Archive for March 24th, 2008

Good Team, Bad Captain

by M. Bakri Musa

Among other things, in this election Malaysians have asserted in no uncertain terms that they do not approve of Abdullah’s inept administration and his tolerance if not encouragement of corruption and shady practices among those closest to him. With his new cabinet however, Abdullah once again demonstrated that he has learned nothing from the election debacle, his frequent declarations to the contrary notwithstanding.

While the addition of fresh talent in the persons of Amirsham Aziz and Zaid Ibrahim makes this a good cabinet, the retention of the same old tired faces as Syed Hamid, together with the inclusion of tainted characters like the “double Muhammad” Taib, smudges what otherwise would be an excellent team. It was, as the Economist noted, Abdullah’s shuffling deckchairs on a personal Titanic.

This election did what Abdullah could not, that is, get rid of deadwoods like Samy Vellu and incompetents like Zainuddin Maidin. Voters showed the way but Abdullah did not carry it further with his choice of a new cabinet. This good new team is cursed with the same old bad captain.

A team no matter how talented could not turn an incompetent captain into a good one. Neither would a prolonged “warm up” time accomplish much; a bad captain will still remain so. As one blogger cheekily noted, today even Abdullah’s “sign dah tak laku” (signature is worthless, as on a bounced check), in reference to the Raja of Perlis ignoring Abdullah’s choice for a Mentri Besar. As of my writing, the Sultan of Trengganu too is set to do likewise.

Abdullah’s cabinet remains bloated with 33 ministers, including five in his own department. His “reform” consists of nothing more than changing faces. He fails to address more fundamental issues like whether any of those ministries are needed at all.

For example, what is glaringly obvious from this election is that the Ministry of Information has no credibility with Malaysians or foreign observers. It is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the ruling party, and an inept one at that. Replacing its minister would not alter that reality. In the Age of the Internet, this is one ministry Malaysia can do without. Abolishing it, together with other unneeded ministries like Sports, Tourism, and Federal Territory, among others, would shrink the cabinet and streamline the administration.

This huge cabinet is unwieldy. No meaningful or robust discussions could take place. Even if each minister were to speak for only a few minutes, cabinet meetings would stretch for hours. Read the rest of this entry »


A Law To Prevent Defections

(Speech when moving a motion in Parliament on March 21, 1978 to seek leave of the House to introduce a private member’s bill intituled Members of Parliament [Prevention of Defection] Act 1978 to ensure political integrity of Members of Parliament)

I rise under Standing Order 49(2) to move a motion to seek leave of the House to introduce a Private Member’s Bill intituled Members of Parliament (Prevention of Defection) Act, 1978, which would require a Member of Parliament to vacate his seat within 30 days and cause a by-election to be held on his resignation or expulsion from the Party on whose ticket he was originally elected.

In November last year, I was invited by a Tamil national daily, Tamil Nesan, to answer question submitted by Tamil Nesan readers. One question that was asked was about the defection of Opposition Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen after their election, in betrayal of the confidence and trust placed on them by the electorate.

I was asked what effective measure could be taken to prevent such opportunistic political betrayal of the people’s confidence. I replied that the most effective way would be for the enactment of a law requiring a Member of Parliament to vacate his seat and cause a by-election to be held on his resignation or expulsion from the Party on whose ticket he was originally elected. I promised to move a private member’s bill on his matter considering its importance.

Such a Bill is important so as to ensure the political integrity of elected MPs and to prevent political corruption.

Nothing disgusts the Malaysian public more than to see MPs or State Assemblymen elected on one party’s ticket and then betray the Party and the people’s trust by switching parties. This makes them very little different from con-men. Such practices debase politics, and strengthen the general impression that ‘politics is dirty’, when it is the dirty people who get into politics to make politics dirty. Read the rest of this entry »