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Ministers under scrutiny in Hari Raya chit-chat

Relatives and friends exchange views on the Cabinet line-up and the performance of some ministers so far.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim chairs his first Cabinet meeting at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya, Dec 5, 2022. Photo: Bernama
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim chairs his first Cabinet meeting at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya, Dec 5, 2022. Photo: Bernama

As friends and family members gather for Aidilfitri get-togethers, conversation at many houses soon turns to the bread-and-butter topics of the economy, current affairs and, sooner or later – politics. 

At the heart of such chats is often the coalition government led by the once unheard-of combination of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional, its performance so far and the ministers in Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet. 

Some, like Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, have courted controversy for the decisions made so far. 

For Zaliha, the crux of the debate on her performance so far is the recent move to delist nicotine as a controlled substance under the Poisons Act, a decision that sparked concern over efforts to prohibit smoking in the country. 

A doctor in a southern state said Zaliha's decision had affected the morale of public health workers. 

"Many doctors are against it," he said.

"There are also outstanding issues like long working hours and the problems faced by contract doctors." 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he acknowledged that many of these issues had existed long before Zaliha took over the health ministry. 

Nevertheless, he said, her responses were not always convincing. 

He also referred to the health ministry's advice to civil servants against participating in illegal gatherings when rumours had swirled of a strike by contract doctors early this month. 

"Why threaten them?" he said. "That is not the way to resolve the problems faced by the contract doctors." 

Mohd Shah Mohd Saleh, who lives in Cheras but returned to his home town of Terengganu for Hari Raya, said he would like to see Anwar serve a full term of five years as prime minister. 

However, he said the PH chairman should reshuffle his Cabinet. 

In his opinion, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil is among those who should be replaced. 

"He doesn't seem to do much and he flip-flops a lot," he added. 

Fahmi was in the spotlight last month after criticising a report by a local news outlet about analysts' prediction of a hike in the overnight policy rate.

Mohd Shah, who works in the retail sector, also recalled how the PKR communications director had once answered a phone call during a press conference, describing this as immature and a poor way to handle the media. 

In Kelantan, meanwhile, much of the flak was reserved for Umno president and deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. 

A local who introduced himself as Yusuf Awang said Zahid was the main stumbling block for those who wished to support the coalition government. 

"It's not that we don't want to support Anwar," he added. 

"We just cannot accept why he chose to work with Zahid." 

He said this would likely be a deciding factor at the state election expected to be held in the next few months. 

Zahid, who defended his Bagan Datuk seat at the last general election with a thin majority of 348 votes, was controversially appointed as one of two deputy prime ministers in Anwar's Cabinet despite the string of criminal charges against him in court.