PAC Members elevated to Cabinet: What about it?

2 August 2015
Abdul Rahman Dahlan
Pengarah Komunikasi Strategik Barisan Nasional

PAC Members elevated to Cabinet: What about it?

1. The opposition has been crying foul over the decision by the Prime Minister to appoint 4 members of the Public Accounts Committee as minister and deputy minister in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

2. In the first place, let us be of absolute clarity that the four appointees were appointed not because they were members of PAC, but in their capacity as Members of Parliament.

3. At present circumstances, we may have to contend with a brief delay in getting the PAC investigation on 1MDB to be on the roll once again. How long then is the delay? The delay is estimated to be around 2 months because parliament will sit again for the 3rd seating in early October to decide the new chairman and replacement members of PAC.

4. There is also merit or justification in the delay as well. With new revelation of forged documents by Sarawak Report and confession of individuals of conspiracy theories, it will be wise for PAC to wait until the dust settles and clearer picture emerges. Otherwise, PAC might be making conclusion based on faulty assumptions.  

5. Will the recent four appointments derail or stop the investigation altogether? The answer is absolutely not. The government has no power to stop any investigation by parliament. Once it has started, it can only be stopped when the PAC has made a conclusion and presented the same to the members of Dewan Rakyat. PAC doesn't stop its function or investigation just because some of the MPs have ceased being members. Such, in brief, on how PAC operates.

6. And this leads me to say that I doubt PAC would be crippled just because 4 of its members have been promoted to the front bench. PAC has been around since independence and remains the beacon of parliamentary democracy. They will continue to be so as long as parliament is still functioning in our country.

7. The 4 MPs were chosen to fill a ministerial post and 3 deputy ministerial posts due to their abilities and position in their respective party. Let us examine those ability through microscopic lenses.

8. Take for instance, Datuk Madius Tangau who is the President of UPKO, and by convention the president of UPKO, should be in the cabinet. If the PM did not appoint him last week, he then would be sending a wrong signal to UPKO members. In essence it would be interpreted that the central leadership does not respect UPKO members’ choice. As Sabah BN Secretary, I am of the view that it is a wrong political move for PM to deny the president of an important component party in Sabah of a position in the cabinet.

9. This leads us to Datuk Reezal Merican who is known to be a prolific MP. I know Datuk Reezal for more than 10 years. He is knowledgeable with an astounding grasp over myriad of subjects. You can have an engaging intellectual conversation with him on any subject matter, and I promise, you will not be disappointed with the level of comprehension he has over the subject matter in hand.

10. You will find him at ease even when discussing matters like international economics, investment and finance, social, Middle Eastern history and Islamic jurisprudence. If you don't believe me, just place him a call and talk to him yourself. You can talk to him in English, Malay or Arabic. He speaks them fluently with an added literary finesse and eloquence.

11. His appointment as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs would give Malaysia an edge in international relation, especially in our relation with the Middle East where his command of Arabic language is a big plus.

12. And so far as Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin is concerned, it has been a long-held tradition of UMNO that the Puteri Chief will be at the front bench. All Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, Datuk Noraini Ahmad and Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin were all part of the front bench when they helmed Puteri UMNO. Coupled with her strong background in law, it was almost given that Mas Ermieyati must be in the front bench.

13. But understandably the most criticised appointment was that of the PAC's ex-Chairman, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohammed.

14. The stream of criticism and ridicule raised by the opposition on his appointment is swift and constant. After all, he was smacked right in the eye of the 1MDB storm and was expected to lead a rigorous investigation on 1MDB. Yet despite this protest, I strongly believe we must be fair to him.

15. I was appointed to the PAC together with Datuk Nur Jazlan in 2008. While I was lucky to be given the opportunity to serve the country as a cabinet minister in 2013, he was unfortunately not, and as a consequence thereof, a lot of his supporters and constituents find him "languishing" in his political career – especially when this is his 8th year serving as a PAC member.

16. Missing that 2013 cabinet formation was not the first time. Datuk Nur Jazlan actually, in total, has missed four opportunities to be appointed to the front bench throughout his career as an MP.

17. The first time was when the cabinet formation was announced shortly after GE11 in 2004. The second time was during the cabinet reshuffle by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Feb 2009. The third time was  the cabinet formed immediately after GE13 in 2008. The fourth time was when Dato’ Sri Najib took over the premiership from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2009. The fifth  time was the cabinet formation after GE14 and the sixth time was when Dato’ Sri Najib made a slight cabinet reshuffle in 2014. The question that begs to be answered, is it fair to deny him the opportunity to advance his political career for the seventh time?

18. We may be foolish enough to say “yes” because we are more interested to see him serving our interest rather than his own. But for him, the answer is obviously quite the opposite. And we honestly can't blame him for thinking that way.

19. Datuk Nur Jazlan was born into a political family. His father was once a great leader of UMNO, the late Tan Sri Mohammad Rahmat who was a federal minister and the Secretary General of UMNO. Political blood runs deep in his veins. Thus, one would assume, given his family's illustrious career in politics, the continuation of the legacy of his father is important both to him, his family and his constituents.

20. But after all, to honestly sum it up, it is a dream of every MP to be able to serve his or her country. What better way to do that than becoming one of the cabinet members as ministers or deputy ministers.

21. I say let us allow Datuk Nur Jazlan to move up his career ladder with open heart and mind. He, his supporters and his constituents, after all, deserve it! If he missed the last cabinet reshuffle, the next available opportunity for him is after GE14 (2018). That is a long 3 years from now.

22. And let us not for a moment forget that PAC can be easily reconstituted. That is not a problem. It won't take long, at most 2 months since parliament will meet in October to decide on the new chairman and replacement members of PAC. I am sure the new chairman will pick up where Datuk Nur Jazlan has left off with ease. Above all, PAC should never be doubted as the kernel of truth in our parliament democracy.

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