More DPMs, more benefits?

Proposal sparks debate whether it’s a smart move for M’sia

PETALING JAYA: A proposal by rival coalitions to have more than one deputy prime minister has ignited a public debate about the benefit of such a move for the country.

“Just get the most competent people for an effective and lean Cabinet,” said former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

As it is, she said the Cabinet was “already bloated”, so there should not be a further addition to it.

Gabungan Parti Sarawak secretary-general Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi said the power given to a DPM was more important than merely being given the post.

For example, he said, the authority to approve projects or certain allocations was more significant than the post itself.

“If there are to be three DPM posts, there must be certain portfolios given for effectiveness of the post, for the good of Sabah and Sarawak,” Bernama quoted him as saying yesterday.

On Sunday, Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi proposed the creation of three DPM posts to represent Sabah, Sarawak and the peninsula if the coalition were to win big in the 15th General Election.

As for Pakatan Harapan, its chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said they would be appointing two DPMs – one each from Peninsular Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak – should the coalition triumph in GE15.

Former minister Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim, when contacted, said Barisan’s suggestion was no guarantee of an efficient administration.

“That will only create more posts, more salaries to be paid and aimed at creating status,” said the Senate president.

What the country needed, he said, was to find ways to transform the government so it would function better.

“I believe that such a suggestion is not really objective. More importantly, we want to know if it will truly benefit Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, adding that the proposal was politically motivated.

However, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan defended the suggestion of having three DPM positions, saying that it was not wasteful as it would replace the function of four senior ministers.

In August last year, four senior ministers were named to the Cabinet for the portfolios of International Trade and Industry, Education, Works and Defence.

National Council of Professors senior fellow Datuk Dr Jeniri Amir said that having DPMs from Sabah and Sarawak would promote inclusivity and national integration.

Apart from fulfilling the Malaysia Agreement 1963, he said, a new deal was needed which involved political commitment from both sides of the divide to appoint DPMs from Sabah and Sarawak.

There was also an urgent need to close the development gap between Sabah and Sarawak and the peninsula, he said.

“The DPM from Sabah or Sarawak can play this role,” he said.

It’s important to fulfil this promise.”

Jeniri acknowledged that it might not be realistic to have two separate DPMs from Sabah and Sarawak but that “even having one is a step forward”.

“But it will be important for the next government to ensure that the DPM from Sabah or Sarawak is not just a figurehead,” he said, adding that the person must be given authority and portfolios with large allocations to help Sabah and Sarawak.

Universiti Malaya’s Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the proposal to have three DPMs was not unusual.

“In Belgium, there are seven deputy prime ministers. Vietnam has three deputy prime ministers.

“Therefore, it is not considered a waste because so far there have been four senior minister positions and they are almost equal to the power of the Prime Minister,” he said.

Prof Awang Azman said appointing deputy prime ministers from Sabah and Sarawak would be in line with last year’s Constitutional amendment which re-established the status of Sabah and Sarawak as a region and equivalent to the peninsula.

“The administration of Sabah and Sarawak can also be better focused,” he said.

He added that the proposal for three DPMs was also a political strategy of Barisan and Pakatan to weaken Perikatan Nasional.

“This is because it will make it difficult for Perikatan to make such a promise because Pakatan and Barisan have already made the promise in advance,” he said.

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