Articles, Opinions & Views: Mahathir’s patently unfair cabinet by P Gunasegaram

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In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Mahathir’s patently unfair cabinet by P Gunasegaram
Friday, July 13, 2018

Malaysiakini : COMMENT | If fairness becomes secondary to your desire to hold the reins of power and to exercise any prerogative you may or may not have in your own favour, how much better are you than your predecessors?
One can argue till the cows come home and one can muster all kinds of distorted reasoning to support one’s beloved leader and current hero, but there is only one fair way to allocate cabinet positions - it must reflect at least roughly the proportion of parliamentary seats the respective parties won.
Otherwise, it is simply not a reflection of the desire of the people as shown in the polls and one can draw a clear and unwanted parallel to the gerrymandering that has been prevalent in our polls for a long time whereby some constituencies are several times the size of others. Certainly not something that Pakatan Harapan, or the majority of Malaysians, want.
When we look at the composition of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s cabinet, it is patently unfair and ridiculous. It represents a barely disguised attempt to usurp power in favour of his own Bersatu, which won only 13 of 52 seats it contested in Peninsular Malaysia, by far the worst showing of any of the component parties at a 25% win rate.
To illustrate how ridiculous the situation is, consider this: Bersatu has 13 MPs and all but two of them have become either ministers (6), deputy ministers (4) or menteri besar (Mahathir’s son Mukhriz who is Kedah menteri besar). Probably all MPs but Mahathir, Muhyiddin Yassin and Mukhriz are first-time MPs. So, up to eight first-time MPs have become either ministers or deputy ministers.
What a travesty of justice when long-time parties such as PKR and DAP who have many multiple-term MPs have been simply left out in the cold. PKR had many Malay MPs who could have easily filled positions much better than the raw, untested material that Bersatu had to offer besides Mahathir and Muhyiddin.
Let’s look at the proportion of parliamentary seats of each party relative to the proportion of members in the cabinet and deputies. The numbers for cabinet positions and deputies are taken from this article in Malaysiakini, which also highlights the severe under-representation of PKR and DAP in the cabinet.
The figures speak for themselves. While PKR has 39% of seats in the coalition, they have only 26% of cabinet positions. In contrast, Bersatu with 11% of seats has 22% of cabinet positions, double what they are entitled to. In terms of numbers, if the proportionate principle is applied, PKR should have 10 to 11 cabinet positions instead of seven, while Bersatu should have two to three instead of six.
PM’s prerogative
The sequence of events indicates a devious, orchestrated and managed attempt to shore up Mahathir’s power and give him much more control of the country and how it is run by using so-called prime ministerial prerogative to choose his cabinet, and using an organised campaign to push such views across.
The talk about such prime ministerial prerogative - which comes up over and over in online comments - is specious and holds no sway in a completely different context where Mahathir’s party is a minority partner in the coalition where the big boys are clearly PKR and DAP.
By using so-called public opinion, which sometimes is manipulated by planted opinions, and the myth that Mahathir alone won the elections for all Malaysians, he has chosen to ignore the basic rules in any coalition - consultation and consensus as far as that is possible.
He inveigled himself into the hearts of DAP by offering its supremo Lim Guan Eng the coveted finance minister’s position, apparently without prior consultation with PKR which had the highest number of seats in the coalition with 48. Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was named deputy prime minister.
After that, Mahathir could do no wrong in the eyes of the DAP and the DAP sang Mahathir’s praises and his so-called vision and foresight. When PKR’s Rafizi Ramli questioned why Mahathir was being non-consultative, he was roundly chastised - and rather rudely - by a storm of cybertroopers.
At the same time of the announcement of Lim as finance minister, other announcements of the core team were Muhyiddin as the home minister, which should have been offered to PKR considering that Mahathir was only going to be transitional prime minister until Anwar took over. Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu took on the Defence Ministry.
Mahathir delayed the announcement of the full cabinet until July 4, an unprecedented almost two months after the elections. Instead he, simultaneously with the core ministers group, announced a Jedi-like council of elders or Council of Eminent Persons as it was formally known. This was headed by his close friend and controversial former finance minister Daim Zainuddin who many are uncomfortable with to this day.
