No point reshuffling the Cabinet now

Reshuffling the Cabinet now will not solve some of the predicaments faced by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. Even Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recognises this.

Moaz Nair, Free Malaysia Today

It would be of no immediate advantage to the government, but would only add to the uncertainty and create resentment among existing ministers. This would certainly disorient the functions of the government, to a certain extent.

The best the prime minister can do now is to tell his Cabinet members to buck up.

If truth be told, the problem with the government now is that it has the habit of acting too late on sensitive matters that could hurt the feelings of the people, thinking that all is well with its policies. Matters of public importance are allowed to drag on and are left to be debated by disgruntled groups. This often becomes fodder for the opposition.

The government has not resolved quickly enough many issues that have made the people unhappy related to its decisions and policies. The government cannot push its policies down the people’s throats – this would be both wrong and unwise.

Chinese voters

Chinese voters are generally unhappy with PH because of three main reasons. First is the unnecessary and divisive Jawi-khat controversy that was brought up out of the blue by the education minister. Their perception of the government started to wither more when the prime minister defended the move and indirectly put the blame on Chinese educationist group Dong Zong for being “racist”. Then came another unnecessary move at racial pandering by the education minister who suggested that the non-Bumiputera pre-university quota would only be removed if the private sector employed more Malays.

Secondly, the Chinese were outraged when a foreign-born preacher blatantly suggested the expulsion of ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, referring to them as guests in this country. The preacher was given leeway to go around the country preaching while claiming to be an expert in comparative religion, in the process being derisive towards other religions. The least the government should have done was to immediately advise the preacher to leave the country or look for a country that would accept him. This, the government did not do.

Thirdly, the Malay Dignity Congress became more of a Chinese-bashing session when some participants called for a ban on vernacular schools. To add fuel to the fire, after being criticised for attending the congress, the prime minister in his Chedet blog on Oct 25, 2019 wrote that “… the non-indigenous people were given citizenship even though they were not qualified”.

The Chinese value two things in life: the economy and education. The Chinese are not freeloaders. Being a resilient lot, they can survive in any economic circumstance. They have survived for the past 62 years and more without much assistance from the government. But the call by some bigots for Chinese schools to be banned has incensed them. The government has been quiet on this matter.

The deliberate delay tactic in making a decision on the UEC has also made many Chinese unhappy with the government. A few states in the country have recognised the UEC but this has not been done at the federal level. They feel that when other exams which are equivalent to SPM and STPM such as the O- and A-levels, Al-Thanawiya (General Secondary Education Certificate of Yemen), Al-Thanawaya Al-Amah (General Secondary Education Certificate), Tawjihi (General Secondary Education Certificate) of Palestine, Al-Azhar General Secondary School Certificate, Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Ugama (STPU) and dozens of other foreign certificates can be accepted, why not the UEC. The PH government remains undecided on this issue despite promising to recognise it before the 14th general election. Why promise, then?

These factors are enough for the Chinese voters to be upset with the PH government. It’s not that they hate the PH government but they are not pleased with some of the ways the government is handling issues sensitive to them.

The Chinese have never criticised the government for allowing Islamic religious schools and Islamic education to flourish in the country. They have no interest in this as it does not concern them. The government, on its part, has failed to make national schools the schools of choice, and this has pushed the Chinese to Chinese schools. The Chinese are more concerned about their need to get a good education.

Malay voters

As for the Malays, race and religion are more important to them. This has become the vote bank for the opposition. The opposition is exploiting these two issues to make the Malays go against the PH government. They are deviously telling the Malays that DAP is their enemy and that the Chinese are behind PH, and that if this is allowed to go on, the country will be taken over by the Chinese and that DAP is now controlling the government under PH. They claim that important government posts have been taken over by the non-Malays and that this is eroding Malay power in the country.

Gullible Malays can easily be influenced by this political ruse, and this malady is spiralling out of control. On the part of the government, nothing concrete has been done to stop the politics of race and religion, unlike in many other countries. Fake news is allowed to flow freely through social media without much action taken against the perpetrators. If this is allowed to go on, not only will PH lose the support of the Malays, investors may leave from fear that the country’s political system is not stable.

It’s never too late for the PH government to reorient itself. It’s not that the PH government is not doing better than the kleptocratic government of the past. The few blunders it has made and its lack of political will to clamp down on the issues bothering the people have given rise to the perception that it is weak and only working to please a single race.

No right-minded Chinese or Malaysian in general would want to see those who are now involved in court cases for alleged corruption make a comeback. Neither are they keen for PAS to govern the country. Hence, enlightening the people with the right policies that will please all Malaysians will boost PH as a credible government. Just stop hurting the feelings of the people.

Cabinet reshuffle

Be that as it may, reshuffling the Cabinet is not a wise move for now. This will disorient the smooth running of the government. A reshuffle now would only be temporary as there will be another Cabinet team when the next leader takes over from Mahathir. As long as Mahathir is the prime minister, this Cabinet should remain.

Mahathir has said many times that he will remain as prime minister for at least two to three years before he passes the baton to another leader. Whoever takes over, most likely just after the Apec meeting next year, will surely come up with a new set of Cabinet members.

And this new team will again be tested and judged by the people before PH faces the 15th general election.