August 13, 2018
A Youth’s Take – A column by Zaidi Azmi
SINCE Pakatan Harapan won the 14th general elections on May 9 to wrest control of the federal government, Malaysians have been hearing the words political appointees many, many times to the extent that it has become so clichéd.
The same was repeated just last week when it was mentioned in Parliament that some of the 17,942 casualties were Quran teachers employed by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
“Their services were terminated because these teachers were political appointees as they were appointed by the previous government,” said Deputy Minister Fuziah Salleh in answer to Jeli MP Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.
It is no wonder then that so many have had their employment terminated.
In the case of the Quran teachers, Fuziah didn’t say if there had been complaints against them for teaching politics instead of the Quran.
Some of these teachers could be said to be political appointees in that they were under the Special Affairs Department and the Federal Village Development and Safety Committees.
But what has got some smarter Malaysians thinking is the Pakatan government’s insistence that it will not continue with BN’s practice of politically appointing individuals into any government-linked outfit.
How then would you describe the appointment of Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali to the board of Khazanah Nasional?
While Azmin assured that he will not interfere with Khazanah’s affairs, everyone knows that one should always take a politician’s word with a pinch of salt; no, a bag-full if they’re Malaysian politicians.
The truth about political appointments in Malaysia is that many top-level appointments in government, government-linked companies and public universities are political in nature simply because of the way the appointments are made — usually by the prime minister or a minister.
A case in point was the recent appointment of Professor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Razak as the sixth rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia.
Dzulkifli’s appointment was made by the Ministry of Education whose minister is Pakatan politician Maszlee Malik.
Similarly the attorney-general, for example, since Article 145 of the federal Constitution states that the Agong shall, on the advice of the prime minister, appoint a qualified individual as the AG.
This is not to say the appointee will not act professionally but the very fact that the appointment is possible on the advice or nomination of the PM alone makes it political.
Any move away from this practice can only be possible when reforms are made to the way appointments are made to the highest levels of institutions, agencies and everything else linked to the government, such that even if there’s a political element at least it’s not about one person doing the nomination or recommendation.