Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Pakatan sycophants give way to PM's prerogatives

From FMT:

Yes Sir, no Sir, it’s the PM’s prerogative Sir
As power has a way of seducing people, who knows what a prime minister or government will do if there is no proper separation of powers and if too much power remains in the hands of a single individual or a coterie?

The word “prerogative” has got a roar in its very pronunciation and exudes gravitas, as it should, for it holds a distinctive place in our socio-political life. And the new ministers, it appears, have taken a liking to this word.

In forming his cabinet, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave both PKR and the DAP proportionately fewer places, even though these two Pakatan Harapan coalition partners won way more parliamentary seats than his own PPBM and Amanah.

But everyone accepted it, at least in public, saying that it was the prerogative of the prime minister to appoint anyone to his cabinet.

On July 31, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said, in talking about the life-span of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) that it was the prerogative of Dr Mahathir to extend the services of the CEP. The five-member CEP was formed by Dr Mahathir almost immediately after he was sworn in as prime minister on May 10 to advise him and his cabinet during the first 100 days of the new government.

The CEP has been meeting top civil servants, corporate leaders and NGO heads to get briefings so as to offer advice to the cabinet on the direction to take, particularly with regards to economic and institutional reforms. The first 13 members of the cabinet were only sworn in about two weeks after the May 9 general election, with the last member of the cabinet, P Waythamoorthy, sworn in after being appointed a senator on July 18.

On July 27, the Prime Minister’s Office said, in a statement regarding the resignation of the entire Khazanah board, including its managing director: “It is the prime minister’s prerogative to appoint the fund’s new board members, re-designation to other entities and retain some of them to allow for continuity.” Dr Mahathir said “the action of clearing the deck will allow restructuring as our policies are now different.”

On July 10, in talking about the appointment of a new executive chairman for the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom), Transport Minister Anthony Loke said: “I’ve recommended a name to the prime minister. It’s the prerogative of the prime minister to make the appointment.”

In June, several people, including PKR de facto head Anwar Ibrahim, said the choice of Tommy Thomas as the attorney-general (AG) had to be respected as it was the prime minister’s prerogative.

I have some questions: Who gave the prime minister the prerogative to do all these things? Isn’t it a bad idea to give too much power to one individual, even if he is an experienced old hand like Dr Mahathir?

If such decisions are the prerogative of the prime minister, what role does the cabinet play? Isn’t the cabinet the main policy making body? Shouldn’t such vital decisions as to who should sit on the board of Khazanah or become the AG be collective decisions of the cabinet?

Here’s another example of the prime minister’s prerogative, which I think is taking things a bit too far. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said in June that the new government had decided that the Tun Razak Exchange project, initiated by the previous government, would continue. Asked if the name of the project would be changed, Lim replied that it was the prerogative of the prime minister, adding that he himself felt the name Tun Razak Exchange should be retained.

Didn’t the PH promise in its election manifesto to curtail the power of the prime minister and the government itself if it were to take over Putrajaya? Didn’t it say it wanted to limit the prime minister’s time in office to two terms?

On the eve of polling day, in Langkawi on May 8, Dr Mahathir himself, in calling on voters to “save Malaysia”, said PH would limit the powers of government to ensure there was no abuse. He said Najib Razak had abused the vast powers he had accrued.
Has there been a decrease in the power of the prime minister, almost 100 days into governance by PH? If anything, the powers appear more than intact.

It appears as if coalition partners – including those vocal guys in the DAP and PKR – are silent on this. Perhaps they are happy to let him make the tough decisions or don’t want to rock the boat so early in the day.

What about the vocal NGOs? I know some individuals who were vocal previously have since joined PH, but what about the others?

It appears that only the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism is making noise in public. Its executive director Cynthia Gabriel questioned Dr Mahathir for appointing himself Khazanah chairman and deciding who should sit on the board. She said such appointments should be left to an independent committee which could vet those proposed for positions to ensure there would be no conflict of interest. A logical argument, surely.

And although former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had no problem with Dr Mahathir as chairman when he said “the government has the prerogative to restructure the organisations which are under its control”, I thought he chose his words well. See, he did not say “prime minister”, he said “the government”.

