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Govt going overboard with political appointments?

The government must admit that it has gone back on talk of assigning political appointees to head government-linked companies and statutory bodies.

Norhayati Sharuddin
3 minute read

In December last year, newly minted Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim sacked all chairmen and board members of government-linked companies (GLCs), statutory bodies and state-investment funds appointed politically.

The decision was made at a weekly Cabinet meeting and later cited in a letter by the chief secretary to the government.

The move was made to follow through with Pakatan Harapan's (PH) election campaign promise to dismantle political patronage.

Directorship and chairmanship posts were often used to buy and reward loyalty, a culture long nurtured under the rule of ousted Barisan Nasional (BN).

So, has this BN culture now seeped deep into the blood of PH leaders as well, considering the slew of political appointments taking place recently?

These appointments have once again drawn allegations of conflict of interest, abuse of power and corruption, which has overall led to distrust and doubt among the voters against the administration.

Malaysia lacks an adequate framework that clearly defines the criteria, parameters and procedures that must be complied with when appointing individuals to government agencies and GLCs.

As a result, "political appointment" has become a catch-all phrase that lacks a clear definition and hence, opens up the potential for misuse. 

There is no clear, transparent recruitment and appointment process, and this has led to abuse as a form of reward to certain "loyalists".

Sadly, in the current administration, such appointments are similar to the case of "the pot calling the kettle black".

Anwar was so critical of such appointments but now due to pressure and the hunger to stay in power, he is bending all rules.

The list is practically endless

The list now seems endless with assignment of people like Abdul Azeez Rahim, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, Noraini Ahmad, Shaik Hussein Mydin, Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, etc.

This latest slew of appointments is by Agriculture and Food Security Minister Mohamad Sabu, who has since defended the political appointments of the five PH figures, claiming these did not violate the coalition's principles.

In March, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reportedly said that the government will not appoint any person who is unable to contribute to the organisation or agency they are meant to lead.

So, is the current administration trying to pull the wool over our eyes (voters) by lying to us that all these recent appointments are justified and that those concerned are experts who can help turn things around in their respective organisations?

Even the coalition for clean and fair elections (Bersih) has urged the federal government to end "old practices" of funding political parties and rewarding their leaders through lucrative appointments in GLCs and statutory bodies.

Such appointments should not be made unless they are shown to have relevant qualifications and experience.

This is what, we, the voters, want – transparency and justification for the appointments. Not to return favours.

Bersih said the wanton appointment of party leaders to such positions could be construed as an abuse of public trust and office and bordered on corruption.

It is sad, but as a voter, I feel I am being taken for a ride and treated as a fool. The government must admit that it has changed its stance regarding political appointments in GLCs.

Also, the government must reveal to the voters just how much these appointees are going to be paid. After all, it is coming from our (taxpayers') pockets.

At the end of the day, there is no point in PH or the "unity government" trying to clean the backyard of others when there is already so much dirt in their own backyards.

And sadly, this dirt is piling up each day and when it overflows, voters will be pushed to a corner, and it may well be another short-lived stint in Putrajaya for PH.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.