Thirteen persons swear-in on Monday to generate a Cabinet of fourteen.
It is a relief not to rely on just councils of elders, eminent, transparency, special skills and x-force — if applicable as the country moves forward — as they are lack democratic mandate.
Just as it was undignified that in the past so many offices were managed and run, in executive capacity, by those without democratic mandate, it would have been a travesty if the same continued.
But my critique of mandate is for another day.
It is my focus today to highlight that all of Cabinet is West Malaysian.
We have — for now — shut out two other members of the Malaysia Agreement.
The manner in which many pundits have downplayed this development is disappointing. It is a massive brush off.
So many ways to look at this, and none of it positive for the new government.
There will be a second wave, of course, but what is left?
Here is the Mahathir Cabinet, on Monday.
|1||Mahathir Mohamad||Prime Minister/ PM’s Department||Pribumi||Kedah|
|2||Wan Azizah Wan Ismail||Deputy Prime Minister/ Womens, Family Development||PKR||Selangor|
|4||Lim Guan Eng||Finance||DAP||Penang|
|8||Zuraida Kamaruddin||Housing & Local Government||PKR||Selangor|
|10||Salahuddin Ayub||Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry||Amanah||Johor|
|11||Anthony Loke Siew Fook||Transport||DAP||Negeri Sembilan|
|12||Rina Harun||Rural Development||Pribumi||Kuala Lumpur|
|13||Gobind Singh Deo||Communications and Multimedia||DAP||Selangor|
|14||Kulasegaran V Murugeson||Human Resource||DAP||Perak|
Outside the top two positions, the top ministries of home, defence, finance, economy, education, health and housing & local government have been dished out.
Sabah and Sarawak have to wait out for positions from possibly 12 to 16 ministries.
If following the trajectory of the last prime minister, these might be the ministries left.
|15||Natural Resources & Environment||Borneo probably|
|16||Federal Territories||Has to come from one of the 11 seats in the capital won by Pakatan. Nurul Izzah Anwar is in prime position|
|18||Foreign||One of the last plum positions. Must be handed over to Borneo|
|19||Domestic Trade||Not sure|
|21||Energy, Green Tech and Water||Borneo probably|
|22||Plantation & Commodities||Not sure|
|23||Science & Technology||Not sure|
|24||Youth & Sports||Pribumi or PKR|
|25||International Trade & Industry||Borneo?|
|26||PM’s Dept (Islamic Affairs)||Amanah|
|27||PM’s Dept (Law)||Not sure|
|28||PM’s Dept (?)||Not sure|
|29||(Finance II)||Might not exist|
|30||(Higher Education)||Might not exist|
Mahathir promised to cap Cabinet at 30.
There are no ministers from Perlis, Malacca, Pahang, Terengganu or Kelantan, and something has to give.
The plum ministries are now fewer, and the feeling of second class will grow if those secondary meetings are handed over to Borneo ministers.
Debt of honour
One week is a long time in politics, but I’m sure we can agree forty years is a lifetime. Ever since the 1969 General Election debacle, the created Barisan Nasional forged ahead with the fixed deposit Borneo.
It was seen that no national change can happen without grabbing a substantial number of Borneo seats. With BN grabbing 85-95% of the Borneo parliamentary seats, the then-ruling coalition would begin every election 35-45 seat ahead in the race to 112 in the Dewan Rakyat.
Which is why the BN government has rewarded the Borneo MPs in 2008, and even more in 2013, because the 47 seats versus the 10 won by Pakatan, gave them a 37 nett gain.
BN only then needed 75 in peninsular to win the election.
Every pundit said, with Borneo on BN’s side, it would be impossible to win federal power.
Mind you, there are probably 20 seats in Borneo, so interior, economically deprived and poor that resource alone wins them the race for BN. Which is why Bung Moktar Radin wins easy in Sabah’s Kinabatangan; and Ugak Anak Kumbng beats a long term candidate Abun Sui Anyit easily in Sarawak’s Hulu Rajang. Both won by amassing two-thirds of the votes.
Social media laughs at Bung Moktar, but he cares little, because poverty and seclusion are his friends.
How about the Pakatan friendlies campaigning in the interior?
It’s agonising, punishing and at times life-threatening to fight BN in those parts, but they do, and they did it without reward for decades.
This time, Borneo does amazing. Put together Sabah’s 15 (Warisan 9,DAP 3, PKR 2 and belatedly UPKO with 1) and Sarawak’s 11 (DAP 6, PKR 4 & Independent aligned to Pakatan 1) it takes on the 31 by BN, and reduces the nett gain to a miserly five.
The twenty-six from Borneo, took Pakatan across the finishing line, with full knowledge they won’t be in play to lead Malaysia. Our country is set up in a way, Borneo leaders can never lead Malaysia, not now.
Perhaps Pakatan can change the conditions, to make it a fair game finally for Borneo, after fifty-five years.
Because if Borneo reps have to explain to their voters why after dismantling BN, they have been relegated from having twelve ministers to no ministers, it would be cruel.
There is a debt of honour, and for us in the Semenanjung glowing in the aftermath of the GE and treating Borneo like an afterthought, it is disappointing.
Even if Mahathir tells us to shed sentimentalities and look at political realities, the arguments to leave Borneo out — for now — don’t stand.
Let’s count then.
Pribumi has 13 MPs, and for that they yield four including prime minister
Amanah has 11 MPs, their returns are three ministers.
Both will likely get one minister each when the final batch is announced.
If anything, PKR’s 48 seats garners only three including deputy prime minister, should feel hard done by. They may have the prime minister in waiting, but it’s grim reading. It would be shocking if at least two more ministers, from the party are picked. Most likely Saifuddin Abdullah to up east coast representation.
DAP’s 42 will be rewarded with several of their Borneo guys placed in the Cabinet.
So far, Warisan’s nine seats has had no recognition yet.
Of course Borneo will have at least six ministers by the time the full Cabinet is sanctioned.
But the sluggishness and the reduction will be remembered and become campaign material for the next election.
PKR, DAP and Warisan have the opportunity to change the game in East Malaysia and make inroads because Pakatan has federal power.
Not to throw money and threaten people with economic destruction, but to use the permission to build policies to lift the people and offer them a paradigm shift not just handouts.
And in that game, that propaganda, symbols will matter, more than anything.
To the prime minister: Don’t ignore Borneo, if you want a better Malaysia tomorrow.