SARAWAK saw the swearing-in of 10 ministers on May 13 and 18 assistant ministers and a Deputy State Legislative Assembly Speaker the following week (May 19).
I was at the press conference when the full ministers were sworn in that Friday – the 13th – supposedly not an auspicious day to appoint a new Cabinet even after a landslide victory.
But Adenan being Adenan, the one and only Adenan who always surprises.
The atmosphere was solemn in the packed room where the portfolios of the sworn-in full ministers were to be announced.
Adenan, at his own usual steady pace, read out his captains of 11 ministries, consisting of 10 ministers.
He started by saying, in jest, “Adenan Satem is the Chief Minister” but that did not draw much laughter.
Obviously, the reporters present were hoping they would not be kept in suspense any longer than necessary on the Cabinet lineup – after waiting for two hours.
As per distribution of portfolios, Adenan himself takes on three ministerial posts – Chief Minister plus Finance Minister and Minister of Resource Planning and Environment – the latter two are the same additional portfolios held by his predecessor.
Probably, it was the Deputy Chief Minister posts that were most speculated about and reporters could not wait to have the names of the candidates revealed.
Adenan has named three DCMs for now, saying he needed all the help he could get to cope with rising public demands and bigger government responsibilities.
And when he made the surprise announcement that Dato Sri Michael Manyin would head the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Solidarity, someone in the room, evidently taken aback, muttered: “Ooops! Manyin is too old for sports and energetic youth activities! With Sukma being the next big event in the State, how is he going to cope?”
I must admit I gave a silent nod to the concern expressed.
With that first mutter being sown in the wheat field during the first swearing-in, the following week saw weeds sprouting among the wheat!
This was not only due to Manyin being appointed “Youth and Sports” captain but also the absence of a Chinese DCM and the appointment of a certain party-less minister.
It seemed racial sentiments had been roused. Peace-loving Sarawakians who had decided before the polls that racial issues should not be stirred up in a state election, suddenly found they had something to take issue with.
Yes, murmuring and gossiping can be damaging as they typify querulous, discontented and unhappy spirits.
These can create dissension as well. You murmur when you want to complain about a problem to yourself, then you whisper to others and others pick it up with some turning to social media and newspapers to wash dirty laundry.
Usually, in this way, the complaints are not directed to the right person or those in authority who can clarify and do something to put things in perspective. As such, problems, more often than not, do not get addressed and solved – to the detriment of the complainants themselves, no matter how genuine their complaints may be.
The most disappointing and undesirable is, of course, discord among the Cabinet members, and in many cases, this could lead to racism rearing its ugly head.
The moment the State’s cornerstone of racial harmony is shaken, it loses its strength, cohesiveness, focus and ability to function effectively.
The pattern that is unchanging throughout the ages is when we stand on the foundation of trust, respect, unity and understanding laid by the forefathers, we are then equipped with the strength, power and grace to fight, and in the case of Sarawak, for more State autonomy and more development, especially rural transformation which Adenan has made one of his priorities.
The Chief Minister is apportioning talents, giving certain ministries best suited to certain individuals. Even for Manyin, Adenan must have his reasons to let him take charge of the Youth, Sports and Solidarity Ministry.
Admittedly, a minister cannot singly carry out the work of his ministry.
Manyin, with his experience in various ministerial posts, still needs a team of competent, energetic and passionate young people to help him deliver the best.
Indeed, when the appointments of assistant ministers were announced, Manyin was duly assigned two younger YBs as his assistants.
If things are not right with the leaders from both sides of the political aisle, things will definitely go out of kilter for the community as well. Patently, that is what has been wrong with our country.
Is it by the power of sheer numbers – getting people to vote the same way – that pressure is brought to bear on the Legislatures to enact the kind of legislations desired by the power that be?
Members of the Cabinet are dependent one upon another. The Cabinet functions like a physical body whereby each component part operates not by the cells getting together and voting as to what is the best thing to do but by functioning and doing what each Cabinet member is individually tasked to do.
Certainly, the body cannot function well through the revolt of cells. Have you ever experienced the fighting of the muscle cells of your stomach? We call it indigestion!
Furthermore, Cabinet members should not operate by accusing each other at separate press conferences or talking to the media for the sake of getting publicity and political mileage.
Let’s wipe out the potential threats to the State today – false pretenses, hypocrisy, dissension, murmurings, strife and conflict.
Ministers should root out all the causes of friction and strife among themselves, stop playing dog-whistle politics and cease being pretentious and hypocritical.
As Adenan has said: “The time for talking is over. The time for action is now.”
And may I add what an old hymn has put it as follows:
“We are not divided
All one body we
One in hope and doctrine
One in charity.”