December 27, 2019
A commentary by Zaidi Azmi
NEVER before have the signs of Pakatan Harapan ministers not having a simple WhatsApp group to update themselves over policy matters and Cabinet decisions been so obvious until today.
And it all started with an expression of disbelief which was followed by a heroic defiance against the policy review to stop giving the critical incentive allowance to those employed in the public sector starting January.
Knowing that doctors and other medical officers at government hospitals will be affected the most by the cut, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad tweeted “Aduh” (ouch) and demanded an explanation from the Public Services Department (JPA).
The allowance was introduced in 1992 to entice talents into critical fields that were paying a significantly lower salary compared to the private sector.
But unlike Dzulkefly, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman took his disagreement to a different level, posting a one-minute video on Facebook to denounce the cut.
Syed also stated that he will give back his ministerial vacation allowance and take a 10 per cent pay cut – a stunt that won him accolades on Twitter, especially youths who lauded him for defending the downtrodden.
How will he return his allowance to the country’s coffers was a crucial detail that Syed did not mention and equally unclear is the manner in which he needs to prove his future pay cut.
A poser on this was asked by reporters in Syed’s media WhatsApp group on Wednesday. But by Friday the usually responsive minister has yet to respond to clarify.
Syed is also keeping mum on an additional poser over JPA’s clarification which pointed out that every minister had been informed about the decision.
So did Dzulkefly and Syed know about the cut prior to their reactions as reported? Were the two trying to play hero as suggested by a Pribumi Bersatu politician?
But by today Syed had pretty much turned into a hero for being able to convince Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to postpone the decision and have it rediscussed at the next Cabinet meeting.
Even if Dzulkefly and Syed had overlooked the decision, this ticklish episode would not have happened if ministers and deputies had their specific WhatsApp group which allows for an exchange of information.
Ask Syed if you don’t know how to create one….. he’s a millennial and he surely knows.