What was once the top 4 state cabinet members of Sabah (courtesy of New Sabah Times)
What does it really mean for the non-muslim bumiputera in Sabah in so far as the long established convention of 5:3:2 distribution of cabinet seats between the Muslim bumiputera, non-muslim bumiputera and the chinese is concerned? Does it really matter?
Folks, it does not really matter if one had to listen to from none other than the PBS President cum the 1st Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development, Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan who happens to be the Huguan Siou of the KadazanDusun in Sabah the majority of whom are non-muslim bumiputera. He was on record to say and I repeat it in verbatim ” the non-Muslim bumiputera quota in the State Cabinet can be changed at the discretion of the Chief Minister.
He said the matter had always been debatable but at the same time urged the people not to make it into a big issue. He said as much as he would like to have a more stable quota, the decision to have as many or as few non-Muslim bumiputeras in the State Cabinet remains at the discretion of the Chief Minister.
“Five, four, three or whatever the formula, has always been a debatable issue. I do not think we ought to be too stuck or too stiff about this kind of thing.
“We would like to have a stable quota but at the same time we must understand that this is the prerogative of the Chief Minister. It is up to him (Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman) to make the necessary adjustment or make the necessary appointments…”
“He, or anybody who is the Chief Minister, will always have to take into account the aspirations or the expectations of all component political parties. Whatever decision he made is his prerogative. I am confident it was done in the best interest of the BN Government and to ensure all government programmes would run smoothly.”
I beg to differ though. Personally, I am not quite convinced that the majority of non-muslim bumiputera in Sabah are receptive to the idea that as long as the present BN government could fulfill its obligations and covenants to uplift the socio-economic status of the non-muslim bumiputera, the question of missed opportunity on effecting a fair distribution of cabinet seats in Sabah as highlighted by the PBRS Information Chief, Rayner Francis Udong recently could no longer be relevant.
For the record, the said 5:3:2 ratio was a formula practiced by convention when the BN took over the state government in 1994 whereby 5 is meant for 5 ministerial posts allocated to the muslim bumiputera, 3 posts to the non-muslim bumiputera while the last 2 posts are for the Chinese representatives in the State Legislative Assembly.
However, as I see it, at present, the Sabah cabinet seat distribution is made along the lines of BN component parties’ strength in the State Legislative Assembly. After the last state general election in 2008, UMNO won 32 seats, PBS won 12 seats, SAPP won 4 seats, LDP won 3 states, UPKO won 6 seats, MCA and PBRS won 1 seat each. Hence, Prior to the departure of SAPP from BN, the state cabinet was composed of 6 for UMNO, 2 for PBS, 1 each for UPKO, SAPP and LDP respectively.
The seat quota remains unchanged even after Datuk Raymond Tan, the sole SAPP representative in the cabinet chose to stick with BN when SAPP left BN last year where he was retained as a cabinet member while being a pro-BN Independent for almost 9 months.
Folks, now that Datuk Raymond Tan has joined Gerakan, a Peninsular Malaysia based multiracial party, the status quo remains unchanged. In fact, he was rewarded for his unquestionable loyalty to BN by being retained as a cabinet member minus his Deputy Chief Ministership though. However, the gist of the matter is that, the current composition of the state cabinet is all about one’s political strength in the state BN rather than racial and / or religiously based.
To me, the current arrangement is rather flawed despite BN undeniable success in bringing progress in terms of socio and infra-structural development to the state. I am saying this on the fact that a particular community could be under represented in the powerful decision making body despite it being the majority group in the state.
Analytically, it is a very simple arithmetic, take for example, PBS, the multiracial but KadazanDusun Murut based party. Logically, being a strongly KDM based party, there should be more than one KDM ministers representing the party apart from a chinese minister in the person of Datuk Yee Moh Chai to reflect its ideal political equilibrium in the state cabinet so that when seen in totality, there should be a sense of equitable fairness among the major races in the state.
Be as it may, what more could they ask for if such prerogative power is used to hypothetically appoint cabinet members along such lines as 6 for UMNO (Muslim Bumiputera), 2 for PBS (Non-Muslim Bumiputera), 1 for UPKO (Non-Muslim Bumiputera), 1 each for PBS (Chinese) and LDP (Chinese), Hence, the ratio should be 6:3:2 so that it is to be more or less reflective of the previously accepted convention.
As for Gerakan (a chinese-based multiracial party), it would be, in fairness to PBRS and MCA, politically prudent to appoint its 2 representatives as Assistant Ministers in the state cabinet.
However, it is of course, very important to remember that it is the CM’s sole prerogative to appoint his cabinet members whom he thinks are capable of helping him in the administratioin of the state and lest we forget that if the present cabinet is workable and is the best one we have ever had to assist the YAB Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman to achieving his well-documented Halatuju for the state, we should support him and his BN administration wholeheartedly regardless of our previous reservation.