KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The unity government that DAP is part of is a government formed in cooperation with Barisan Nasional (BN), instead of any particular individual like BN chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke said today.
Faced with questions over Zahid being appointed deputy prime minister and being part of the Cabinet despite facing criminal trials in court, Loke stressed that DAP and the unity government still hold on to the principles of fighting corruption and pointed out that the court processes will carry on separately from Cabinet matters.
Asked about potential unhappiness among DAP supporters on Umno president Zahid becoming deputy prime minister, Loke explained a unity government — a new post-election government model practised for the first time in Malaysia — involves various coalitions and parties.
“So, in the context of this unity government, when we work together to form a government, there are principles that must be followed, such as who will be placed to represent their coalitions needs agreement from that coalition, so that again is a discussion between that coalition with the prime minister.
“We have to understand that principle. If we don’t understand and respect that principle, then this coalition will not be successfully formed, so that is the principle we respected. As I said, Cabinet appointments are the discretion and prerogative of the prime minister,” he told reporters during a press conference here at DAP’s national headquarters.
Loke said DAP’s unconditional support of Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in forming a government as prime minister was unconditional only in terms of the government composition.
In other words, he said DAP did not place any conditions, such as making any requests for the number of ministerial roles or which ministerial portfolios it wanted to have, noting for example that DAP never set any conditions such as wanting the Finance Ministry portfolio or for previous ministers to be returned to their portfolios.
He said DAP’s unconditional support of Anwar did not mean it would come at the expense of its values and agenda, noting: “Fighting corruption is the agenda of this unity government, is PH’s main agenda.”
He confirmed that there is no sacrificing of any principles previously held, saying: “No, of course not. This government must be based on the rule of law. This government must fight corruption. This government must uphold the principles of Rukun Negara.
“These are the core principles which we must uphold, when I said unconditional, I meant in terms of political positions, I said no conditions.”
Cabinet not for personal matters, court process goes on
Asked how DAP would want to cooperate with BN when there are individuals involved in corruption cases, Loke said: “That is up to the court, there are court processes which are ongoing. We in Cabinet only discuss the country’s agenda, not discuss the agenda of respective cases, personal cases won’t be touched, won’t be discussed. We will only discuss agenda for the citizens and agenda for the country, that is our stand.
“But as I said, this is a new political approach which we have to learn together on how to cooperate, because the election result is that no party can form government without cooperation with other coalitions, we have to learn how to work together,” he said.
Asked if DAP MPs and DAP central executive committee members had agreed to a unity government with Zahid as a Cabinet member despite facing court cases, Loke said: “It’s not about Zahid Hamidi, the unity government is with BN. It’s not with any particular individuals, it’s with the coalition, so that principle, I think everyone in DAP understood that. It’s with BN, this unity government is with BN.”
Pressed further on whether the possibility of Zahid being a Cabinet member was discussed in these internal meetings with DAP MPs and DAP CEC members, Loke said: “I think all of them are seasoned enough to understand who are involved and so on, but I think the decision was made based on the consequences — if we do not form the government, the other alternative would be the other parties would form the government.”
Asked if BN had “threatened” to pull out of the unity government if Zahid was not appointed to the Cabinet, Loke dismissed this: “We have been working quite well so far, there is no such thing as threatening each other, we don’t want to start off with such a negative connotation, threatening each other, no threats has been made.
“And so far, I think working relationships are getting better, getting good. We just had our swearing in just now, all of us were there, all the ministers were there, we had our session together, we mingled around, we tried to build personal relationships among ministers, building trust. No such thing as any threatening, I did not hear anything such as threatening each other, no threats ever been made.”
As for why DAP deputy chairman and former communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo had declined to be appointed to the Cabinet again, Loke confirmed that the latter’s decision was unrelated to Zahid.
“No, as he has mentioned in his statement, I think I respect his privacy, he has made a decision. We had a long discussion over a few days, and finally, he told me he would like to decline the appointment even though I have tried to convince him many times but he stick to his decision. At the end of the day, I have to respect his decision and we have to move on,” he said, noting that Gobind had already stated that he wants to focus on his role as MP.
Loke was also asked about Anwar’s holding of the dual roles of prime minister and finance minister, which allowed for a concentration of powers which previously enabled the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal to happen during the Najib administration.
Loke replied by saying: “This is a unity government, not a one-party dominant-government, so there are checks and balances within Cabinet.”