Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir’s influence in new Cabinet ‘likely to hamper reform’

Mahathir’s influence in new Cabinet ‘likely to hamper reform’

KUALA LUMPUR — The new Malaysian Cabinet, which is filled with established leaders of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), shows the influence of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders said yesterday.


KUALA LUMPUR — The new Malaysian Cabinet, which is filled with established leaders of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), shows the influence of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders said yesterday.

“You don’t see any intention of breaking away from the past,” Democratic Action Party (DAP) strategist Liew Chin Tong told The Malaysian Insider. “The appointment of Shahidan furthers the UMNO agenda … there is no intention to reform,” he added, referring to former Perlis Mentri Besar Shahidan Kassim’s appointment as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.UMNO, the dominant party in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, has 18 ministerial positions in the 32-man Cabinet, most of which have gone to old government hands being switched around or promoted, with the exception of new faces like UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Sabah BN Secretary Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

Candidates from the BN’s Chinese-based parties — Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Gerakan — were not named to any Cabinet post. Sources, however, told The Malaysian Insider that Prime Minister Najib Razak was reserving two seats for MCA leaders once the party completes its elections and reverses its stand to opt out of the government due to its poor showing in the May 5 polls.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Strategy Director Rafizi Ramli said the lack of government representation of the Chinese community could prevent reform on issues that non-Malays considered important, like corruption, race-based policies and education.

“Any open discussion with the aspirations of non-Malays would be seen by the UMNO diehards as an affront to Malay rights,” the newly-elected Pandan Member of Parliament said.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Executive Director of Parti Islam SeMalaysia’s (PAS) research centre, told The Malaysian Insider that the “long shadow” of Dr Mahathir was cast over the new Cabinet, which was sworn in yesterday. “This Cabinet is Mahathir’s Cabinet,” he said.

“He’s always stifled and confronted by the Malay agenda of UMNO,” he added, referring to Mr Najib.

Dr Dzulkefly also noted that, except for Mr Khairy, who was focused on promoting Middle Malaysia, it was “business as usual” with UMNO veterans dominating the Cabinet.

The PR, which includes the DAP, PAS and PKR, said the remnants of Mahathirism will also likely hamper Mr Najib’s reform plans, a view that was echoed by several observers yesterday.

Professor Jayum A Jawan, political scientist at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, said he was sceptical about the changes that Mr Najib could make with such a “conservative” Cabinet.

“I don’t see real power-sharing … The positions of power are all held by UMNO like Finance, Home Affairs and Defence,” he said. “Definitely he is seeking re-election this year and that will be reflected in his UMNO Cabinet line-up. You can see him strategising for re-election but how he is to do that leaves a question mark because most of them are just old-timers.”

Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Chief Executive of think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, also said Mr Najib was creating a Cabinet that would help him defend his UMNO post: “By hook or by crook, he would be thinking about the UMNO polls.”

There has been speculation that Mr Najib, 59, is likely to face a challenge to his presidency from within UMNO in the party elections due this year for failing to return the BN’s two-third majority in the general election despite improving the Malay party’s number of federal seats to 88.

Still, some analysts think the Cabinet can deliver despite its weaknesses.

Mr Wan Saiful pointed out that Mr Najib has considered his transformation programme and selected those who he felt could smoothen the process. “He knows he has to name those who would support it and putting people like Idris Jusoh in education is a very good move as education is important to the transformation process,” he said, referring to the former Terengganu Mentri Besar who was promoted to become the Second Minister in the merged Education and Higher Learning Ministry, helmed by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Professor William Case, of the Department of Asian and International Studies at the University of Hong Kong, agreed and said: “While many critics are dismissing the Cabinet as made up most of old hacks, I see it as more mixed, possibly in clever ways, as it includes Najib’s personal supporters, reformers and nativists,” he told The Malaysian Insider in an emailed response on Wednesday. Agencies

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Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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