Ministers to watch
NEW & POWERFUL
Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali
Government-linked companies that will be placed under his Ministry include Ekuiti Nasional Bhd, Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd, Perbadanan Nasional Bhd, Felcra Bhd, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd and Johor Petroleum Development Corp. Azmin continues to wield political clout in the Pakatan Harapan hierarchy as his portfolio will also control the powerful Economic Planning Unit and Federal Land Development Authority. Analysts claim the move to increase Azmin’s influence and curb Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s powers in PKR.
MALAYSIA’S NUMBER 2
Women, Family and Community Development
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Dr Wan Azizah had a rocky start after her Ministry came under fire over a couple of issues, namely Pakatan Harapan’s failure to achieve 30% women representation in Cabinet and its soft approach in banning child marriage.
Following her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s win as the PKR president, speculation has been rife whether she will remain as Deputy Prime Minister for the full five-year term.
However, she has made it clear that she has no intention to relinquish her position as the Deputy Prime Minister nor her Pandan MP post.
Despite her reassurances, her political image as being Anwar’s seat warmer has many observers adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude.
ON A STEEP LEARNING CURVE
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik
Dr Maszlee Malik’s appointment as Education Minister had a controversial start as the portfolio was initially taken by Dr Mahathir. The former International Islamic University Malaysia lecturer continues to court controversy, be it over testy or trivial issues. From claims of being an alleged supporter of controversial preacher Zakir Naik to undermining Bahasa Malaysia as a national language by recognising UEC to the Ministry’s new black shoes ruling for schools, Dr Maszlee has a tricky role ahead in advancing the nation’s education system to be a fair, progessive and inclusive one.
Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin
With a ministry name that reads like a mile long, Malaysia’s youngest female minister hopes to come up with a catchy shorter version. How does Eco Ministry sounds, YB Yeo? The nation’s first climate change Minister kick-started her first month with a loud message to industry players – it’s the end of the “know-who” culture and the start of the “know-how” culture. Yeo, 35, is determined to increase Malaysia’s renewable energy from the current 2% to 20% by 2025 as pledged in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto. Reducing Malaysia’s dependence on coal-fired power plants would also see the development of an energy industry centred around renewable sources.
YOUNG & DASHING
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman
Despite being a political newbie, Syed Saddiq quickly gained celebrity status with his good looks and charming personality, both in Malaysia and in Indonesia, where he had his first overseas working visit. Syed Saddiq’s age – at 26 – is both his strength and weakness. His youthful brand of politics, “Just call me Bro Saddiq”, instead of the usual YB (Yang Berhormat) salutation and down-to-earth personality where he was seen clearing litter at the Bukit Jalil Stadium endeared him to the public. Nevertheless, his maturity and experience in handling the Ministry begs scrutiny. His young team was thrown into the limelight after his press officer Numan Afifi Saadan was forced to resign following criticisms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism. But Syed Saddiq won points for sticking to the promise to abolish National Service and the National Civics Bureau (BTN).
OPENING UP CHANNELS
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo
Known to be vocal for speaking up on national issues in Parliament, Gobind, is the country’s first Sikh federal minister.
With the rise of digitalisation globally, Gobind is pushing to open up the broadband service sector to more competition to drive prices down, increase efficiencies and improve speed.
He has pledged to improve the speed of broadband service at half the price. He has since promised a 25% cut in retail broadband prices by year end with the reduction in the access pricing.
Additionally, Gobind is also committed to upholding press freedom and to reviewing restrictive media laws. His first step is repelling the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.
BALANCING IDEOLOGY & HUMAN RIGHTS
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa
Dr Mujahid, who oversees religious affairs, courted controversy when he ordered the removal of the portraits of transgender advocate Nisha Ayub and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist Pang Khee Teik from a photo exhibition in Penang.
This is in stark contrast to his statements made in Parliament, where he once stressed that LGBTs enjoyed rights under the Federal Constitution against discrimination.
Mujahid is the son of Yusof Rawa, former PAS president. He wrested the Parit Buntar seat from the then Umno ruling party in 2008 as a PAS candidate.
He repeated this feat for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in GE13, but subsequently pledged his allegiance to the Parti Amanah Negara, a spin-off from the Islamist party, in GE14.
Mujahid once said the birth of Amanah was unavoidable because of an underlying ideological conflict between progressives and conservatives in PAS.
Although the Amanah vice-president is known to have progressive views, he has always been consistently conservative on LGBT issues.
While he has acknowledged the right of LGBT community to practise their lifestyle, they are still subjected to existing laws.
SEEING THE FOREST AND THE TREES
Works Minister Baru Bian
Hailing from Sarawak’s remote highlands, Baru is a man of many firsts in Malaysia Baru.
A prominent native land rights lawyer, he won in Selangau to become an MP for the first time.
Baru is also the first Lun Bawang to be appointed a minister.
The pastor’s son is passionate about land rights, native rights and the environment.
From three-day hikes in the jungle to reach school in Lawas town to hunting with his father and learning how to survive in the wild, his upbringing has imbued him with a clear understanding of subjects such as native customary rights, pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve).
Baru is committed to ensuring the mega Pan-Borneo Highway project spanning Sarawak and Sabah is constructed successfully and in a timely fashion.
In addition to the needs of the nation, his first focus will centre on clean water to villages and the issue of power supply, and is looking at solar energy and mini-hydro systems that will not destroy the land and forest the way dams do in his home state.
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