Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s team is a realistic reflection of the times even if it is not as lean or has as many new faces as some people had expected.
THE Cabinet may not be as lean or new as some had hoped for but it is quite free of controversial figures.
Speculation had been rife about who would be in or out of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s team.
Najib was well aware of public opinion and made sure that his Cabinet would not carry political baggage which would impede his agenda for the nation.
Although there were only five new faces among the 28 ministers, it was, as a political insider pointed out, “a decidedly different Cabinet, you can’t say it is the same old line-up.”
In line with his 1Malaysia vision, Umno sacrificed three ministers to accommodate the component parties. Umno ministers have been reduced from 22 to 19.
And as a longtime associate of Najib pointed out, the Cabinet comprised entirely of party people.
There had been speculation he would introduce non-politicians as ministers but the party man in him knew it would not be popular and, besides, past experiences had shown that they did not always work out well.
But a significant aspect of Najib’s team is his decision to assess the performance of the ministers and deputy ministers via Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
In the past, some ministers had run their portfolios at their own whims and fancies, often failing to groom the deputy ministers. There are eight new deputy ministers and Najib sees this tier of leaders as a pool of future talent.
“Their positions in the Government will depend on how well they perform and there is no stopping the PM from reshuffling for a better team,” said the political insider.
The Prime Minister has put in a lot of thought into filling the key ministries.
There was a surprise over the choice of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the Education Minister but Najib had apparently wanted his deputy in a portfolio that would keep him in the country mostly because the Prime Minister would have many official functions overseas.
Moreover, Muhyiddin has both the intellect and clout to tackle the issues ahead.
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has moved from the Education Ministry to the powerful Home Ministry where he will be truly tested. Often criticised as being too soft, he will have a chance to prove that he is made of sterner stuff and if he does well, it could be a step upwards for this famous political son.
Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s appointment as Rural Development Minister is expected because Najib realises that Sabah and Sarawak, where communities still live at subsistence level, are in dire need of the ministry’s attention.
For Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Defence Ministry is like coming home because he had been Najib’s political secretary when the latter was Defence Minister. It is also a sign that Najib has confidence in him.
Two other appointments are also significant. Datuk Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Husni Hanadzlah had run clean campaigns during the Umno polls and their move to plum ministries is a signal that the capable and clean should be rewarded.
Mustapa, who has a first-class honours degree in economics from Australia, has what it takes to tackle the global and local economic issues under the influential International Trade and Industry Ministry.
Husni’s move to Finance should go down well with the corporate sector because he fits the bill as someone who is clean, good at his work and loyal. He has not used his position for his own political interest.
Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim will have to use his creativity in interpreting his new role as Information Minister because Najib has indicated that he does not want another “Mentri RTM”.
Some have wondered about Datuk Anifah Aman’s Foreign portfolio because he had come across as some sort of rebel last year.
But Anifah speaks good English and is also fluent in Mandarin. Besides, Najib intends to set the tone in foreign affairs and Anifah’s role will be to implement the policies.
But the talk in town was about Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin not getting any post whereas Umno Youth deputy chief Datuk Razali Ibrahim was made Deputy Youth and Sports Minister and nemesis Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir Deputy InternatioÂ¬nal Trade and Industry Minister.
But, Khairy’s political baggage was too much for Najib to overlook.
The Cabinet also saw the return of several well-known characters who lost in the general election, namely Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon. Their presence are needed to boost the grassroots base they represent.
Public expectations have admittedly been high. The team has the potential but it will have to put in all that it has got to ensure that the Barisan Nasional is returned to power in the next general election.
Source : The Star