there are some contests. But what will happen in the next six months or so, we will get court orders, and monies will be returned. And as you know we’ve opened an account, a special segregated new account, controlled by the MoF (ministry of finance). It’s the MoF and the new directors of 1MDB who are controlling it.

Q: So it’s an MoF-1MDB recovery account?

A: Yes, [and it’s] specially set up. After the RM19 billion hole in [unpaid] goods and services tax [refunds], there has to be a specially protected, segregated trust account earning interests and controlled by honest signatories.

Q: This is for recovered assets from everywhere, and not just Singapore?

A: Yes, it starts with Singapore. And then we’ve got Switzerland, again they’re cooperating with us.

Q: The biggest one is in the US?

A: Yes.

Q: It will take several years, you think?

A: No, I don’t think so. I think… well, the US… well, maybe. It goes asset by asset. They are ‘in rem’ actions.

Q: So it’s not a collective action?

A: No. The US claims: Let’s say they have got 10 separate complaints, then it’ll be because these are 10 different assets. So they may have one for the yacht, one for the artwork, one for this land, one for that land and so on. Just like our admiralty claim for the yacht: it is also ‘in rem’. What ‘in rem’ means is a claim against an identified property, as opposed to an individual, which would be an ‘in personam’ action.

Q: Has there been any challenge in the US? Jho Low?

A: Yes, court challenges.

Q: To be clear, in Singapore, what exactly are the assets that are involved. Is the jet one of them or not?

A: Most are bank accounts. Cash in bank. But I think there may be one or two properties, apartments.

Q: What about the private jet?

A: The private jet, we are in no hurry to receive it. Because as things stand, Singapore has done it skilfully. Singapore has taken steps to ensure that the plane cannot fly off without air traffic control, which they will not give. The plane cannot leave Singapore air space, to the best of my knowledge. But the maintenance of the plane remains Jho Low’s. So from Jho Low’s perspective, he’s got the worst of both worlds. He’s got to maintain the plane, which is parked on the runway, but cannot fly it out. From our perspective, there’s no hurry to get it — it’s safe there — let us sell the yacht, then we can turn our attention to the plane. Unfortunately, the plane doesn’t come within our admiralty jurisdiction, so it’s more complicated. We have to be concerned about giving clean title to a buyer.

Q: There has been no complaint about the AG’s office using private lawyers overseas to help in asset recovery. And yet when the AG’s office uses the private lawyers here to help in the case of the yacht, or even brings in Tuan Haji Sulaiman Abdullah and Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, there has been criticism. Would you like to respond to that?

A: First of all, in foreign jurisdictions, we have no choice, absolutely no options. So we have to use local lawyers there, for instance, Swiss lawyers in Switzerland. In so far as Malaysian lawyers, I think what has surprised me is the outcry, as if this was the first time that AGC has used external lawyers. I asked Chambers to do some research on previous appointments.

In the last 20 years, beginning with our first dispute with Singapore in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute — the first one, which was about 20 years ago — we appointed a large group of foreign lawyers. I can’t understand why we did not appoint Malaysian lawyers. The foreigners charged large sums of fees, and Malaysia lost anyway.

Domestically, AGC has in the past appointed local lawyers. AGC appointed Datuk KC Vohrah, Tan Sri Cecil Abraham and Datuk Sunil Abraham and their firm, Zul Rafique for many civil matters. In our dispute with Singapore on Temasek: our joint venture in the Singapore land — whether we ought to pay the development fees. That went to arbitration. Again, I don’t see why Malaysian lawyers could not have been used. It was a straightforward case of interpretation of a contract. Quite straightforward. And I think we had three or four foreign lawyers charging hefty fees.

Q: This was in Singapore?

A: No, in London. A dispute between Malaysia and Singapore heard in London. But it is arbitration and so any lawyer can appear. Malaysian lawyers can appear. It was followed by a trademark registration case at the EU General Court. Again AGC appointed foreign lawyers. There were other disputes of an international nature which were all kept secret, and not made known to the public. Not even the Malaysian legal profession knew about them, but taxpayers were paying for such litigations.

Finally, with the second Pulau Batu Puteh dispute, where Malaysia wanted to revisit the dispute, Prime Minister Tun [Dr] Mahathir [Mohamad] decided to discontinue it. We had four foreign lawyers and two Malaysian lawyers — Datuk Abu Bakar bin Mohamed Sidek from Penang and Datuk Firoz Hussein bin Ahmad Jamaluddin from Kuala Lumpur. One of the foreign lawyers informed the prime minister that the case was doomed to fail. That’s why the PM decided to discontinue.

