PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin risks losing public support as well as from MPs aligned to him if he appoints political leaders with court cases to his Cabinet.
Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Pawi said Muhyiddin had set the tone for his administration in his first speech as prime minister when he said he would appoint Cabinet ministers who were clean, had integrity and calibre.
“Appointing anyone who is facing trial will put Muhyiddin in a dillema.”
Speculation is rife that former members of the Barisan Nasional administration, including top leaders who have been charged in court, could be part of Muhyiddin’s Cabinet, owing to their seniority in Umno.
Awang said the new Cabinet must not only inspire confidence but take into consideration the sentiments of those who felt strongly against leaders implicated in corruption and abuse of power.
“If these leaders are appointed, it will send a signal that the new government is weak, vulnerable and cannot deliver on a Cabinet with integrity,” he said, adding such a situation was very risky for Perikatan Nasional.
He added that while the new coalition enjoyed support from conservative Malays, which represents a large bloc, Muhyiddin must be careful not to avoid pushing away other blocs through wrong appointments.
“The danger is not over for Muhyiddin, he has to be careful. If he chooses MPs with court cases, he risks defections of MPs who don’t want leaders implicated in scandals.”
Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said with 114 MPs to choose from, Muhyiddin could surely find candidates who were clean and capable.
“The leaders who are facing trial should take a step back though the courts have yet to make a decision.”
Appointing leaders who were facing trial, he said, posed a risk to Muhyiddin’s administration as it would create a negative perception, especially in countering the stigma tied to claims that it was a “backdoor government”.
“To eliminate this stigma, Muhyiddin must appoint ministers acceptable to those who support and oppose Perikatan Nasional. Otherwise, it will be difficult for Muhyiddin to convince the people that his is a government for all.”
James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said it might be difficult for Muhyiddin to resist pressure to include leaders facing trial in his Cabinet as PPBM was smaller, in terms of seats, than Umno and PAS combined.
But such leaders, Chin said, might not want to miss out on positions in the government as it might be difficult to get a position later if more defected to Muhyiddin’s bloc.
Chin said while many Malaysians had “short memories” and were expecting “tainted” Umno leaders to be in the government, including them in the Cabinet still posed a risk to the new coalition.
“If they (tainted leaders) are in the government, come GE15, Perikatan Nasional may be thought a lesson.”