PETALING JAYA: Despite objections to appointing individuals with ongoing court cases to the Cabinet, Chua Tian Chang, better known as Tian Chua, argues that Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should be an exception, as the Umno president played a pivotal role in the present government.
The former PKR vice-president credited Ahmad Zahid for being firm in ensuring Barisan Nasional’s support for Anwar’s unity government, as there were many MPs in the Umno-led coalition who were initially hesitant about cooperating with Pakatan Harapan.
“Ahmad Zahid played a pivotal role in pulling the grand coalition together. Not forgetting there was strong rejection within Barisan for cooperating with Pakatan in the initial stages.
“Barisan MPs were split over the choice of ruling partners. Ahmad Zahid’s firm leadership swiftly ended the stalemate,” said Chua in a statement Tuesday (Nov 29).
Chua said Pakatan has chosen to cooperate with Barisan and when in partnership, the two blocs must accord each other respect and accept parity.
“If Barisan parties were to nominate their chairman into the Cabinet, it is not proper for Pakatan to pick and choose who they want.
“This will be against the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust,” said Chua.
At the same time, Chua said that Pakatan and Barisan leaders have to build trust and confidence in each other if they wish to govern effectively.
“Undeniably, there’s still scepticism within Barisan, especially Umno. Ahmad Zahid has demonstrated his ability to consolidate Barisan into a unified stance to cooperate with Pakatan,” said Chua.
Chua also said Ahmad Zahid’s experience in government was an advantage and he could complement the largely inexperienced Pakatan ministers.
“He could also mediate between Pakatan and the civil service and more conservative segments of the government.
“He could play a key role in stabilising the new government,” said Chua.
“Ahmad Zahid could also be useful in linking up other component parties in the grand coalition, such as Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), among others,” added Chua.
He noted that there were arguments that Ahmad Zahid’s inclusion in the Cabinet could jeopardise anti-graft efforts by the government.
However, Chua said there was no immunity for any Cabinet member and Ahmad Zahid must still prove his innocence in court.
Meanwhile, Chua also said barring leaders with ongoing court cases does not automatically bring about a cleaner government.
“The previous government barred the 'court cluster' from Cabinet, yet it continued the practice of direct negotiations and favouritism in procurement, among others.
“There were no effective reforms, yet it created a protracted tension between coalition parties,” said Chua.
To fight corruption, Chua said there have to be genuine reforms to overhaul the present governing institutions systematically.
“Unless words can be translated into action, there is no point in moralising the leadership,” added Chua.
Chua also said ensuring a corruption-free society wasn't merely about leaders upholding high moral standards.
“For me, the most important work for the new government is to embark on actual reforms to build transparent and efficient delivery by government functionaries.
“This requires courage from the new coalition leaders. Excluding the so-called 'court cluster' is a rather superficial public relations exercise,” said Chua.
Chua also said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s move of not receiving a salary was mere “self-projecting of a moral image”.
A non-salaried prime minister said Chua, does not translate to a clean government and it doesn’t boost investor confidence.
“On the contrary, the government by right should study how to commensurate ministers to avoid bribery.
“In short, to undertake comprehensive reforms, we need a strong and effective government.
“Fortunately, Pakatan enjoyed a good start. But, it cannot afford a divergence with Barisan at this early stage,” said Chua.
“Cooperation between Anwar and Ahmad Zahid is absolutely crucial,” added Chua.