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Sunday May 19, 2013

All eyes on Najib’s new Cabinet

ON Wednesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak unveiled his much-anticipated Cabinet line-up after his first voter mandate at the 13th general election.

The following day, Najib chaired the first Cabinet meeting and reminded the ministers to work as a team and give their best to the people and the country.

He also stressed that public expectations would be high, and his ministers must be prepared to come under intense public scrutiny.

“It means the people have high expectations of us and how we behave, whether it’s us personally or our family members.

“As such, we must be aware of what we are doing, how we carry ourselves and our way of life so the people will not question anything involving our integrity as a member of the administration,” he said.

As to be expected, there are differing opinions on “Team Najib” and whether they are up for the job in meeting rising voter expectations as well as the many challenges facing the country.

In evaluating the line-up, it is worthwhile to temper our expectations with an understanding of the challenges Najib faced when selecting his team members.

Getting the best people for the positions is the top priority but the Prime Minister also needed to ensure a line-up that reflects key political realities of the country.

A dilemma he faced was over Chinese representation in the Cabinet, since the MCA had declined to accept any government position after its dismal showing at the polls.

Barisan’s main Chinese component party at an extraordinary general meeting last year had resolved that it would not accept any government position if it did not do as well as it did in the 2008 general election.

In the end, Najib’s solution was to “hold” one position, the Transport Mi­­­­­­nistry, for the MCA until the party sort­­ed out its problems. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hisham­muddin Hussein has been designated the caretaker Trans­port Minister.

The new line-up included more representatives from Sabah and Sarawak and rightly so as this reflects Barisan’s strong performance in these two states.

As expected, Najib did not limit his choices to the 133 MPs. He also opted to bring in outside talent, the so-called technocrats, into the Cabinet via the appointments of Maybank’s Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar and Transparency International’s Datuk Paul Low.

The move is laudable, injecting greater professionalism in his administration. The appointees come with a clean slate with no political baggage that can weigh them down, an added benefit.

We wish our ministers and their deputies all the best in light of the heavy burden they must bear over the next five years of the Government’s term.

The new team needs to help Najib steer the country’s economy to conti­nued growth and ensure a successful rollout of the National Transformation Programme.

The other major task will be to help bring Malaysians closer together following the outcome of a fractious general election.

With Najib’s team in place, all Malaysians regardless of their political affiliations should give the new line-up the necessary space and support they require so they can get on with the job at hand.

In return, our hope is for all the newly-minted team members to never forget they are accountable to the people who will be closely watching their every move for the next five years.

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