More DAPs, veteran returns: PM seeks fresh blood, party harmony in Unity Government

13 Dec 2023 10:54am
Anwar Ibrahim - Photo by Bernama
Anwar Ibrahim - Photo by Bernama

SHAH ALAM - The Cabinet reshuffle after a year under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim shows his seriousness in maintaining the Unity Government in terms of party balance, improvement and ensuring that elements of national interest are prioritised.

The portfolio change also shows that Anwar is responsive to the current situation, which requires direct intervention measures to improve his team's performance and remain independent in this term.

Among the changes brought by the Finance Minister was the expansion of the size of the Cabinet from 55 to 60 people, although he had vowed not to appoint a large-sized Cabinet in the government.

However, the number of ministers and deputy ministers in the Cabinet today is said to be lower than the 70 people in the Perikatan Nasional Cabinet (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) and the 69 people in the Keluarga Malaysia Cabinet (2021) led by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Jacob.

2018 Cabinet led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is among the lowest with 54 ministers and deputy ministers while the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government Cabinet led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak had 68 people.

DAP stands out

DAP emerges prominently among the parties with additional representation in the Unity Government.

Notably, two new DAP ministers, Gobind Singh Deo and Steven Sim, were appointed, stressing the need for coalition balance.

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Gobind, previously the Communications and Multimedia Minister during PH1.0, now serves as the Digital Minister.

Sim takes over as the Human Resources Minister, succeeding V Sivakumar, the only minister dropped in this reshuffle.

For the appointment of new deputy ministers, M Kulasegaran is currently the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Legislation and Institutional Reform) while Wong Kah Woh was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Education, making a total of 11 people from DAP who will lead the Madani Government.

O2 Research Malaysia Chief Researcher Anis Anwar Suhaimi said DAP's increased representation aligns with Anwar's efforts to dispel perceptions of party dominance within the Unity Government post-GE15.

"This results in the perception that DAP is under-represented in the government.

"With the internal political situation happening in DAP, it is possible that there will be calls to the Prime Minister for the leaders of the party to be given space in the government.

"DAP's excellent leadership image and simplicity demonstrated by Secretary-General Anthony Loke is also an example for the increase of DAP representatives in this cabinet reshuffle," he told Sinar.

He added that this new ministry is seen as important in Anwar's eyes in ensuring that the country's issues and challenges continue to be important.

"Previously, the Communications and Digital Ministry was among those that received strong criticism for the problems of information infrastructure and political communication.

"Thus, Fahmi Fadzil was given a 'second chance' to ensure government communication and policy delivery become smoother.

"The separation of portfolios such as the Energy Transition and Public Utilities Ministry given to Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof from the representative of Sarawak is in line with the direction of the Bumi Kenyalang state to become the main supplier of renewable energy in Southeast Asia," he explained.

For Anis, some of the portfolio changes in this Cabinet depend on the minister's or deputy minister's ability to bring about change and provide more comprehensive benefits to the development of Madani's mission.

"With the current challenges faced by the Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad as a former minister, is believed to be the best candidate for Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) following his excellent leadership in the past," he said.

DAP, Umno additional quota

Apart from DAP, Umno-BN is also one of the parties given additional quotas in Anwar's Cabinet such as the appointment of Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani as Plantation and Commodities Minister and Datuk Seri Noraini Ahmad as Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister.

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) School of Media and Information Warfare Studies’ security and Senior Lecturer Dr Noor Nirwandy Mat Noordin said the involvement of more Umno members in the Cabinet is based on the need for a new injection of experience and not just a matter of party affiliation.

"Of course, in the politics of the Unity Government, the issue of the party plays a role.

"But I believe the appointment of these people is more about the need to inject experience to ensure that the government administration is on the right track," he explained.

Commenting on the division of the ministry's portfolio done by Anwar, Nirwandy pointed out her view that the government is trying to specialise in the issue of technological development and the health of communication development nowadays.

"Expanding or enlarging the Cabinet is not an offence if this matter can benefit the country.

"The addition of this Cabinet clearly proves the government's determination to ensure better governance.

"This initiative needs to be recognised by the community as an effort to improve the Prime Minister to ensure more efficient government governance," he said.