This council seemed to be taking care of important matters instead of a properly constituted cabinet.  Other members were former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas CEO Hassan Marican, Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon 94-year-old Robert Kuok, and economics professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram.
Meantime, Mahathir’s tone became more vague about when he will step down as prime minister. Before he joined Harapan and Anwar’s campaign to oust Najib Razak, he said that he was not interested in becoming prime minister - he only wanted to help remove Najib. That changed to he does not mind that if the people wanted it but it will only be for a transition period of perhaps two years.
And then he said that he may have to stay on longer if it was needed and left open the date when Anwar would replace him. That has raised much concern within PKR, although many did not voice it the way Rafizi did, there is definite uneasiness within PKR about Mahathir’s intentions.
Cosy ties
But this did not seem to be the case with DAP, which struck a cosy relationship with Mahathir post Lim becoming finance minister, with both echoing each other about how bad the debt situation in the country was but providing little substance to their argument, as this article explains.
In fact, insiders say DAP played a big role in convincing Harapan to accept Mahathir as interim prime minister in favour of the straight and honest Wan Azizah who was considered not to be savvy enough when it comes to politics.
In fact, when the king asked Wan Azizah to form the new cabinet as the leader of the party with the highest seats (remember, they all, except for Warisan, contested under the PKR symbol), she politely turned him down and said the coalition has chosen Mahathir as the prime minister. Wan Azizah then went on to ask the king to pardon her husband, which he readily agreed to.
But Mahathir is not one to necessarily honour the spirit of agreements, which in the case of his position in Harapan meant that he needs to consult Harapan leaders even if he is prime minister. This is, after all, the new Malaysia. The prime minister’s party can no longer rule by itself. He needs the support of the others. His prerogative can be removed by his coalition partners by removing him as coalition leader. That is the way it should be. No more dictatorship through the exercise of prerogative.
DAP’s cosy relationship ended when Mahathir did not make adjustments in his final cabinet list. Rumblings of discontent over the final cabinet list spread through the DAP and Mahathir was criticised for not selecting members from the list submitted by the component parties.
Harapan’s mistake was not to agree on cabinet composition criteria before agreeing to Mahathir as prime minister and now the PM was exercising his prerogative. But it is a prerogative that must be exercised judiciously, repeat, judiciously.
In fact, one name which reports say he chose was PKR’s Azmin Ali (below) for the powerful economy ministry although this was not proposed by PKR because Azmin was already sworn in as Selangor menteri besar. That may have been done to further dilute Anwar’s influence by raising the alternative scenario of Azmin becoming prime minister in the future.
Prerogative does not mean a licence to appoint whoever and appoint political novices who have no proven expertise in any area into the cabinet. Two examples will suffice - Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman and Rina Harun.
There is no record I could find of Syed Saddiq ever having held a job. This 26-year old goes from a student straight into the cabinet as youth and sports minister when they are so many other more capable leaders within Harapan. Rina is rural and regional development minister and was a former Umno politician. On the other hand, her deputy is prominent PKR lawyer and social activist R Sivarasa, one of those who has tirelessly been campaigning for decades against BN. How unfair is that?
Surely, this kind of blatant unfairness is not what Harapan wants. Mahathir’s excesses - and he does not have the power in terms of parliamentary seats to do this - can only be checked if the two main long-standing partners in Harapan stand together as one and do not let themselves be divided by anyone, and most of all the ever-wily Mahathir.
The lesson PKR and DAP should learn is to stick together and be united and remember why they wanted to overthrow BN in the first place. Otherwise, Mahathir is going to prove to be a menace in future insistent on doing it his way without due consultation. Note: This article is the first in a series about Malaysia post-GE14. The next article deals with the question: Did Mahathir win the elections for Malaysians?

P GUNASEGARAM says we must never again surrender our right to question and criticise - fairly. E-mail:
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 6:37 PM  
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