IT’S about time our politicians, both in the Government and the Opposition, deliver what has been promised to the people.
WE have taken a long time to settle down. The general election concluded on March 8 last year but there has been no end to politics in Malaysia. Even the implications of the global financial crisis failed to grab the attention of many Malaysians.
Now that the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been sworn in, the country expects our politicians to get back to work.
With the effects of a worsening financial crisis looming, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has realistically said he does not expect to enjoy a honeymoon period.
He also has a strong Opposition to contend with and the performance of his ministers would be scrutinised and evaluated, not just by him via the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), but also by the soon-to-be-set-up Shadow Cabinet.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has said that he would set up the Shadow Cabinet. It is good as it would provide a mechanism for checks and balances, in a more specialised manner that has been absent till now.
But we would like to see how long it would take him to draw up his list this time, as he was supposed to come up with one after the general election last year but it never materialised as he, too, had to grapple with the sensitivity of portfolio allocations, never mind if it was only a shadow of a cabinet.
But Malaysians would want to know the scope of the KPI system for ministers and the staff. We take the introduction of KPIs seriously because Malaysians are hungry for transparency, accountability and credibility in government.
The minister in charge, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, said he has met several ministries and given the rest 30 days to come up with their KPIs. Dr Koh must be commended for his eagerness in wanting to get work done but it remains very much to be seen whether his expectations are realistic. He, too, needs to know what his scope of work is besides monitoring KPIs and maintaining unity.
Many ministers, even the experienced ones, have not even moved into their offices and would need time to learn the workings of their ministries. For starters, Malaysians want to know the job scope of these ministries as some have been merged and a few abolished.
Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, for example, is now Information, Communications, Culture and Arts Minister. That means the private television stations will come under his wing but what about the information technology components?
Would some agencies, those relating to multi-media, still come under the purview of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry under Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili?
I am sure that over the next one month, after Najib has spelled out the direction and told them his expectations, it would be clearer to Malaysians.
It has not been easy for Najib to draw up the Cabinet list. Expectations were high following speculations that it would be leaner and smaller. But obviously, the PM had to deal with political realities.
It was not just balancing the interests of Umno but also the 13 Barisan component parties. It is a big family and this has to be a major consideration, no matter how small the component party. Every state obviously had to be represented. More importantly, Sabah and Sarawak rightly deserved to be rewarded.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has been allocated the Rural Development to emphasise the seriousness of wanting to improve the lives of the rural people, who have always backed the Barisan.
Then, there is the gender issue. Najib has to appoint Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil as a senator and minister. He has made the right move in appointing Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen to Tourism, which suits her experience and personality.
Many issues relating to Islamic family laws involve the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. But the interests of the non-Muslims have been accommodated through the appointment of Senator Datuk Paduka Chew Mei Fun, the Wanita MCA chief, as Deputy Minister.
The complaints, rightly or wrongly, were that the Cabinet line-up included some tired faces and allegations that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had a hand in the list.
While Mukhriz Mahathir has been named a deputy minister, many close allies of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who had been openly critical of Dr Mahathir, have kept their posts.
The exclusion of Khairy Jamaluddin has become a subject of much discussion in the media. Some analysts have described it as a humiliation as his challenger, Mukhriz, and deputy, Datuk Razali Rahim, both got a deputy minister post. But do not write off Khairy. He is still the Umno Youth chief and MP for Rembau.
He now has the job of getting the new set of young voters to support the Barisan in the next general election. The polls is four years from now and will determine the survival of the Barisan.
He has said that he wants to be a Malaysian leader, not just an Umno Youth leader, so he has to find a niche for that role. The days of the Umno Youth chief as a Malay rabble-rouser are over.
But more importantly, the ministers in the new Cabinet must bear in mind that they have been given a fresh start. The PM must give a clear directive on Wednesday when he chairs his first Cabinet meeting. Leaders who make racist remarks, who refuse to apologise or want to appear gung-ho are the biggest liabilities to the Barisan.
They may be competent and honestly non-racist but an angry warning or a statement over nationwide television is enough to set back whatever good that has been achieved. There has to be self-restraint because the stakes are very high.
Never has a Cabinet line-up invited so many responses, ideas and criticisms from Malaysians. That’s because Malaysia has changed and Malaysians will speak up. And that’s good.