A reshuf­fle al­ready in the cards?

The Star Malaysia - - Focus - Ter­ence Fer­nan­dez is a for­mer se­nior jour­nal­ist and is now in­volved in pub­lic re­la­tions con­sul­tancy.

IS the first Pakatan Hara­pan Cabi­net al­ready head­ing for a reshuf­fle, al­beit a mi­nor one? Talk in the cor­ri­dors of power in Putrajaya and the head­quar­ters of the Pakatan coali­tion part­ners have been rife about Prime Min­is­ter Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad’s dis­ap­point­ment with the per­for­mance of sev­eral min­istries and the con­tro­ver­sies that a hand­ful of min­is­ters have man­aged to court.

With the ex­cep­tion of Dr Ma­hathir, Home Min­is­ter Tan Sri Muhyid­din Yassin and For­eign Min­is­ter Datuk Sai­fud­din Ab­dul­lah, none of the newly minted min­is­ters have ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning a Fed­eral Govern­ment.

Of course, Eco­nomic Af­fairs Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Lim Guan Eng have cut their teeth at state level as Men­teri Be­sar of Se­lan­gor and Chief Min­is­ter of Pe­nang re­spec­tively.

Hence, much lee­way was given to mem­bers of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion to get their feet wet and dis­card the “op­po­si­tion men­tal­ity”. But while ad­min­is­tra­tive mis­steps were ex­pected and cer­tain gaffes tol­er­ated, Dr. Ma­hathir’s pa­tience has worn thin over al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and even prac­tices that can be con­strued as bor­der­ing on abuse of power and in breach of es­tab­lished rules.

A cou­ple of min­is­ters have taken lib­er­ties to staff their of­fices with up to 15 loy­al­ists, friends and party mem­bers in de­fi­ance of Pub­lic Ser­vices Depart­ment rules and Dr Ma­hathir’s own limit of only six per min­istry. This is com­pounded by the ex­is­tence of ques­tion­able char­ac­ters in some of th­ese min­is­ters’ of­fices.

In con­trast, the ex­o­dus of highly qual­i­fied and prin­ci­pled of­fi­cials in­clud­ing ad­vi­sors, press sec­re­taries and prin­ci­pal pri­vate sec­re­taries from min­istries due to dis­agree­ments with the min­is­ter have also re­ceived the Prime Min­is­ter’s at­ten­tion.

This week saw one high pro­file res­ig­na­tion. But it must be stressed that Wan Sai­ful Wan Jan had ex­plained it was his com­mit­ments as the chair­man of the Na­tional Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Fund Cor­po­ra­tion (PTPTN) that forced him to quit as spe­cial ad­vi­sor to Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Dr Mas­zlee Ma­lik – whom he de­scribed as hard­work­ing and results-ori­ented.

When con­tacted, Wan Sai­ful laughed off sug­ges­tions that his res­ig­na­tion had any­thing to do with Dr Mas­zlee’s pen­chant for be­ing a mag­net for con­tro­versy with his eye­brow-rais­ing state­ments and in­sis­tence on as­sum­ing the role of pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Islamic Univer­sity Malaysia. It is learnt that Wan Sai­ful has rec­om­mended sev­eral other can­di­dates.

Un­der­per­form­ing min­istries are a stone in the Prime Min­is­ter’s shoe. Ac­cord­ing to sources close to him, Dr Ma­hathir will ad­dress th­ese is­sues by the first quar­ter of next year.

“He wants to give his min­is­ters a chance. But he is a man who is out to se­cure his legacy that had been tar­nished by some of his own poli­cies and au­thor­i­tar­ian rule dur­ing his first ten­ure as PM,” said a Pakatan official.

Hence, Dr. Ma­hathir is not go­ing to al­low any­one to de­rail his plans to se­cure his place on the right side of his­tory.

Dr Ma­hathir must move quick to quell any crit­i­cisms of his min­is­ters to counter the op­po­si­tion nar­ra­tive that this is a Cabi­net that does not know what it’s do­ing. As un­fair as it sounds, de­spite Pakatan’s best ef­forts to run the coun­try, the stan­dards peo­ple have set for it are much higher than its pre­de­ces­sor, where for all in­tents and pur­poses we were scrap­ing the bot­tom of the bar­rel.

Which is why it is also cru­cial for Dr Ma­hathir to ad­dress any con­cerns, es­pe­cially if those min­istries in ques­tion are held by his own party, Ber­satu. It is no se­cret that the other coali­tion part­ners are eye­ing choice min­istries cru­cial to na­tion build­ing and which have direct ac­cess to the elec­torate such as Ed­u­ca­tion, Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment, En­trepreneur­ship De­vel­op­ment and Youth and Sports – all held by Ber­satu. Any is­sue in th­ese min­istries could trig­ger de­mands from PKR, Amanah, Warisan and the DAP for those min­istries.

Dr Ma­hathir needs to en­sure that his pub­licly ac­knowl­edged suc­ces­sor, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in­her­its a prob­lem-free Cabi­net which is able to im­ple­ment his vision that he hopes Anwar will con­tinue. Dr Ma­hathir, to pre­serve his legacy, needs to en­sure that he goes out on the same high that the peo­ple em­braced him on May 9 as our new premier.

Sadly, this has to start with the painful process of purg­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion of those who in th­ese past five months have demon­strated that they are not cut out for the job.

Hon­ey­moon over: The talk is that Dr Ma­hathir’s pa­tience has worn thin with some Cabi­net min­is­ters over al­le­ga­tions of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and abuse of power.

Comment TER­ENCE FER­NAN­DEZ news­desk@thes­tar.com.my

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