Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cabinet Committees To Be Trimmed

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today the number of cabinet committees will be trimmed to smoothen the administration and ensure that all matters discussed are implemented.

He said that at his meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak a few days ago they agreed that the committees be grouped in clusters, for example, economy would be under one cluster and social matters under another.

Each week the ministers would have to attend up to four cabinet committee meetings, he told reporters after handing over the duties of International Trade and Industry minister to Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.

"There are many cabinet committees and all of them are important. We also have other matters that we have to implement for the country," he said.

He said some of the committees would be chaired by him and the rest by Najib.

Earlier, at a special meeting with the officers and staff of the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI), Muhyiddin said there were now 30 to 40 cabinet committees.

He said although MITI had only 3,000 staff compared with some ministries which had more, he was confident that they were capable of discharging their duties professionally and well.

He said the government had drawn up pro-business policies which required the ministry to work to ensure that all the initiatives taken or to be taken continued to develop in the worst economic gloom in 80 years.

"MITI's role and responsibility are challenging and the initiatives taken by the government and the PM in the RM67 billion economic stimulus package must be implemented so that the economy does not slum that badly," he said.

He said MITI must take swift action and be brave and effective in allaying the concerns of the private sector, chambers of commerce and small-and-medium scale industries so that this group was not burdened by the economic recession.


Be quiet, Muhyiddin tells MIC

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today stopped short, barely, of giving a public dressing down to the MIC by pointing out that Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties should respect the prime minister’s Cabinet choices and not air their grouses publicly.

The deputy prime minister was commenting on reports over the weekend that the MIC was unhappy with Cabinet appointments and was considering pulling out its representatives from the government.

The Malaysian Insider understands the threat against the BN leadership was a result of Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu’s exclusion from the Cabinet. The unpopular MIC president is unhappy that he was snubbed while Gerakan president Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon was made a minister through a senatorial appointment.

Muhyiddin told reporters today that dissatisfaction over Cabinet appointments should not be openly discussed as it could be exploited as fodder by the opposition, suggesting the frailties of the BN government against unrelenting attacks from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and other critics of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s fledgling administration.

He added that he has also spoken to the deputy president of MIC, who has denied the party had discussed such a move.

Muhyiddin said there was no need for the matter to be brought up to the BN because the MIC president could always meet the prime minister.

Muhyiddin was speaking to the press after handing over duties at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, who is the new minister.

Of late there has been intense speculations in the press that MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu was considering pulling out Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam and deputy ministers Datuk S.K. Devamany and Datuk M. Saravanan, from the Cabinet.

The move is seen as a means to pressure the new administration to give the party more Cabinet positions.

Gerakan, MCA rebuke DPM over ‘ungrateful Chinese voters’

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin continues to draw criticism over his recent comments that Chinese voters were ungrateful for not voting for BN even though the government had assisted the community, with the latest rebukes coming from Umno’s partners in the Barisan Nasional (BN) .

Of the two component parties in the ruling coalition that issued a response to Muyhiddin’s comments however, it was Gerakan that saw its senior leadership speaking out while the task of doing so at MCA was left to the party’s information and communication bureau.

MCA’s response however, was remarkable in that it hit out hard against Umno’s perceived arrogance and listed down an exhaustive list of grievances harboured by the Chinese and even other non-Malay communities.

Gerakan Deputy President Datuk Chang Ko Youn said he disagreed with Muhyiddin and that BN’s conventional practice of doling out allocations during elections no longer works as voters want problems to be attended to continuously.

“The more substantive issues of corruption, abuse of power and equity in national leadership and government delivery system must be dealt with first, only then will the voters who deserted the BN be ready to return,” Chang said.

Muyhiddin had said in an interview published in Mingguan Malaysia yesterday that the BN felt deceived by Chinese voters in the recent by-election in Bukit Gantang and that the voters should have been grateful for help given to Chinese schools and that the non-Malays see themselves as kingmakers in the current scenario where the Malay vote is split between three Malay based political parties — Umno, PAS and PKR.

