PETALING JAYA: The appointment of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (pic) as the special envoy with ministerial position to the Middle East, which came under heavy criticism during the height of a health crisis, was a political decision aimed at appeasement, said several analysts.
Adjunct senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Dr Oh Ei Sun said such an appointment was to appease leaders who weren't appointed as ministers.
“Mainly, these are done to appease party presidents who are not included in Cabinet, such that they would still have ministerial privileges domestically and be accorded ministerial courtesy when travelling overseas.
“There has to be some semblance of political normalcy even during the movement control order (MCO). So, there was the appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as Khazanah Nasional Bhd chairman and now this,” he said.
Political analyst Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi from University Malaya also agreed that Hadi's appointment was a political appointment.
He said it was done to satisfy PAS supporters who were beginning to voice out at the grassroots level against the ministerial appointments.
According to Prof Awang, the appointment of PAS ministers was perceived as least strategic compared to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which dominated vital portfolios such as the Home Ministry, the Rural Development Ministry, and the Economic Affairs Ministry.
“This appointment will lessen criticisms by PAS grassroots, who wanted their leaders to be given strategic positions in the government.”
Prof Awang also said the government must justify Hadi’s appointment in various aspects, as it came while the country faces the Covid-19 economic fallout.
“He must be tested on his ability to attract investors from the Middle East to Malaysia.
"Therefore, this should be his main key performance index, as it comes with a big salary and a ministerial position when the economy is declining,” he added.
Prof Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, who heads the Institute of Ethnic Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said it is the prerogative of the ruling government to appoint leaders into the position.
“I expected this to happen when he (Hadi) was not named in the Perikatan Nasional (government). Anyway, only a prime minister can appoint a minister, the role is also decided by the prime minister only, ” he said.
He also said such positions were accorded to various leaders in the past, such as former MIC president Tun S. Samy Vellu as special envoy to India and South Asia with ministerial rank, and Mohamed Rahmat as ambassador to Indonesia with ministerial rank.
“This is not the first time a ‘roving ambassador’ is appointed by the government,” he added.
Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Prof Sivamurugan Pandian explained that Hadi’s position does not overlap with other similar positions such as ambassador or high commissioner.
“They may be appointed for some political reason, to accommodate their expertise, networking and working closely with the government machinery as they are not part of the Cabinet."
Acknowledging PAS as a key player in Perikatan, Prof Sivamurugan said Hadi’s appointment may have a political impact to the coalition and the Islamist party itself.
“He can also use this as a channel to get assistance from the Middle East to assist Malaysia on Covid-19 cases and likewise."