The question arises then: Is the prime minister the government? I would like to think Dr Mahathir is making certain decisions on his own because PH has to deliver on its “within 100 days” promises to win the confidence and support of the people. Anyway, he is the only one who can pull off unpopular decisions with negligible or no fallout.

But Dr Mahathir himself has described how the previous government abused its powers to stifle dissent – it even prosecuted cartoonists – and to go after political opponents using instruments of government, including the police and the tax official.

Do we want that to happen again?

Dr Mahathir probably has good intentions; and certainly prime ministers may use their prerogatives wisely. But power has a way of seducing people. Who knows what this or the next prime minister or next government would do if there is no proper separation of powers and if too much power remains in the hands of a single individual or a coterie?

Another question: Was the decision to have another national car made by the cabinet or just Dr Mahathir? I hope no one says it is the prerogative of the prime minister.

A Kathirasen is executive editor at FMT


  1. What we are seeing playing out is very open criticism of the Government (including PM) actions and decisions when they are seen to be out of line, especially from Government bench MPs.

    Not the only My Way or UMNO's way of the Bijan Administration.

    Its been a big breeze of fresh air during the past 89 days.

    1. a BIG breeze of foul stench emanating from the 4th Reich (1981 - 2003)

    2. A Freudian slip!

      4th Reich?

      Then, who's the The Weimar Republic?

      Weimar Republic began as a bold political experiment. ... By late 1933 Weimar democracy had given way to Nazi totalitarianism. It demonstrates how democracy can fail when it is too ambitious and when internal forces work against it.

      The ex-bn govts!

      U need to brush up yr world history before u fart like yr mom sifu le.

    3. Democracy of Weimar Republic gave way to the authoritarian Nazi regime.The same happening here. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, the problem is, Malaysians mudah lupa. So rinse and repeat again.

    4. Wakakakakaka…

      Typical rd fart from just scanning the title w/o knowing the real content!

      Either u read up the history of the Germany from ww1 to ww2 before u fart. Or better still go back to slumbering under yr cozy tempurung lah.

      The 3rd option - STFU, people already know what 'material' u r made of le!

  2. TDM and the New Government best pay heed to the dangers of centralizing power. The best (or worst) example of Yes Sir No Sir Three Bags Full was when there was not even a whimper from UMNO/BN MPs and Cabinet Ministers, when the evidence on 1MDB and SRC were mounting. In fact, may were even defending the indefensible. KJ called this "not belling the cat". The few that questioned the dictator were kicked out of the party and government.

  3. The decision to hand over the yacht to Malaysia is a masterstroke. Up till this point in time Jho Low continually denied owning the vessel, the ownership was in the name of shrouded offshore companies. Now no more. His lawyers have lifted this veil, he has been drawn out, exposed as the owner. All Jho Low has to do now is to sue the hell out of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.

  4. The end game matters - it will benefit the rakyat as a whole. As long as those prerogatives are done in a transparent way, moving forward nothing is cast in stone. Rigidity and not wanting to change has its good points and drawback. History has shown us even a 'perfect blueprint' somehow will undergo a little tweaking when it comes to implementation. Dont worry on the sementics, this time around there will be the check and balance process if it goes beyond the accepted norms. Welcome my friend to political game plan where reality and logic doesn't seem make sense.

  5. I see big differences and improvement between what the current PM actions whether it be inactions, prerogatives etc compared to the previous PMs which was deplorable and horrible.

    Rebuilding PH's Rome can not be done in a single day after BN's Nero burnt it to the ground playing his harp.

    All other PH leaders seem happy with the progress and wisdom Ceasar has in rebuilding back Rome and so ordinary mortals who voted those PH leaders will abide by their leader's vision and wisdom too.

    Why listen to barbarians outside the PH Roman walls advising how Rome should be rebuilt? The Roman Senate is always there and Ceasar is always mindful of the Ides of March befalling him.


  6. Did anyone bother to ask Jibby?

    1. He will probably reply, its no longer his prerogative. Hohohoho!