On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Nazri needs a strong showing to boost image

When the journalists asked what Nazri would be doing, an
aide replied: "Nothing so far." When lunch was served after the briefing, the
journalists were asked to give their opinions on the line-up.

A few said they were disappointed, while some said it was good to see fresh
faces. Some said they had thought that one or two politicians including Nazri
would be dropped but the aides were cautious in their replies, more concerned
with gauging the sentiments of the media.

On Thursday, it became clearer: Nazri would be the Minister in charge of

The Entrepreneur Development Minister in the previous Cabinet would now oversee
the running of Parliament – the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara.

He will also be responsible for the duties of the various committees, Speakers
and Deputy Speakers of the two Houses, scheduling Parliament sessions and
chairing the various committees responsible for Parliament's

It is certainly a far cry from his previous ministry.

As Entrepreneur Development Minister, he had the power to approve taxi permits,
scholarships and loans, especially for the small businessmen, hawkers and
contractors. For some Umno members, the ministry is even regarded as a
"patronage ministry".

But during his tenure, he found himself in a controversy. He was alleged to
have issued 6,000 taxi permits but the Anti-Corruption Agency and the
Attorney-General's Office cleared him of any wrongdoing.

He was upset with the way some newspapers, especially the Bahasa Malaysia
dailies, had pursued the controversy, but he was vindicated when the ACA
cleared him. Still, the controversy left its mark on him.

The timing was also wrong as it was already near the general election but with
the ACA clearing his name, he was picked to defend his parliamentary

But it did not end there. The press continued to speculate that his name would
not be on the Cabinet list and when he was retained, many were surprised.

It was certainly not an easy task for Abdullah to draw up the Cabinet list when
he had to take into account many factors including the huge success of Umno and
the sharing of power with other parties. Then, there is also the question of
state representation, which is imperative to all political parties.

But Nazri has maintained his confidence, saying he did not consider his new
portfolio a "demotion" although he felt that his previous ministry was "more

Nazri also reportedly dismissed notions that he lacked the gravity of his
previous posts, saying he had actually survived the "jinx" associated with the
Entrepreneur Development Ministry, pointing out that history had shown that ministers
in the job did not complete their terms.

But Nazri, a qualified lawyer, would be glad to know that he is not the only
minister with such a portfolio, He has his counterparts in democracies like
Scotland, Portugal and Sri Lanka. In Australia, the Special Administrative
Services Minister is responsible for the upkeep of Parliament.

In Malaysia, most of the responsibilities, said to come under the purview of
Nazri, were handled by the Speaker.

There would be a need for Abdullah to define their functions to avoid
duplication of work. It must be remembered that the Speaker is the leader of
the House with sovereign powers and is ranked higher than Nazri.

As a member of the Executive, the minister cannot be interfering in the
functions of the House including the various committees which have
representatives from the Opposition.

The Parliament, which has only about 130 staff, meets three times a year, the
longest session being between October and December, when the Budget is tabled
by the Finance Minister.

Politically speaking, Nazri, an Umno supreme council member, has found himself
in a bind. He needs to prove that all the bad publicity has not affected his
standing in Umno and come June, when the party elections are held, he will have
a chance to prove his critics wrong.

A strong showing at the party elections would strengthen his political fortunes
and image as his political star is no longer shining so brightly.