No honeymoon: Old faces in new Cabinet must reduce trust deficit, work for Malaysians

One hundred days.

That was the timeline given by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to his Cabinet members, who must prove themselves by the first week of December.

Eyebrows were raised as Ismail Sabri revealed his Cabinet line-up this morning. It seemed more of a Cabinet reshuffle, than a fresh start.

There was a dreaded sense of deja vu as those who had occupied key positions in Putrajaya returned, albeit to different ministries. Little changed, if at all, in this high-stakes political musical chairs, following the resignation of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister on Aug 16.

It was as though the ministers, deputy ministers and their teams took a short break before resuming work.

Some ministers, whose previous performance was called into question, were pushed to different ministries.

Most in this “new” Cabinet were the same faces who had been in office since March 2020, and who had received flak for their flip-flop decisions and poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite numerous lockdowns enforced since last year, Malaysia continued to record high number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks.

The trust deficit that had built up against the previous administration boiled over, which resulted in Muhyiddin’s capitulation. Ismail Sabri’s Cabinet – which some have labelled a “recycled Cabinet” – has its work cut out for it if it plans to narrow that trust deficit.

The second lease on life offered to these leaders seemed like an attempt to pacify the political parties within the fragile Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact. This is hardly a lean Cabinet one would expect to be able to deal head-on with the major issues facing the nation.

Ismail Sabri said his Cabinet would work towards instilling confidence in Malaysians to rise and unite in the battle against Covid-19.

He added that his ministers would also work towards freeing Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family) from the hardships brought on by the pandemic.

“This Cabinet will have a high-performance working culture. As such, every ministry would have to come up with short- and long-term plans, and achieve the targets set. Every ministry will have to prove their deliverables within the first 100 days,” he said.

The ministers and their deputies will be sworn in on Monday.

Associate Professor Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk labelled the new line-up as ‘PN 2.0’ as the policies of the current administration will be the same as its predecessor.

“If people believed there was going to be some sort of change, clearly it was just hope,” said Azeem, who is director, Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

“By merely swapping Khairy (Jamaluddin) and (Datuk Seri) Dr Adham Baba’s positions … what will change (with regard to the national vaccination programme and battle against Covid-19)?”

In Muhyiddin’s administration, Khairy served as science, technology, and innovation minister, and was the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme co-ordinating minister, while Dr Adham was health minister. Under Ismail Sabri, Khairy is the Health Minister, while Dr Adham takes on Khairy’s previous portfolio.

“People have to realise that we don’t choose our prime ministers and ministers. It is decided by those who enjoy majority support in Parliament.”

Azeem said Ismail Sabri’s political fortune would depend not just on how he handles the Covid-19 situation, but also on how he kickstarts the nation’s economy.

“If things go south, he will be out, and his party (Umno) will be out, too.”

He added there was no “honeymoon period” for this government and that they would need to get cracking the minute they step into office.

Malaysia’s Cabinet members

Senior Minister; International Trade and Industry – Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali
Deputy Minister – Datuk Lim Ban Hong

Senior Minister; Defence – Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
Deputy Minister – Datuk Seri Ikhmal Hisham Abdul Aziz

Senior Minister; Education – Senator Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin
Deputy Minister I – Senator Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon
Deputy Minister II – Datuk Mohamad Alamin

Finance Minister – Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz
Deputy Finance Minister I – Mohd Shahar Abdullah
Deputy Finance Minister II – Yamani Hafez Musa

Works Minister – Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof
Deputy Minister – Datuk Arthur Joseph Kurup

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) – Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed
Deputy Minister – Eddin Syazlee Shith

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) – Datuk Abdul Latiff Ahmad
Deputy Minister – Datuk Mastura Mohd Yazid

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) – Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar
Deputy Minister – Datuk Wira Mas Ermieyati Samsuddin

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) – Senator Tuan Idris Ahmad
Deputy Minister – Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) – Datuk Seri Maximus Johnity Ongkili
Deputy Minister – Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib

Transport Minister – Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong
Deputy Minister – Datuk Henry Sum Agong

Environment and Water Minister – Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man
Deputy Minister – Datuk Mansor Othman

Human Resources Minister – Datuk Seri M. Saravanan
Deputy Minister – Datuk Awang Hashim

Federal Territories Minister – Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim
Deputy Minister – Datuk Seri Jalaluddin Alias

Women’s Family and Community Minister – Datuk Seri Rina Harun
Deputy Minister – Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff

Higher Learning Minister – Datuk Noraini Ahmad
Deputy Minister – Datuk Ahmad Masrizal Muhammad

Energy and Natural Resources Minister – Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan
Deputy Minister – Datuk Ali Anak Biju

Home Affairs Minister – Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin
Deputy Minister I – Datuk Seri Ismail Mohamed Said
Deputy Minister II – Jonathan Yassin

Health Minister – Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar
Deputy Minister I – Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali
Deputy Minister II – Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang

Agriculture and Food Industries Minister – Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee
Deputy Minister I – Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah
Deputy Minister II – Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh

Rural Development Minister – Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid
Deputy Minister I – Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Mohamad
Deputy Minister II – Datuk Hasbi Habibollah

Foreign Affairs Minister – Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah
Deputy Minister – Kamarudin Jaffar

Domestic Trade and Cosumer Affairs Minister – Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi
Deputy Minister – Datuk Rosol Wahid

Communications and Multimedia Minister – Tan Sri Annuar Musa
Deputy Minister – Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin

Housing and Local Government Minister – Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican
Deputy Minister – Datuk Seri Ismail Abdul Mutalib

Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister – Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba
Deputy Minister – Datuk Amzad Mohamed @ Hashim

Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister – Tan Sri Noh Omar
Deputy Minister – Muslimin Yahaya

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister – Datuk Zuraidah Kamaruddin
Deputy Minister I – Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng
Deputy Minister II – Willie Mongin

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister – Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri
Deputy Minister – Datuk Seri Santhara Kumar Ramanaidu

National Unity Minister – Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique
Deputy Minister – Wan Ahmad Fayshal Wan Ahmad Kamal

Youth and Sports Minister – Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu
Deputy Minister – Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker