Questionable Appointments Underline Need To Expedite Reforms

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) welcomes the announcement by PM Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim of his Cabinet line-up last night. It is reflective of the composition of his “unity government” and yet keeping to his election promise to reduce the size of the Cabinet.

However, we are dismayed that Anwar has appointed himself to helm the important Finance portfolio, which weakens the check and balance that is necessary to ensure that we do not return to the days of Najib Razak’s administration where the PM as the FM almost bankrupted our country through the 1MDB scheme.

We are also disappointed that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who still have 47 ongoing corruption charges has been appointed as the Deputy PM and helming the Rural Development & FT Ministry . Though we understand the politics behind his appointment, we regret that principles took a backseat.

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 fulfill PH’s election manifesto promises to fight corruption and strengthen the integrity of our key institutions. Anwar and the new cabinet must immediately prioritize the following three actions to remove any doubts of interference in court cases and conflict of interest:

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 MACC chief, EC and Suhakam commisioners. The process should grant more independence from the executive and include meaningful roles for the Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders.

BERSIH also welcomes the appointment of Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said as the 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 VK Liew and Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

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

With the formation of the new Cabinet, the task of governing and serving the Rakyat begins. It is our hope, and the hope of the Rakyat that thre 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.

Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of BERSIH