Based on what Mahathir said, there will indeed be a cabinet reshuffle, albeit a very minor one, and much more likely a swap of chairs among the incumbent members.
Like in a school classroom, the poorer students will be brought to the front so that the teacher can have a closer supervision.
In Mahathir’s class, the underperforming ministers will be moved to secondary portfolios to minimize the impact on government operation.
So, who are the laggards in Mahathir’s class?
To be honest, there are too many, and putting their names here is not a nice thing for me to do.
If all that Mahathir wants is to swap the pupils’ chairs, frankly speaking this kind of reshuffle is hardly of any significance at all.
If Mahathir understands how the public have been assessing his cabinet, then he should perform a big operation on it, as this is the only way to gain back some of the lost public confidence.
The problem with Mahathir’s cabinet is that it is more than just an “inexperienced and incompetent” team.
A bigger problem is: it is like a 60-year-old diesel powered KTM locomotive sluggishly chugging down the antiquated rail track with its many rail cars at a top speed of 40kph.
The fact is, some of the world’s fastest trains are already whizzing along in excess of 300kph or even 400 in the new millennium!
Although we have had a new government for over a year now, the rakyat don’t see anything different. If there is any, it is going at an even slower speed now.
This new government appears to have no idea how to properly handle some of the problems, and has instead produced more as it goes.
The recent issues on Seni Khat, Zakir and Lynas have shown that this government is operating against the will of the public without itself realizing it.
As a new government voted in for its inspiring reform slogan, PH’s failure in honoring its election promises has already frustrated many people. As if that is not enough, it is beginning to abandon the progressive and liberal spirit it used to cherish so much.
Voters who once supported PH are totally disenchanted after learning that it has not only betrayed them, but has even attempted to please its opponents with some sweet populist tricks.
PH’s credibility and support level are on the edge of the cliff. Swapping portfolios alone will not do the magic of reversing the situation. All it needs now is a drastic shake-up of the existing leadership.
There aren’t many good chips around at PH’s disposal now, save for probably Anwar Ibrahim. While there is no guarantee this is going to work, it is nevertheless the only thing that can be done now.
While PH leaders still appear to be at a loss with the many mistakes the coalition makes, it was Anwar who saw where the problems lied, and made some good suggestions others wouldn’t.
For example, on the Seni Khat controversy, he felt that it was inappropriate to force trough the measure, as it would be impossible for a student who had yet to master the national language to learn an additional script.
On Lynas, Anwar was of the opinion that the decision to extend its operating licence should be reviewed, and that the government needed to step up dialogue with anti-Lynas groups.
In the meantime, Anwar hit out hard at the notorious preacher Zakir Nik for being ungrateful to the Malaysian government for keeping him here, and creating havoc instead.
Anwar’s position in all these issues are obviously very different from that of other Malay leaders who are more inclined to racism and religionism.
Indeed, he has acted even more courageously than many non-Muslim leaders in the government!
You may think he is just trying to please non-Muslims, but at least he is not afraid of offending conservative and radical Muslims.
This is not the point, anyway. Among so many leaders in PH, Anwar is one of very few still loyally adhering to the coalition’s pluralism and moderation advocacies as well as its once progressive and liberal ideologies.
Of course, we cannot therefore conclude that Anwar is one we can fully trust, but at least he deserves a chance to prove that he is different.
Moreover, it is way more practical for Mahathir to bring Anwar into the cabinet now than to make a hundred assurances that he will hand over the baton to him soon.