The sudden Cabinet reshuffle today, sacking Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and four other Ministers, following the morning shocking sacking of Tan Sri Gani Patail as the Attorney-General more than two months before his retirement on 6th October are the latest panic efforts to salvage the rapidly sinking UMNO/BN coalition which had governed this country for 58 years.
The Cabinet reshuffle today has been described as “rearranging the furniture on the sinking Titanic” and future history will vindicate this description.
The Cabinet reshuffle is not designed to produce a more competent, efficient and professional Cabinet which can save Malaysia from becoming a failed state because of rampant corruption, socio-economic inefficiencies and injustices, and the failure of good governance, but to give Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a new lease of political life by removing from the Cabinet Ministers who threaten his political future by demanding that the Prime Minister should give proper public explanation and accountability for the RM42 billion 1MDB scandal and the Wall Street Journal allegation that RM2.6 billion had been deposited into his personal accounts before the 13th General Election.
The important Education Ministry has again been split into two Ministries, one for Education and the other Higher Education, but looking at the Ministers and Deputy Ministers assigned to these two critical Ministries, I fully understand the feeling of the Selangor State Assemby Speaker Hannah Yeoh when she tweeted: “I look at the Education Ministry and I want to cry for our children sake.”
My disappointments at the lack of Ministerial leaderships in both the Education and Higher Education Ministries after the reshuffle are summed up in my tweet: “Not inspiring developments that Malaysian education can restore glorious past.”
But the sine qua non dictating the sudden Cabinet reshuffle is not any higher notions of taking Malaysia to greater political, economic, educational and social heights of achievement, but purely to consolidate Najib’s power position by removing all possible threats to his political survival.
And at present, the single greatest threat to Najib’s power position is undoubtedly the monstrous 1MDB scandal.
In one fell swoop, with the unconstitutional sacking of the Attorney-General and the removal of the outspoken Chairman and three UMNO/BN members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), whether as Minister or Deputy Ministers, efforts to pry open the 1MDB scandal suffered full body blows.
Working under a thick cloud of suspicion about its independence and professionalism, the multi-agency Special Task Force on the 1MDB scandal and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) allegations appeared to be making headway in trying to bring to book those responsible for the biggest financial scandal in the country affecting top-most levels of the government.
It would appear that history would be made in anti-corruption efforts, where not only “ikan bilis” would be picked up, but also “ikan yus” – the sharks – and the sudden sacking of the Attorney-General before his due retirement date in October raises the question whether the objective of the Cabinet reshuffle was to interfere and stymie full investigations into the 1MDB scandal and the WSXJ allegations.
With regard to the PAC, although it has lost its Chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan and three BN members, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican (Umno – Kepala Batas) and Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (Umno – Masjid Tanah) who have been appointed as deputy ministers and Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau (Upko- Tuaran) who is now Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, the PAC should proceed full steam with its investigations into the 1MDB scandal – not only full speed but even accelerate the process of investigations if this is possible.
Although the PAC has no Chairman until a new appointment by Parliament, PAC has a Vice Chairman in the person of Dr. Tan Seng Giaw (DAP MP for Kepong) and sufficident working numbers to continue with its investigations into the 1MDB scandal.
Parliamentary Standing Orders 77(2) provides that the PAC shall consist of a Chairman and Vice Chairman to be appointed by Parliament, and not less than six and not more than 12 members to be appointed by the Committee of Selection.
Without the three UMNO/BN members because of their elevation to Ministerial ranks, there are still eight PAC committee members who, with the Deputy Chairman, can continue the unfinished work of PAC, especially with regard to investigations into the 1MDB scandal. In other words, with Seng Giaw as Chairman, there are still 4 Umno/BN MPs, 2PKR MPs, 1 DAP MP and 1PAS MP to continue PAC investigations.
But even more important than PAC investigations into 1MDB is the larger question of parliamentary and national confidence in Najib as Prime Minister and his new Cabinet after the reshuffle.
For this reason, I call on Najib to convene an emergency meeting of Parliament before the 58th Merdeka Day anniversary on August 31 to submit himself and his new Cabinet to a confidence vote in Parliament, as well as to ensure comprehensive and unfettered investigations into 1MDB scandal and WSJ reports.
It will be interesting to find out whether UMNO Deputy President, Muhyiddin Yassin, who had been sacked as Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister for speaking out on 1MDB scandal, as well as others sacked in today’s reshuffle, are prepared to vote in a confidence motion in favour of Najib as Prime Minister.