Welcoming the Ramadan Cabinet

WE ARE thankful that a fresh Cabinet has been sworn in and has met to usher in a "new" government of Malaysia – one of "hope". It looks like the flame of Rabu (Ramai akan balik undi) has been realised and translated into a movement of "Rakyat asas benteng utuh", given the renewed commitment to (re)do the right things; and slowly but surely, restore our pride and dignity.

This was readily sensed during the swearing-in on May 21 with the many firsts that crowned it. Not only in terms of age, gender, mix and "attitudes" but also in terms of "teamwork" that started from scratch before the coming together as an alliance built on "hope" and aptly named Pakatan Harapan.

Most tried to pooh-pooh this effort and pitted one party against the other using the messages and politics of hate, but the rakyat had enough of it. And the rest is history.

So we have an elderly statesman leading the Cabinet and for the second time around as the country's prime minister, despite the many efforts to run him down unfairly based on the "age" factor forgetting that "age" is just a number, and can differ vastly from the intellectual version. What else wisdom and experience that accompany age but are often dismissed.

In this case, wisdom and experience were decisive factors in a victory so overwhelming, pushing back what a well-oiled juggernaut could do. This is certainly a first in our history under the stewardship of a 93-year-old prime minister who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest to be elected to office. The record is unlikely to be broken any time soon if at all.

Next is the first female deputy prime minister at a time when the issue of gender imbalance and representation is high on the global agenda.

For the first time too, there are three women in the Cabinet. Should the deputy prime minister decide to decouple her portfolio on women's affairs – another woman can easily step in.

Three is also the number of medically qualified ministers in the Cabinet. They are the prime minister, his deputy, and the health minister (who specialises in toxicology – a useful trade to detox the "virulent" politics of hate) – another first.

The Cabinet also has the first ever "Sikh" represented by the communication and multimedia minister and; the first elected "academic" as the education minister.

The closest to this previously was a former vice-chancellor who was made a senator before being appointed to office (and then opted not to stand for election at the end of his term).

This time also saw a rare case of a federal minister doubling as mentri besar.

All these firsts, go to show the "creative" and "courageous" spirit of the new government against the "old" practices of choosing those who were proven less capable (at times corrupt) as ministers ignoring good governance. In other words, issues of ethical standing were not taken seriously leading to the demise of the old regime.

It is in this context that the new Cabinet has a link to the blessed month of Ramadan. What is more given the ruthless realpolitik that coloured the political landscape in the last decade and changing the course of history post-GE14.

That the swearing-in and the inaugural Cabinet meeting took place during Ramadan directly plugged it into what the blessed month seeks to universally establish.

Foremost, it is about "cleansing" oneself from all the "impurities" of life covering thoughts, words and deeds. Much of these have been soiled by politics – in putting to use the art of manipulation and deceit where the end (power) justifies the means.

Hence, Ramadan stands for rigorous self-control through self-reflection around the clock overshadowing the urge to play to the gallery by being politically visible to remain "popular".

What with the persuasion of social media to clamour as much "likes" as possible no matter how superficial it is. This pushes self-reflection to the back seat thanks to the "addictive" technology.

As such Ramadan calls for humility by immersing oneself in the "real" world of the deprived and destitute as another form of true self-reflection.

Here again, politics is deceiving when it equates to power and influence as a form of material wealth and comfort to be flaunted publicly as a mark of success.

The Malay(sian) proverb of "ikut rasmi padi, lagi berisi lagi tunduk" was regarded as an act of political suicide (for being less aggressive) and thus tossed out in the wind.

Even ancient wisdom (like "the taller the bamboo, the greater it bends") merited no attention in the pursuit of gullible politics. In averting this, Ramadan seeks to bring to life the "primordial" values of being human – call it vital forces, or dharma or fitrah.

Each speaks of the "middle path" (not quite the same as "moderate"), of balance and harmony, of the link between all life forms as part of the cosmic network.

It celebrates diversity on the pedestal of patience and acceptance in attaining peace for all forever.

These are but some of what Ramadan calls for so that every Malaysian can benefit from and resonates well with the new worldview of new Malaysia.

It, therefore, could easily be embraced to bolster greater commitment in delivering the new vistas as the 100-day countdown begins and goes beyond the holy month via a Ramadan Cabinet.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: letters@thesundaily.com