The young appear to be having their moment in Malaysian politics.
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman at 25 is Malaysia’s youngest ever Member of Parliament and has been tasked with overseeing the Youth and Sports Ministry.
Syed Saddiq’s appointment has been criticised by some, but it also goes to show that young people should be given a chance in decision-making that will affect them. He will be closely watched as to how he mobilises the youth to move ahead in nation-building.
Another maiden appointment is Yeo Bee Yin, an engineer by training, who at 35 is the new Minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment. A chemical engineer by profession with a master’s degree from Cambridge University and a working stint at Schlumberger, Yeo knows pretty well the importance of conservation and preservation.
The first batch of ministers will face some hiccups but that is to be expected, given that they are coming to terms with transitioning from being members of the Opposition to the ruling government.
In addition, their inexperience in matters of governance will present a learning curve for them.
They, however, will need time to perform and we should not rush to chastise them as the new government needs at least six months to show notable changes.
One of the important features of this Cabinet is the qualifications those appointed as ministers and deputy ministers have in their respective portfolios.
The Cabinet comprises many lawyers, doctors, engineers and many other professionals.
Just take the example of Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye. He is a cardiologist who knows all too well the weaknesses of the healthcare system. Hopefully, the issue of putting the rakyat first is addressed and the monopoly in the supply of medicine stopped.
Dr Ong Kian Ming also studied at Cambridge University and is the new deputy minister of International Trade and Industry.
Those in Sarawak and Sabah have much to cheer about as important portfolios such as works, international trade and tourism have landed on the laps of representatives from there. This can help burnish the image of politicians from those two states and the growing importance, and essentially the recognition, they have in nation-building. It is for Baru Bian, the new Works Minister, to ensure that contracts are given based on merit and not political patronage, and for Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, the new Minister of Tourism, to push eco-tourism beyond borders.
While the Cabinet is a melting pot of people, the diversity of people appointed highlights the granting of opportunity to the deserved and based on ability rather than the process of political patronage that comes with any coalition government.
The Pakatan Harapan government has seemingly put its best foot forward in running the country, focusing on unity and economic growth, and condemning violence and corruption.
All these changes will take place under the stewardship and watchful eye of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who at 93, is the oldest elected head of a country in the world. He is one of a few members of the new government who has experience in governing but his wealth of expertise, and more importantly, the political will to change and reform, will serve as leadership for others to emulate.
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