KUCHING: As one of the three largest coalitions which came together to form the unity government recently, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) appears poised to get the deputy prime minister position in the federal Cabinet.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said since he was from the Pakatan Harapan, the DPM would likely come from the other stronger component coalitions, the Barisan Nasional (BN) and GPS.
Although many have welcomed the announcement, Sarawak leaders and several quarters have also urged the federal government to ensure the DPM from Sarawak position comes with power.
Political scientist of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Prof Datuk Jayum Jawan Empaling said a DPM position without any effective power would be merely a ‘window dressing’ for a show.
Apart from being the one of the major coalitions in the unity government, he said, Sarawak was an equal partner in forming Malaysia in 1963, with Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.
“So, Sarawak deserves more than a deputy prime minister position due to its status as well.
“Sarawakian MPs should be appointed Home Affairs Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs bears the mandate and responsibility to conduct Malaysia’s foreign relations with other countries including political relations, economic affairs, security matters, and social and cultural promotion.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs will be in charge of law enforcement, security, public order, immigration and foreign workers, among others.
He described the two ministries as among the most prestigious and powerful positions in the Cabinet, which had been dominated by MPs from Peninsular Malaysia for decades.
He said Sarawakians have never been appointed to hold these positions.
“I would even venture that the prime minister position should be rotated between Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.
Jayum, who is also Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (FASc), opined that Anwar may not simply take any recommendation of individuals, who are unlikely to perform.
He stressed that it was really about time that ministers are appointed based on merit and who have credentials to perform.
“So, let’s wait and (hope that) Anwar is different from his predecessors,” he added.
Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing was also reported to have said that Putrajaya should look into rotating certain ministerial posts to include Sarawak’s representatives so that its interests are well protected.
He said Sarawak contributed significantly to the nation’s economic growth and the federal government, through collection of taxes and other revenues, especially from oil and gas.
Thus, it would be crucial for Sarawak to sit in ministries such as the Home, International Trade and Industry, Education and Health ministries.
“Only then the country’s administration will understand the state’s needs well,” the Bintulu MP said.
Meanwhile, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Datuk Joseph Salang said serious thought should be given to address the huge disparity in levels of development among the regions.
For instance, he said, the conventional approach with regard to the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development has to be reassessed.
He said the Ministry was too large to be in position to put serious focus in making sure Sarawak and Sabah catch up with the rest of the country.
“Likewise all ministries, regardless of who helm them, must seek to address the regional imbalances for the country to move forward. The prime minister must act like an orchestra conductor,” he added.