Monday, March 17, 2008


Fresh faces to dominate new Cabinet


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is set to announce his new Cabinet, albeit a relatively smaller one, by Tuesday, which will likely see a host of new faces who emerged victorious in the just-ended general election. Early indications show the line-up may consist of between 26 and 28 ministries from the previous 31, with some ministries to be merged. Abdullah has for the past few days held meetings with all the Barisan Nasional (BN) component party heads to 4vork out the finer details before making up his mind, a reflection of the need to adhere to the power-sharing concept of the BN and take all communities into consideration. There has been much speculation over the last few days as to who are the Ministers to be retained by Abdullah. The Prime Minister had made it clear that ministers, who were defeated in the March 8 election would not be re-appointed, which means there would not be “backdoor” entries into the Cabinet via senator-ship. BN won 140 seats to gain a simple majority in Parliament, just eight seats short to secure a two-thirds majority, while the Opposition has 82. In some countries, such a result would be considered a landslide win. Sources told Bernama that several Umno and MCA Deputy Ministers in the former Cabinet are set to move up as Ministers. MCA is likely to have four new representatives and MIC will feature a new Minister for the first time since 1979. “The MIC Minister would be the sole Indian representative in the Cabinet,” said a source, who hinted that party Secretary-General and Segamat Member of Parliament Datuk Dr S Subramanian may get the job. The source also said that MIC is likely to be given two Deputy Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries. There is also a possibility of one more Deputy Minister’s post reserved for the Indian community. Some in the MIC are speculating that Datuk M Saravanan (newly elected Tapah MP) may be made a Minister. Another source told Bernama from the Umno side that among the likely candidates to be promoted are former Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Deputy Information Minister Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Works Minister Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamad and Deputy Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shahzinian Abu Mansor. Sources are speculating that Shahziman is tipped to head the Information Ministry, which may see the communications component taken out from the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry. The move is to streamline the information and communication portfolios under one umbrella. MCA has submitted four names for ministerial positions, comprising party Secretary-General Datuk Ong Ka Chuan, Vice-President Datuk Ong Tee Keat, Youth Chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai and Wanita Chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen. Ka Chuan is expected to take over from younger brother Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting at the Housing and Local Government Ministry while the others may assume portfolios traditionally apportioned to MCA, with the Transport portfolio going to Tee Keat, Human Resources to Liow and Health to Dr Ng. If elevated, Dr Ng will be the party’s first woman Minister. “We are likely to get only four ministers and five Deputy Ministers’ posts as we have decided to give up the Parliamentary Secretaries’ posts and opted for fewer Deputy Ministers,” a party source said. Prior to the election, MCA had four Ministers, eight Deputy Ministers, four parliamentary Secretaries and one Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s post under the “4:8:4 + 1 arrangement”. Gerakan, which managed to retain only two parliamentary seats, is likely to lose its place in the Cabinet, as Acting President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon had said the party was not asking for any ministerial position. BN components from Sabah and Sarawak, which had performed exceptionally well, having won 24 of the 25 seats and 30 of the 31 seats at stake, respectively, may see a higher Cabinet representation this time. Sources said Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) had asked for additional Ministers after they won most of their seats. PBS won two of the three parliamentary seats, United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO) retained all three parliamentary seats and SAPP won all its two parliamentary seats. Other component parties such as Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also won their sole parliamentary seats in Pensiangan and Sandakan, respectively. The victorious candidates are PBS Deputy President Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili (Kota Marudu), UPKO President Tan Sri Bernard Dompok (Penampang), PBRS President Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (Pensiangan) and LDP President Datuk V K Liew (Sandakan). Previously, Sabah had three Ministers, one each from Umno, PBS and UPKO. This composition is likely to be maintained, with several new Deputy Ministers given to other Sabah BN component parties. “UPKO is likely to get one Deputy Minister’s post apart from the existing one Minister’s post,” a Sabah BN source said. SAPP, LDP and PBRS are expected to get a Deputy Minister each. Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) had also requested for two more Ministers instead of one in the previous Cabinet. Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) had only asked for their status quo in the Cabinet and the administration to be maintained. PBB won all 14 seats it contested, SUPP six out of seven, while PRS and SPDP retained all six and four seats, respectively. PPB would at least get two ministerial positions and either PRS or SPDP would get another Minister’s post to better reflect the Dayak community, the sources said. Prior to the dissolution of Parliament, PBB only had a sole representative in Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi, who did not contest in the polls, while PRS was represented by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Joseph Entulu, and Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Joseph Salang, while SPDP by Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe. SPDP had recommended Dr Tiki Lafe (Mas Gading), Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan (Baram), Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (Bintulu), Jelaing Mersat (Saratok) and Senator Paul Chek Nyuk for federal postings. The Orang Ulu community had lobbied for fourth-term Baram MP Jacob to be considered for a Minister’s post on the rationale that he would be able to facilitate development in the rural constituency, which is as big as Pahang, but the country’s least developed due to its remoteness and vastness. - Bernama