Has Harapan pushed idealism out the backdoor?

Has Harapan pushed idealism out the backdoor?
By Zan Azlee

My father made me realise something last week. We were having coffee at a cafe and just chatting when, of course, the topic shifted from his grandkids to politics. That’s how all conversations end up with my family. Joy! Joy!

I was complaining about the total disregard Harapan has for the 30 percent women representation promise that they had made before the election. I told him that Harapan’s Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin responded to my column last week and she basically said ‘we didn’t achieve 30 percent and so what’.

My father agreed with me (he’d better!) and continued to say that there are so many other MPs who were much more qualified, both men and women, who were not appointed to the cabinet. Some of them we even very obvious candidates for ministership.

So we rattled on about who we thought are not deserving to be in the cabinet. People like Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the new Youth and Sports minister, Rina Harun, the new Rural Development minister, and the likes. We both felt that these people, although probably very intelligent, might not have the experience yet to be ministers.

Then we came up with a list of people we thought could have been better choices. We agreed that MPs like Nurul Izzah Anwar, P Kasthurirani, Tony Pua, Ngah Kor Ming and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who feel are more than qualified and probably should have been appointed to the cabinet.

But then my father made a good point. He said that although a majority of Malaysians had voted for change, and we have to admit that voting for Harapan after six decades of BN is a big change, the majority is still not a big majority.

As much as this majority wants to change, the majority is still a small majority. There is a huge minority that exists that did not vote for change and a responsible government needs to make sure that they are the government for all, even for those who did not vote for them.

So it may be idealistic for those who want change to think that voting in Harapan means there would be a total change. But sometimes idealism isn’t realistic and the reason that the cabinet is the way it is is probably that there needs to be a buffer.

And because of that, my father is of the opinion that because the prime minister, since he has sole jurisdiction in selecting his cabinet, has made the decision to have the cabinet consist of a combination of those that are efficient, proficient and qualified in their job along with those who are not.

So people like Syed Saddiq and Rina Harun would be those people who are there just to appease those who can’t handle the shock of a total change. According to my father, those who have been left out of the cabinet, like Pua, Nurul Izzah, Nik Nazmi, etcetera, are too forward thinking and ahead of their time.

They are now being kept in the buffer zone so that, probably, in the next cabinet reshuffle or the next governmental term, they can then be pushed into the cabinet and hopefully Malaysia and the rest of Malaysians would be ready by then.

Of course, I will have to add a little bit of pessimism in all this idealism and realism. The prime minister also has to consider the fact that this is a coalition, and when it comes to a coalition, there are many smaller component parties that need to be satisfied.

So when he selects his cabinet, he has to make sure that there are enough members from each party in his coalition, depending on size and significance, in order to maintain a perception of balance among those in the coalition.

I’m not saying that I like it or I am condoning it, but hey, this is politics and we are dealing with a bunch of professional politicians. So we can’t run away from the fact that they will be playing political strategies in order to protect their own interests.

It is very unfortunate that all this politics has ended pushing important matters like gender equality, efficient governance and meritocracy out the back door. It is important that we do not allow it to manifest for too long.

Harapan made promises so they would get the votes. They got the votes and they now have to be accountable for their promises. So we need to constantly make noise and remind Harapan of their promises. They made the promises, and promises need to be fulfilled.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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