On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Shot of young blood in expanded Cabinet

It had been speculation that at least three ministers
would be dropped and several young politicians named into the Cabinet, but
Abdullah kept his cards close to his chest.

Most of the appointees, like the rest of the nation, were glued to the TV for
the live telecast of Pak Lah's announcement.

When the announcement was delayed for over 30 minutes, many exasperated
politicians started calling newsmen who were waiting on the first floor of the
Prime Minister's Office.

Only one person was told that he would retain his portfolio – Datuk Syed Hamid
Albar, who was informed by Abdullah at the PWTC on polling night.

Except for the Barisan Nasional component leaders who were informed of their allocations
of positions in the government after submitting their name lists, most of the
Umno appointees were not told.

A woman politician called me eight times over the last 48 hours to ask what I
knew. She refused to believe me when I told her I had no specific details in
the appointments.

It was very flattering that she thought I had access to the list. But there was
a happy ending – she was given a high post.

It was only late on Friday night that the picture began to emerge. A colleague
stationed in Putrajaya kept me updated by phone but I was sceptical. In the
end, she was proven right.

The names of some politicians whom we thought would be dropped were on the

Among the reasons given were the need for state representation and political

One or two names may disappoint Malaysians but we need to look at the list as a

Abdullah has included many young leaders such as Puteri Umno chief Datuk
Azalina Othman, Baling MP Datuk Dr Masitah Ibrahim, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Husin
and Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique.

It is a serious push to groom these young leaders in high office. The plum went
to Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn who was appointed
Education Minister.

All of our prime ministers have had their training at the ministry because
education is regarded as a sensitive area. Having to accommodate the demands of
the various education groups requires plenty of wisdom, patience and

The general perception is that the last Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa
Mohamed, did not handle the portfolio well. As an academician, he lacked the
political skills to meet the demands of the various groups.

MCA vice-president Datuk Chua Jui Meng lost his Health Ministry post to his
friend, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek from Johor.

Dr Chua, the new MP for Labis, is a seasoned politician. As a medical doctor,
he would surely be able to handle the ministry effectively.

From a political aspect, Abdullah has removed a third force in the MCA.  Chua's removal would help strengthen
relations between MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and his deputy Datuk Dr
Chan Kong Choy. It would pave the way for the two young leaders to consolidate
the party.

Ong and Chan took over the party leadership when party president Datuk Dr Seri
Dr Ling Liong Sik and deputy Datuk Seri Lim Ah Lek resigned after 14 months of
internal bickering.

At least one politician declined to be appointed. Four-term MP Datuk Chor Chee
Heung told me about his decision on Wednesday.

The popular lawyer from Alor Star had informed Ong, was then told to "sleep on
it and not make rash decisions", but had remained resolute.

By Friday, word had gone around that the former Deputy Home Minister had
decided to remain as an ordinary MP.

He will be missed, not just by members of the press but also his ministry
colleagues, including secretary-general Datuk Seri Aseh Che Mat who spoke
highly of him when we met on Friday.

A surprise in the line-up was moving Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk
Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, one of Umno's bright sparks, to the Information

The new Tourism Minister is Datuk Leo Michael Toyad. With his extensive
contacts as Deputy Foreign Minister previously, he will be able to give this
important portfolio a boost.

Unlike Kadir, who has a flamboyant personality, Toyad is an introvert but his
deputy, Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has excellent relations with the media and is
known for his ability to network.

Abdullah may have to consider filling the vacant parliamentary secretary slot
in the Tourism Ministry with someone from a Chinese-based party because the
Chinese market is the biggest.

A Chinese-speaking leader who understands the sentiments of mainland Chinese
would help Malaysia
compete for a slice of the lucrative tourism market.

Abdullah's slightly enlarged Cabinet has taken into account a higher percentage
of new faces, 14 to be exact, but he has also increased non-Malay
representation, reflecting the commitment of the Barisan government to