In a separate interview in Utusan Malaysia published on April 10, the deputy prime minister said that the drop in support from the Chinese community was as if they did not appreciate what the BN has done for them.

The BN strategy of having separate campaigns for different ethnic communities was also criticised by Chang who urged the ruling Umno-led coalition to move away from ethno-centric campaigning and instead adopt cohesive, universal messages that appeal to all Malaysians.

He added that emphasis must be given to the prime minister’s slogan of One Malaysia, which emphasises mutual trust and respect among the different ethnic communities.

“The focus of uniting Malaysia under the One Malaysia ‘People First, Performance Now’ agenda is a winner because it promotes fairness and equity, and gives real meaning to the Barisan Nasional struggle,” he said.

Lee Wei Kiat, the head of the MCA information and communication bureau said that MCA “takes exception” to the deputy prime minister’s remarks and laid out a laundry list of issues that he believes have caused Chinese voters to turn away from the BN.

Issues such as abuse of the New Economic Policy (NEP), a largely mono-ethnic civil service, religious conversion issues, misuse of the ISA and “mob rule” tactics that disrupted civilised dialogue and forums were among the frustrations faced by the Chinese community, said Lee.

Touching on Umno’s arrogance, Lee said that acts such as waving the keris amid fiery speeches during the 2006 Umno party assembly and recent statements that Umno was the sole political party responsible for the nation’s independence, both committed by now defence minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, was still a sore point with the non-Malays.

“The image of the brandishing of the keris amidst talks of ‘bathing in blood’ which alluded to a civil war against a conjured enemy of another community still remains unforgivable,” said Lee.

“Moreover, convenient amnesia at the recently concluded Umno general assembly where an Umno supreme council leader obliterated the contributions of non-Malays towards independence asserting that Merdeka was forged by Umno and the Malay Rulers and nobody else, also fuelled dissatisfaction among the non-Malay communities.”

Hishammuddin has publicly denied that he had excluded the involvement of the MCA and the MIC in the process of attaining Malaysia’s independence. He has also said that the use of the Keris during the assembly will be discontinued.

He also pointed out that Umno was not able to convince the Malays to vote in sufficient numbers in order to ensure a BN victory in the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections even though these two constituencies are Malay majority polling districts.

Lee also noted the astonishing change of sentiment in the Chinese community toward the Islamist party PAS, which is now part of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, within the space of two general elections.

“In 2004, the Chinese overwhelmingly rejected PAS’s Islamist agenda of a theocratic state based on hudud and qisas which wreaked of amputating limbs, public lashing and requiring four men of good conduct to witness a rape before an alleged rapist was found guilty and gave the mandate to BN,” said Lee.

“In 2008, corruption, cronyism, perceived judicial bias, racial and religious discrimination and intolerance led the multiracial rakyat particularly those on the peninsular to favour the opposition.”

He said that if BN wanted to win back support, it would have to overhaul government policies so that every Malaysian citizen is accorded equality, which according to Lee, is guaranteed under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.

“Malaysian citizens have the right to a decent life, free of bigotry, with the adoption of meritocracy and access to equal development where aid is delivered on the basis of need and not racial hegemony,” he said.

Lee’s comments are unlikely to be looked on favourably by his partners in Umno however.

The dominant party in the BN coalition feels that it has sacrificed a lot for its coalition partners which nevertheless, have failed to deliver the votes from their respective ethnic communities.

Many in Umno feel that MCA should not make demands until it delivers the votes.

Foreign Minister and senior Umno member, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim was reported to have remarked that MCA should not request for a second deputy prime minister post when the party is weak and unable to attract the majority of Chinese voters.

He said this in reference to MCA deputy secretary-general Datuk Loke Yuen Yow’s proposal for the creation of the posts of Chinese deputy prime minister and Chinese Barisan Naional (BN) deputy chairman. -MalaysiaInsider