Malaysiakini Opinion

Are political appointees going for good?

R Nadeswaran  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | What is a political appointment, and who is a political appointee? The real meanings are abstruse, fuzzy and ambiguous. My understanding is that a political appointment is one made by a politician, irrespective of the appointee’s position in the party. (Former 1MDB chief Arul Kanda Kandasamy comes to mind.)

A political appointee is an appointment to a position because of the appointee’s status in the party, his previous position or his contributions to the party. That’s how Umno leader Isa Samad ended up as chairperson of Felda.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on assuming the post on May 10 declared that there were 17,000 such political appointees in the government. Although the figure is on the high side, no breakdown has been provided. In the absence of such information, we can only assume that those whose services have been summarily terminated are politics-related appointments.

I stand to be corrected if there is a better interpretation or an official one. Using the history of the Port Klang Authority (PKA), the chairperson had always been a nominee of the transport minister, who has always held positions in the MCA. Competent people with experience in port operations were considered “trouble makers” because are they knowledgeable and had questioned politically-motivated activities.

Similarly, the chairperson of Felda has traditionally been someone nominated by the prime minister and has always been an Umno stalwart. And as independent and unbiased the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat can be, his appointment and position will always be viewed as political.

Many positions in government agencies are filled by political appointees and sometimes used as rewards for those who jump ship, as practised by the previous regime. (Look around and count the number of ex-DAP leaders in agencies and the boards of government-linked companies and public-listed companies.)

Why all of a sudden the affliction on political appointments, you may ask. Yesterday, the youth and sports minister was reported to have sacked nine political appointees from various agencies under the purview of the ministry....

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