Bersih says disappointed with Zahid’s appointment as DPM and Anwar helming the Finance portfolio

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) expressed its disappointment over the appointment of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as the deputy prime minister.

Despite acknowledging the politics behind his appointment, the Steering Committee of Bersih in a statement said it regrets that principles took a backseat.

Zahid, who is still facing 47 ongoing corruption charges, will also be helming the Rural Development and Federal Territory Ministry.

While applauding Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for fulfiling the election promise to reduce the size of the Cabinet, Bersih however, was dismayed over the prime minister’s decision for appointing himself to helm the important Finance portfolio.

“This weakens the check and balance that is necessary to ensure that we do not return to the days of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration where the prime minister as the finance minister almost bankrupted our country through the 1MDB scheme,” the committee said.

Bersih said that both these questionable appointments threaten to undermine Anwar’s commitment to fight corruption.

“To cement his credentials as a reformist, Anwar has to double-down efforts to fulfil PH’s election manifesto promises to fight corruption and strengthen the integrity of our key institutions,” it said, referring to Pakatan Harapan.

To remove any doubts of interference in court cases and conflict of interest, Bersih also advised Anwar and his new Cabinet to immediately prioritise the three actions, namely:

1. Make the solicitor-general to assume the role of Public Prosecutor with immediate effect until the necessary constitutional amendments are made to remove that role from that of the attorney general.

2. Promote political stability and parliamentary oversight by giving meaningful roles to the Opposition and government backbenchers in shadow cabinet and parliamentary special select committees (PSSCs), with commensurate salary, policy research support and access to government information for shadow ministers as well as chairs and deputy chairs of the PSSCs, further enhanced by enactment of a new Parliamentary Services Act and establishment of Parliamentary Budget Office.

3. Reform the process to appoint and remove key public officers such as Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission (MACC) chief, Election Commission and Suhakam commissioners. The process should grant more independence from the executive and include meaningful roles for the Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders.

Bersih also said it welcomes the appointment of Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said as law minister.

“We hope that she would drive the reforms promised in both the PH and BN manifestos, continuing with many of the reforms started by some of her predecessors such as the late Datuk VK Liew and Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

“We are also pleased that Azalina is among five women appointed to lead key ministries such as Education, Health, Youth and Sports and Women and Family. While this Cabinet has the highest representation of women as ministers, it is still far from gender-balanced Cabinet,” it said.

Bersih also hoped that there will be political stability and this administration would be given the opportunity to govern full term and all parties, including the Opposition, would play constructive roles in nation-building.

“As a member of the civil society, Bersih will continue to be a nonpartisan voice and would continue to push for reforms that would strengthen our democracy,” it said.

(First published by Malaymail on 3 December 2022: