We are more inclusive now

IT took the fall of the Barisan Nasional government for Malaysia to steadily move towards a more inclusive nation.

That was actually the most significant message that Malaysians wanted to send when they voted in the manner they did, creating a political tsunami of sorts in the general election.

The Pakatan Harapan government that came into power wasted no time in putting into action the strong wishes of the electorate by making a slew of historical appointments over the last two months.

First came the appointment of DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng as the first non-Malay finance minister in 44 years, an important cabinet post, followed by Tommy Thomas as attorney-general and Tan Sri Richard Malanjum as chief justice. Both Thomas and Malanjum are the first non-Malays to hold these posts.

Kudos to the new government as it sets course for a New Malaysia.

We have broken the glass ceiling that has for so long shielded the country with unwritten "taboos" that certain posts should only be filled by just one community.

What's been happening these past weeks are a cause of jubilation especially for Gen Y who don't carry the baggage inherited from their parents and whom I believe had voted overwhelmingly for a change of government.

The appointment of Malanjum, a Kadazan from Sabah, is a huge cause of pride not only in his own state but Sarawak as well because in both states, race or religion is a non-issue, let alone a sensitive one.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's choice of Guan Eng as finance minister is "clinical" and almost perfect and certainly makes more sense than having a prime minister holding the finance portfolio as well.

The folly of a prime minister and a finance minister being one and the same person is that if the finance minister commits something that he shouldn't have done, who is there to tell him off?

There is no doubt in my mind that Guan Eng, an accountant, would prove to be an excellent finance minister.

He has already managed to slash the cost of several mega projects that were over-priced. Expect more to come.

Look out for his maiden Budget to be presented in Parliament in November, which in comparison to previous ones, is expected to be lean and clean.

Guang Eng set a brilliant tone when he was asked at a press conference how he felt being the only other Chinese finance minister after Tun Tan Siew Sin in the cabinet of founding Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

His simple response was: "I think of myself as a Malaysian."

The more we think of ourselves as Guan Eng does, the closer we are to achieving what the Tunku and his fellow fighters laid out for our Independence and for the Federation of Malaysia.

Just this week, another landmark appointment came through.

The strategic Defence Ministry since time immemorial has had a Malay minister and deputy minister.

But on Tuesday, Liew Chin Tong, the DAP Johor chief, was made deputy defence minister.

I would like to echo what Zainah Anwar wrote in her newspaper column on Sunday that of all the new ministers and MPs, the DAP leaders are coming across most impressively with their seriousness in getting down to business as well as their eloquence in Bahasa Malaysia.

This only augurs well for our nation.

By the same token, many Malaysians would like to see our new Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, a former university lecturer, appoint a non-Malay for the first time as a vice-chancellor in one of our over 20 public universities.

Maszlee knows better than anyone outside the academic world that our institutions of higher learning sorely need a cross-fertilisation of academic excellence and acumen that could only be nurtured through practising meritocracy.

All this while, meritocracy has been taken into account but the fact that only Malays have been holding these posts, it's hard not to believe that politics has come into play as well.

I know for a fact that we have many outstanding non-Malay professors in our midst and many have ventured overseas due to lack of opportunities at home.

This is a challenge we would like Maszlee to take up.

The same goes in the civil service as well.

Out of more than 30 secretaries-general of the various ministries, right now there are only two non-Malays.

The time is now ripe to appoint more than this token number with the new government firmly in place.

Here again, meritocracy is what I'm driving at. Period.

In this regard, I take the liberty here to cite what a good friend told me just the other day.

This friend, who is a leading businessman, said in the over 40 years that he has been dealing with the Ministry of Health, he finds its current secretary-general, Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min, as the best of them all.

Asked what he meant by "the best", his response was : "He's very professional and firm."

I understand that there would be a major reshuffle in the top echelons of the civil service soon and I hope this would mean more inclusive changes.

We are all too familiar with the saying: "Honesty is the best policy".

Moving forward, the New Malaysia should adopt a new tagline: "Meritocracy is the best policy".

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