Progressive to have young blood in cabinet: Analysts

THE inclusion of young ministers and deputy ministers in Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's Cabinet has been lauded by analysts who feel it is a progressive move and augured well for the nation.

The power transfer system that has been in practice for years, they say, is not only feudalistic but hampered meritocracy efforts as well.

Dean of Universiti Utara Malaysia's College of Law, Government and International Studies Associate Prof Dr Ahmad Martadha Mohamed said more opportunities should be extended to younger politicians who were qualified to become leaders.

"I'm not saying that the veterans are not relevant but people should be appointed (to high-level posts) based on merit, and being young shouldn't be considered a disadvantage," he told Bernama, here.

Young leaders are usually more daring to undertake changes and "this is what the people want from the government", he added.

Political analyst Dr Chandra Muzaffar said the appointment of young ministers and deputy ministers would benefit the nation, as well as the individuals themselves.

"It's going to be a big challenge for them," he said, adding that taking on the heavy responsibility of managing their ministerial portfolios and administering the nation at a young age would enable them to gain valuable experience which they can share with the younger generation when they become seenior leaders later on.

Good mix of experienced and young leaders

Among th 13 new ministers who took their oath of office before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V, at Istana Negara on Monday were champion debater Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, 25, who was given the Youth and Sports portfolio and Yeo Bee Yin, 35, who took on the Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment portfolio.

Among the first batch of 13 ministers who were sworn in on May 21 were Transport Minister Anthony Loke, 41, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, 43, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, 45, and Rural Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun, 45.

The line-up of 23 deputy ministers, who were sworn in on Monday, also featured new blood, such as Steven Sim, 36 (Youth and Sports Ministry); Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, 36 (Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment); Teo Nie Ching, 37 (Education); Hannah Yeoh, 39 (Women, Family and Community Development); Ong Kian Ming, 42 (International Trade and Industry); and Sim Tze Tzin, 42 (Agriculture).

Headed by 92-year-old Dr Mahathir, who became Prime Minister for the second time after Pakatan Harapan won the 14th General Election on May 9, the new Cabinet features a balanced mix of experienced and knowledgeable leaders and young people who will be able to inject fresh ideas and meet the aspirations of youths, the demography that is increasingly being seen as kingmakers.   

A good culture

Stressing that Malaysia should adopt the culture of appointing young people to top posts, Ahmad Martadha said such a practice has already become a trend in western nations like France whose president Emmanuel Macron is only 37 and Canada whose prime minister Justin Trudeau is 46.

"Many of their Cabinet ministers are also aged 40 and below," he said.

 Although in the past young people have held office in the government in Malaysia – Datuk Seri Najib Razak was only 29 when he became Pahang Menteri Besar while Mohamad Khir Toyo was 38 when he became Selangor Menteri Besar – the appointments were isolated in nature and did not become the standard practice.

Ahmad Martadha also claimed that the brown-nosing and cronyism culture that used to be prevalent in the government machinery often led to appointments being made not according to merit.

He also said that political parties such as UMNO and MIC's failure to provide more opportunities to the younger generation to assume leadership positions was among the reasons for their defeat at the recent polls.

"UMNO has been talking about its rejuvenation for a long time but did nothing about it. Forget about the top party posts, it is hard for new faces to be appointed as leaders at the division or even branch level," he observed.

Next generation of leaders

According to Ahmad Martadha, there was no reason for anyone to have apprehensions about appointing young leaders as they were bound to have senior colleagues who would guide them and give them constructive criticism, he said. 

Chandra agreed, saying that at the government-level, the more important decisions were made collectively by the Cabinet during its weekly meetings, where the younger ministers can also seek the views and advice of their more experienced colleagues.

"There's no basis for the argument that they (young ministers and deputy ministers) lack experience and may make mistakes because even experienced leaders, as we've already seen, make mistakes," he said. 

The move to appoint more young leaders to the Cabinet was also in line with the nation's current political scenario and fulfilled democratic goals.

The young voters had expressed their desire for change at the recent general election and the new government has to take heed of their aspirations, he added.

"These young leaders can understand the needs of their generation better," he said. – Bernama