Tun Razak’s ‘action-oriented’ Cabinet: Some Shocks and disappointments

Dap Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, today issued the following statement:

Tun Razak’s ‘action-oriented’ Cabinet: Some Shocks and disappointments

Tun Razak’s ‘action-oriented’ Cabinet announced yesterday contained both shocks and disappointments.

The shock appointments are the naming of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as Education Minister and Tun Mustapha as Defence Minister, which are likely to be controversial subjects. I earnestly hope that both of them would take into the fullest consideration the aspiration and hopes of all Malaysians in the discharge of their very important Ministerial responsibilities – so that they become the source of national unity and not cause for greater national disunity.

In this connection, I would suggest to Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to seriously consider the institution of a Commission of inquiry into the quality and standards of education in primary and secondary schools, which have suffered grave deterioriation these past years. The automatic promotion system should be reviewed and abolished or adjustments made to end the futility of sending children upwards year after year although they simply could not cope with the lessons in the lower classes.

A special crash programme should be carried out immediately to ensure that there are enough trained teachers for all secondary and primary schools. The new Education Minister should also give urgent priority to emplacing all the temporary teachers in the national primary schools on the permanent establishment, instead of paying them $230 a month with an uncertain future.

Another priority educational problem in Malaysia is the creation of sufficient university or other higher study opportunities for all Malaysians with the requisite academic qualifications to continue their higher studies, so that no one is denied an opportunity to advance himself educationally because of factors like poverty, race or creed.

Some of the Cabinet disappointments are the appointment of Lee San Choon as Minister of Labour and Manpower. Lee San Choon has not particularly distinguished himself in all his years in public life as a man who understand or sympathise with the hardships and sufferings of the workers.

The Minister of Labour must be a man who had fully identified himself with the workers; struggle for a just and fair deal so that workers enjoy the full fruits of their labour. Lee San Choon is the acting president of the rich man’s club – the MCA – and it is therefore difficult to see how he is going to be a protector of the worker’s rights and interests.

We will however withhold judgement until he had a chance to perform, but it is our earnest wish that Lee San Choon will not be a Minister for Employers instead.

I am disappointed that no new Ministry for Consumer affairs has been created to protect the weak and much-exploited consumers through price-fixing and quality- misdescription by manufacturers. I would suggest to the new Minister of Trade and Industry, Dato Hamzah Abu Samah, that he should set up a special department for Consumer Protection in his Ministry with powers to force down prices of goods which have been arbitrarily and unjustifiably jacked up by manufacturers or wholesalers.

The government must be more tough-minded and firm in its action to curb further inflationary spirals through unjustified price increases.

I welcome the creation of a new portfolio, the Minister of Co-ordination of Public Corporations, which is also held by Dato Hussein Onn.

In the past few years, so many public corporation have been created dealing with gigantic amount of public expenditure, like PERNAS, UDA, Bank Bumiputera, and now PETRONAS, that they seem to be creations spending public money but not subject to public control through Parliamentary scrutiny.

I hope that henceforth, all the workings of these public corporations spending public funds will be brought within parliamentary scrutiny and accountability, so that the people can be satisfied that public funds had been spent for good and proper reasons. Otherwise, all these public corporations would become “kingdoms within a kingdom”.

Musa Hitam, as the new Minister for Primary Industries, has now the task of checking the downwards decline in the prices of our primary products, to ensure that our Felda settlers, workers and farmers do not suffer a big slash in their incomes. I hope that with Michael Chen as Minister for New Villages and Housing, sufficient funds would be allocated to the modernization of new villages and the launching of a proper low-cost public housing scheme to house the poor, for this Ministry with two portfolios would otherwise make no headway as they had failed to make any public contribution these past years.