Coming back to domestic disputes, we’ve had Tan Hock Chuan acting for the Malaysian government in the Teoh Beng Hock inquest. We had Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah acting for the public prosecutor against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. Actual criminal prosecution — so that’s the closest analogy to Tuan Hj Sulaiman and Sri Ram.

In civil suits, AGC appointed Cecil Abraham and Zul Rafique for defendants such as Tan Sri Gani Patail, MACC, the Government of Malaysia.

Of the five lawyers I have appointed, three of them are acting “pro bono” — Sulaiman, Sri Ram and Sitpah Selvaratnam. The other two, Jeremy Joseph and Ong Chee Kwan, are entitled to be paid because they are advising us in a really specialist area, shipping and admiralty where AGC doesn’t have the expertise, and it’s a commercial deal.

Whatever proceeds we get, hopefully in the hundreds of millions, the two lawyers should be paid. But I’m closely monitoring it — it’s an hourly rate — and of course the MoF is also monitoring.

Q: Could it (the outcry) be because people were taken by surprise because you mentioned 1MDB as one of your top three priorities? And now, you’re being seen as passing over the lead prosecution, so perhaps people are taken aback by that.

A: Possibly. But you see, you can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, the criticism is that I don’t have criminal law experience and yet when I appoint two senior lawyers who have substantial criminal law experience, the criticism continues. So one has to accept: Anything one does is wrong! But the truth is that it is just not possible to do a long trial and combine the work of AG. I know that because when I was in practice I used to do long trials — heavy corporate commercial disputes. In fact, about a year before I left the Bar, I did a 40-day trial. It was a reported bonds case. For four weeks before the trial, I did nothing but preparations for the trial. When the trial starts, you have to be full-time with the trial, because at night you have to prepare cross-examination questions. When the trial is over, you have to do research, and draft exhaustive written submissions. I was a hands-on barrister who took my court commitments seriously and professionally. Knowing that first-hand, you cannot combine that with the demands of the AG, where the PM wants to see you, the cabinet wants to consult you, [while] parliament is sitting, and so on. It’s just not possible, you cannot combine all these demanding tasks with the work of counsel in court.

Q: But you have not competely stepped away from it…

A: No, I’m still absolutely in charge. Like, for example… the Shafee prosecution. The MACC team interviewed the witnesses. Sri Ram was involved in the final stages of investigations. I was involved in the preparation of the charges with the team. The final decision to prosecute is mine, and mine alone. Malaysia must use all the resources available to pursue such matters.

Q: What about your officers within the chambers itself, isn’t that a vote of no confidence?

A: Not really. Because as I’ve said, there’s just so much work, and there are many cases in the horizon as we are planning and we can see where it is going. They are part of the team and they are working together. So it’s not a vote of no confidence. In fact, the SRC (prosecution) team was happy because most of them were tutored by Sulaiman at university. They look to Sulaiman as their intellectual guru. One must look at it in terms of what does Malaysia need. The people of Malaysia want justice, they want speedy justice. The people of Malaysia deserve the best and the brightest to appear for them.

Q: What about political pressure? Has there been any on the office since you started here, any political pressure or messages sent to you saying we want this done, or that done?

A: Absolutely not. All concerned have been very good. They have all acted properly and correctly: the PM, the cabinet, the ministers. Of course many ministers are known to me as I’ve worked with them in the past. They have left matters of law to me and the AGC. There is neither pressure nor interference.

Q: Are you surprised that there has been no political interference, especially coming from a PM who is accused of keeping the judiciary on a tight leash?

A: No, I’m not surprised. Tun Mahathir is a reformed PM.

Q: You truly believe he has reformed?

A: Absolutely. In my dealings, Tun has been right and proper. In fact, on the first day, he informed me, “Tell me if there’s something wrong, tell me I can’t do it”. So I said “Yes, Tun, I will”.

Q: Have you changed your opinion of Dr Mahathir? You were quite critical of him before.

A: (Laughs) There’s no doubt in my mind that the PM and the members of the cabinet whom I have dealt with genuinely believe in reform. So I can confirm that I am trying to be a reforming AG in a reforming government!

(from theedgemarkets.com )

Part 2 of the interview

Dr M admits tackling corruption, power abuse more challenging than before

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admits that the challenges in addressing corruption and abuse of power today are more challenging than when he was first appointed as prime minister in 1981.

Dr Mahathir said when he took over the country’s governance 37 years ago, the government machinery at that time was viewed as virtually free from corruption, unlike today.

He claimed that the actions of a former prime minister “promoting” corruption through the “cash is king” culture resulted in the total involvement of the government machinery.

“We have to choose, filter before we take action.

“If we are suspicious, we cannot sack all the government officers whom we suspect (to be involved in corruption) because we will have no machinery to carry out our duties and orders,” he said.

