‘Good intentions’ aside, three is a crowd in an already bloated administration.
WHY do we need two or three Deputy Prime Ministers? Aren’t we drowning with Ministers, Deputies and Special Envoys who barely make a ripple in the already bloated Cabinet?
Both the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan are unabashedly attempting to out-do each other in securing their share of DPMs.
The suggestion is for a DPM each from Sabah, Sarawak and from Peninsula.
The two competing coalitions are aware that no side will have the edge to form the next federal government without the support of parties from our two largest states.
At stake are 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak, where the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is expected to unleash a tsunami, with at least 26 seats in the coming federal elections.
The GPS comprises Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).
The DAP has six seats, but it’s Stampin, Lanang and Sibu that will be in the crosshairs, where SUPP has a chance of snatching it back from the DAP. However, much hinges on the candidates it fields.
But PH has sounded a warning against the early optimism of GPS, pointing out that there are 600,000 new voters, whose allegiances are unknown. How wonderful for them to experience voting for the first time and be able to choose the best future for the country.
In Sabah, 25 Parliamentary seats are up for grabs, but don’t expect a scrap like in the Peninsula because the state is governed by Gabungan Rakyat Sabah-Barisan Nasional.
Barisan comprises Umno, MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), while GRS is made up of Bersatu, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).
In Sabah, where politics is always complicated, 25 seats are at stake, but the perception now is that the state would be shared by Barisan, GRS/Bersatu and Warisan, with its six seats and DAP with its few.
Again, there are many variables, and the scenario will only be clearer closer to polling day. There are half a million new voters there.
It’s realistic to believe the promise of a DPM from the two states will be bandied to gain votes during the campaign.
These Peninsula politicians may have overshot in their promises, but it doesn’t look like they’ve tuned in to the sentiments of the rest of Malaysia, either.
Even Sabah and Sarawak have given lukewarm responses to the promises by these two coalitions, so far.
So, on one hand, we hear Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim pledging to whittle the allowances of the PM and shrink the Cabinet, and in the same breath, says he will have more DPMs.
Writing in Sinar Harian, its editor-in-chief Rozaid Rahman said, “the irony is Anwar made the promises after giving the assurance to reduce the size of the Cabinet and would perform salary and allowance cuts for the prime minister if they successfully formed a government.
“The question we have is how would these savings be achieved if he intended to create the DPM positions?
“Together with the positions would be additional salaries, allowances, special privileges such as a residence, additional police escorts, personal guards, and exclusive usage of aircraft during visits and official work domestically or internationally.
“This is before considering the added support staff they require as well as being given the title becoming the ‘Yang Amat Berhormat’ (YAB) Deputy Prime Minister.
“In our country, there are only four positions that hold the title YAB – the first is the Prime Minister, followed by Menteri Besar, Chief Minister and lastly, the Deputy Prime Minister. Along with the YAB title, there are benefits that come with it, as stated above.
“So, where would this Cabinet focus on cutting down and saving if they intend to add positions not written down in the Constitution and want to declare that DPM has not received any privileges they enjoyed – for the people, for the country.”
Believe it or no not, there was a time when police outriders were purely for the PM and DPM, besides the Sultans and Yang di-Pertua Negeri, of course.
But now, certain ministers and even officials have earned these privileges.
In fact, the Federal Constitution is bereft of provision for the position of a DPM, but first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman picked Tun Abdul Razak to assist him, and the tradition has remained.
But as Rozaid pointed out, when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was PM, he only elected a DPM – Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob – a month before he resigned, but before that, he had only elected senior ministers.
Ismail Sabri replaced Muhyiddin’s position in August 2021, thus, the DPM seat was vacant, and he maintained the senior ministers until Parliament’s dissolution on Oct 10. Hence, Muhyiddin was the last prime minister to appoint a DPM.
Having three DPMs would merely be symbolic. Authority would be diluted, and, in the end, it would have been pointless.
If the GPS delivers 26 seats or more and is the key to forming a federal government to ensure stability, then Sarawak deserves to get the DPM post. In fact, it should demand that post as a condition.
Sarawak should also demand equal partner status and rights under the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 (MA63) – in the formation of Malaysia – be fulfilled.
A lot of Malaysians would prefer to see a DPM from Sarawak for a change. Perhaps more Sabahans and Sarawakians in a lean Cabinet?
Wong Chun Wai
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.