Do we have a Cabinet of change?


INTERNAL party politics bore me. It’s like watching a particularly quarrelsome family next door. It has nothing to do with me and is at best a momentary distraction. So, I really could not care less if there were arguments within Pakatan Harapan regarding the number of ministerial posts each party got.

I am concerned however that the number of women in the Cabinet hardly make up 20%. Wasn’t there a promise of 30% women representation among policy makers?

That being the case, isn’t the Cabinet the primary policy maker? I don’t appreciate any fancy wordplay and political wheedling to get out of this important obligation.

There are those who disagree with quotas. I am not one of them. If it is done to achieve substantive equality and in a transparent manner, and if there is a sunset clause – that is to say all quotas will be abolished once parity is achieved – then I think it is a necessary measure to push-start an agenda, in this case gender equity.

So it is disappointing to see so few women in those smiling posters of new ministers. However, that is my only complaint.

With regard to the appointments in general, well, good luck, people, and get to work.

Amongst the new batch, I am glad to see Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa in charge of religious matters. He has proven time and again that his is an inclusive and progressive view on how matters of faith should be dealt with.

I hope that he will be able to steer us away from the divisive, invasive, supremacist and intolerant religious narrative that the past government had been using.

However, I am most excited with Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah as the Foreign Affairs Minister. He has promised to ratify a whole slew of human rights treaties, which is long overdue.

Did you know we are not even party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture? What, we like torture?

If we do ratify a whole bunch of new treaties, then obviously it means I will have to change my syllabus! Some of my research students will also have to modify their work because they started writing under a regime that was quite indifferent to human rights.

Actually, come to think of it, Saifuddin is making my life difficult. Darn it.

My own selfishness aside, I am looking forward to seeing what changes all these new ministers are going to make. And I hope they do a very good job.

I say this because it is imperative they prove that this country can move away from the type of governance of the past and life will be better for everyone.

The Opposition at the moment appears to want to remain in the past. This can be seen by the selection of Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as president of Umno.

Obviously, Umno people like how the party has been operating, so they chose a person who has been key in that modus operandi.

Umno still has significant support amongst the Malay demographic as does PAS. So if the Opposition takes over in the next general election, we will be trudging back to the bad old days.

The ball is in the court of the new Pakatan Harapan government. It is up to the current leaders to show the nation that a new way of doing things will be good for all of us. That is the only sure way to ensure that GE14 does not become a mere blip, albeit a very grand blip, in this country’s history.

Azmi Sharom (azmi.sharom@gmail.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Azmi Sharom , Brave New World