He said this to reporters after delivering his speech at a briefing on Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) here today, which was attended by 160 Pakatan Harapan (PH) Members of Parliament and government administration officers, including Cabinet ministers.

Dr Mahathir, who celebrated his 93rd birthday today, also received birthday greetings after he delivered his speech at the briefing session from the guests present.

Asked by reporters on his birthday wishes, Dr Mahathir jokingly said: “I wish the press will help us overcome corruption,” which was greeted with laughter from the almost 50 media personnel covering the media conference.

The briefing, being held for the first time by the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC), was aimed at providing exposure on various aspects relating to corruption and preventive measures to MPs and administration officers of the new government that was formed after the last 14th general election. — Bernama

First published in The Star Online

The composition of the PH cabinet

When Mahathir announced the composition of his cabinet 1.0, there was an outcry from certain quarters in PKR, decrying the notion that the party was not allocated any important ministerial position (and obviously ignoring the fact that it holds the deputy prime ministership and is promised the prime ministership). We command the largest bloc of MPs and deserve therefore the lion’s share of power (my interpretation).

That view received widespread condemnation, with the public pouring scorn on the idea winning GE14 is about enjoying the spoils of the victory. The public view is basically, “stop thinking about yourselves and start thinking about the welfare of the country”.

Now that cabinet 2.0 has been sworn in, a report in Malay Mail quotes the Fitch Group research outfit:

The Fitch Group research outfit said although PKR and DAP have the most ministerial and deputy ministerial positions totalling 15 and 12 respectively, a Cabinet line-up strictly proportionate with parties’ parliamentary seat count should see PKR holding 19 positions, DAP (17 positions), Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) (five positions), Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) (five positions), and Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) (three positions), with two positions to spare.

PPBM, Amanah and Warisan instead have 10, nine and five Cabinet positions respectively.

It is surprising that a research team from the international ratings group should fail to note the sentiment on the ground with respect to this notion that ministerial appointments should follow strictly and proportionately the number of parliamentary seat count by party.

While it is true the formation of the cabinet has taken a long time, likely due to intense negotiations in the background, it would be fatal for any political party to make this matter the focus of any disagreement among the component parties.

It is interesting to note that PKR has been publicly silent while the protest from DAP came from the youth wing.

Even more surprising is the research group alluding to racial composition as being an issue, noting that PPBM and Amanah are Malay dominated parties.

“While the number of Cabinet positions that was allocated to each party was in rough accordance to their seat count, the two largest parties, centrist Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) are under-represented in the Cabinet, whereas the Malay-dominated parties Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) enjoy over-representation.

“This has likely resulted in some dissatisfaction among PKR and DAP and in our view, will potentially emerge as a flashpoint in inter-party relations within the PH coalition,” said BMI Research.

What they have failed to emphasize is the fact that it would be a mistake for Pakatan Harapan to emulate Barisan Nasional, by making race and religion a central core of its union. The basis of its manifesto is its vision for a government that will work for the good of the country, rather than one that has a power-sharing formula between race and religion and political parties.

For better or for worse, this is the platform it has represented itself to the nation which voted them into power. It would be in the interest of all parties in Pakatan Harapan to demonstrate that they are willing to set aside self interest in the interest of the nation.

Finally I wish to quote the writer at FinanceTwitter.com, who has a much better view of the cabinet composition:

One can argue until the cows come home but PKR (8 ministers), DAP (6 ministers), Amanah (5 ministers) and PPBM (6 ministers) have been allocated portfolios based on “equal partnership”. Such formula would prevent Pakatan Harapan from becoming Barisan Nasional 2.0 where the weak component parties will always get bullied and discriminated.

No doubt in the negotiations for cabinet positions self-interest will come into play. That is what negotiations are all about. No doubt certain parties have to give way in order to come to an agreement. In this I applaud DAP, who, at state level and also at federal level, have shown a willingness to take on a lesser role (though perhaps some are less and less willing to do so).

But everyone, politicians and also others whose role is to observe and analyse, everyone should be mindful that we want to empower the idea that the greater good of the nation must come before our personal ambitions and desire to be recognised and rewarded. We should not fan the flames of race and religion, nor the narrow view at state level (an analyst opines that the cabinet composition is a slap on the face for Sarawakians partly because the Sarawakian in the cabinet who is “only” a deputy minister is much more senior to Syed Saddiq who was made minister. This analyst should have noted that it is a slap in the face for ALL deputy ministers because he is the youngest.)

I have no idea how this cabinet will perform. It is likely some will do well and others less so. There is no need to rehash all the old tired arguments about who deserves what, and which group or sex have been snubbed or favoured, and whether race and/or religion is reflected in decisions. We now have the opportunity to be more politically mature. We should give these men and women the opportunity to show us what they can do, now that they have been appointed.