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Call for an urgent Cabinet downsizing and  reshuffle as  the last hope to move  the stalled Abdullah reforms in the past two years



Speech  at the DAP forum on Parliamentary and State Assembly Reports
by Lim Kit Siang  

Grand View Hotel, Ipoh, Tuesday): With the ASEAN Summit, various ASEAN Plus Summits and the East Asia Summit out of the way, the time has come for the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to fully  focus on his pledges of reform to lead a clean, incorruptible, trustworthy, accountable, just, efficient, competent, people-oriented administration which is prepared to listen to the truth from the people.

In the past two years, apart from rhetoric, Abdullah has very little to show in the delivery of his reform  pledge and programme, which had been stalled on the ground even before it could achieve a take-off.

In some crucial aspects, there has begun a serious slippage of public confidence although in the beginning there had been euphoria and high  expectations in Abdullah’s reform pledges, resulting in the unprecedented Barisan Nasional victory in the March 2004  general election winning an unprecedented  92% parliamentary majority, which former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had recently said as “too strong” and a threat to democracy and good governance.

Instead of being his strongest hand, the 92% parliamentary majority may turn out  to be Abdullah’s most fatal weakness, for two reasons:

  • Although Abdullah is personally committed to his reform pledge, after more than two years as Prime Minister, he remain a lone voice in his Cabinet and government to create a  new culture for zero tolerance for corruption and call for a First-World Malaysia not just on infrastructure, but in all aspects,  whether on First-World Parliament and Judiciary, towering Malaysians, international competitiveness, world-class civil service and police.
  • The weakest parliamentary opposition in the nation’s history with only eight per cent of parliamentary seats  has made it very difficult  to provide the necessary checks and balance to help Abdullah to deliver his reform pledges – as the 92% Barisan Nasional parliamentary majority has turned out to be the biggest obstacle to Abdullah’s reform programme.

I will give just three examples to illustrate the slippage of public confidence in the ability of Abdullah to overcome his dilemma of “one man versus the  system” to deliver his reform pledge and programme:

  • Although one of Abdullah’s first reform initiatives is his announcement  of the Royal Police Commission in December 2003 , public confidence in the police has now reached an all-time low when it should have scored a significant turnaround of public confidence seven months after the submission of the Report of the Royal Police Commission.

The comment by the Prime Minister whether the people would believe the police had it earlier revealed that the nationality of the woman victim in the police naked earsquat videoclip was a local Malay and not a Chinese national was  a damning confirmation that public confidence in the police is even worse today than before the establishment of the Police Royal Commission two years ago.

  • Although Abdullah has proclaimed the National Integrity Plan and  set up the Institute of Integrity of Malaysia, they have failed to make any impact in creating a new culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption – highlighted by the worst case of money politics in UMNO party elections last year, with many UMNO leaders whether at federal  or state level getting away scot-free with their money politics and corrupt practices. Even the UMNO Vice President, Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad was able to hang on as Federal Territories Minister for four months after being found guilty of money politics and  corruption in UMNO and is still a Member of Parliament.
  • The worsening crisis of higher education in Malaysia, highlighted by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Ranking 2005 with the nation’s premier university, University of Malaya falling 80 places from 89th to 169th ranking, losing even to Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, while Universiti Sains Malaysia fell out of the Top 200 University bracket altogether from its previous 111th position.

There are many who had initially been euphoric about Abdullah’s reform pledges who have been so disenchanted by the paucity of action and results in the past two years as to have written off the Abdullah premiership altogether, believing that however well-meaning Abdullah is about his reform programme, he lacks the political will to ensure that he can triumph  in the battle between “man vs system”.

I am myself disappointed by the lack of real results in the reform programme of Abdullah’s   two-year premiership, as we do not want just a more open, tolerant and relaxed administration as compared to the Mahathir era. 

I am not yet prepared  however to completely write off all hopes that something solid and durable can still be achieved from Abdullah’s  reform pledges, although time is running out as it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain such a belief.

But  if anything is to be salvaged from Abdullah’s reform pledges, he must urgently downsize and reshuffle his  Cabinet, which represent the  last hope to move  the stalled Abdullah reforms in the past two years. 

Abdullah cannot continue to be one man versus the system. He must have a Cabinet which is as fully committed as him  to reform and a clean and incorruptible government to begin to change the system.

He must remove  all the  deadwood in his Cabinet, who are proving to be  the strongest impediment  to his reform programme, as there are many other Isa Samads in the present Cabinet.   This is why  two years after being Prime Minister, Abdullah  remains the lone voice in calling for integrity, eradication of the corruption culture and the upholding of accountability, transparency and efficiency.

Abdullah must have his own Cabinet, lean and reform-minded, with  every Minister  and Deputy Minister fully committed to be the strongest advocate and champion in the respective Ministries in the fight against corruption and uphold accountability and transparency, and not leave the Prime Minister to the lone voice against corruption and inefficiency.

A Cabinet downsizing and reshuffle is long overdue and should not be delayed any longer – as any further delay can on reflect adversely on Abdullah’s judgment and leadership qualities as Prime Minister.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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