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Strong leadership and clear directions urgently needed from Abdullah as the Cabinet reshuffle is  swiftly becoming a farce 


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Saturday): Strong leadership and clear directions are urgently needed from the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as the Cabinet reshuffle announced on Tuesday is swiftly becoming a farce.

There were two farcical developments today. Firstly, the clarification by the Prime Minister rebutting yesterday’s  Star front-page headline report “APs still under me – Rafidah makes clear who’s in charge” which had quoted the International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz as saying: “I’m still in charge of the APs”  - that despite the committee set up in the Prime Minister’s Department and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to look into AP-related issues, matters relating to the issuance of APs for car imports were fully under the jurisdiction of her ministry.

In his clarification today, the Prime Minister said the committee in the Prime Minister’s Department chaired by Najib was fully responsible for considering and deciding on policies relating to APs for vehicles, as well as resolving any problems arising from the implementation of policies related to APs.

I am utterly  confused.  I had originally directed my question on APs for the forthcoming 30-day  parliamentary meeting starting on March 13 to the Prime Minister’s Department, and had altered it to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry after Rafidah’s clarification in the Star yesterday.   Should the question be now redirected back to the Prime Minister’s Department?

But it is not only MPs and the Malaysian public who are confused, it would appear that Ministers including Rafidah herself  are equally confused.

Was Rafidah being insufferably arrogant and contemptuous of the Prime Minister’s prerogatives in publicly trying to hijack back her powers and responsibilities over APs for vehicles, or was she just confused and unclear as to what are her actual powers and responsibilities on the matter? I would be charitable and think it is the latter, and if so, it provides a frightening picture and the latest evidence of a very shambolic Cabinet to the extent that ministers are themselves confused as to their jurisdictional powers and responsibilities?

The second farcical post-Cabinet reshuffle development was the reaction of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz to the Prime Minister’s comment on Thursday that the performance of ministers would be monitored by a committee which would submit reports to him.

Nazri said it woould be better for ministers not to know the set-up and composition of the committee tasked with monitoring their performance.

He said: “Otherwise, (if we know who are monitoring us), I am afraid we can reach a compromise.

“(It is) Good that we don’t, so that we can continue to be alert and work hard as expected of us by our Prime Minister and the people.” 

Nazri said only the Prime Minister knew about the committee.

”To me, that’s better. There is no need for us to know how the committee works.

“As Cabinet members,  we should work hard and there is no reason to be afraid if we get ourt job done. I am all for it.”  (New Straits Times)

I find Abdullah’s announcement of a monitoring committee for Ministers and Nazri’s response equally extraordinary – in the latter case, no knowledge needed as to who are the “James Bonds” who had been appointed to snoop into the work of Ministers and therefore no KPIs or benchmarks  for Ministers required!

I still do not believe that Abdullah was really serious when he made the comment about a committee to monitor the performance of the Ministers which will report to him about the performance of the Cabinet members.

Abdullah should clarify whether he is serious about a committee to monitor the performance of the Ministers, and if so, MPs and the people are entitled to further details – even if Ministers do not want to know anything about it.

How can such a committee be kept a secret?  Will they be paid from public funds or  will they be rendering an  honorary public service?  Will they be equally subject to the principles of accountability, transparency and integrity?

Who will be on the committee to monitor the performance of the  Ministers? Will they be civil servants and will this create Super  civil servants who are superior to the Ministers, making nonsense of the principle that civil servants are responsible to the Cabinet and not the other way round?

Or are these monitors to come from outside the civil service to be recruited from certain political circles from the ruling coalition – which will make a mockery of MPs as such Cabinet supervision should properly be exercised by Parliament through the establishment of an effective  parliamentary select committee shadowing each Ministry.

If Abdullah is serious about such a monitoring committee, Malaysia may be the first Commonwealth country with a system of parliamentary democracy under going such a mutation.

With the notion of a committee to monitor ministers’ performance, Abdullah will be giving the last nail to the concept of the  Prime Minister as  “prImus inter pares” or “first among equals” and creating instead one where the Prime Minister is like  a headmaster trying to impose discipline among a group of head-strong students through a still-unclear  monitoring  system.


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

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