When I came across a Star newspaper report of May 16 headlined “A well-balanced Cabinet of 32 ministers” my brain went into rewind mode, taking me back to my Malay school days in the 1950’s when “congak” and “ujian akal” were both loved and loathed by the pupils.
“Congak” was mental arithmetic and a regular subject. We would be given, in quick succession, questions concerning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. We would have to answer them without the aid of any instrument – not even pencil. We had to do the calculation in our mind and answer verbally.
The “ujian akal” was a general knowledge test. We were asked on subjects that were not often taught in the classroom. Only if we did extra reading and observed everyday events would we be able to answer them.
Using the basic principle of “congak” and knowledge of general affairs, for which I did not fair badly, and applying them to The Star “well-balanced Cabinet” labelling, I came up with the following mathematics:
1. The Indians, who account for 7.1% of the population according to the 2010 Census, are represented by two Ministers. In addition they have four Deputy Ministers.
2. The Chinese, who account for 22.9% of the population, are, by choice and by their dismal contribution to the BN election victory in the May 5 polls, are not represented. There is, however a nominated Chinese in the transformational Cabinet.
3. There are 32 Cabinet Ministers and 24 Ministries, including the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD). In the PMD, there are eight Ministers. Deputy Ministers are not Cabinet members.
4. Sarawak with the population of 2,506,500, where the state BN won 25 out of 31 seats, was awarded six Cabinet posts. It works out to one Minister for every 417,750 Sarawakians. Counting Deputy Ministers, the Bumi Kenyalang (Land of the Hornbills) has 10 federal posts.
5. Sabah with the population of 3,214,200, where the BN won 22 out of 25 seats, was also given six Cabinet jobs working out to one Minister for every 535,700. Counting Deputy Ministers, the “Negeri Di Bawah Bayu” (Land Below the Wind) has 10 federal posts.
6. On the contrary, Johor, which has the population of 3,305, 900 and contributing 21 parliamentary seats (out of 25) has only three full Ministers working out to one Minister for every 1,101,966 proud Johorians.
7. But the Johorians can spare their handkerchiefs. They are not the ultimate victims of Mohd Najib’s “congak”. The real “anak tiri” are the Selangorians of whom I am one. There are 5,037,600 of us and five BN MPs but not a single Minister. Talk about “congak” and about regaining Selangor in future elections! (I am not counting Paul Low Seng Kuan because I am not sure who he represents.) This is perhaps the Prime Minister’s way of teaching the Selangorians a lesson.
8. But the Selangorians need not shed tears. The two million Kedahans are no better. After returning the state to the BN and contributing 10 Dewan Rakyat seats (out of 15), they get only one Minister post.
9. Perakians are luckier. They gave 12 out of 24 parliamentary seats to the BN and got three Ministers in return. The people of Perlis, Kelantan, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan can count themselves lucky. They have more Menterisdespite having fewer MPs.
10. Perlis (3 seats 1 Minister), Kedah (10/1), Kelantan (5/1), Terengganu (4/2), Pahang (10/2), Penang (3/0), Perak (12/3), Selangor (5/0), Wilayah Persekutuan (4/1), Negeri Sembilan (5/2), Malacca (4/0), Johor (21/3), Sabah (22/6) and Sarawak (25/6). [Note: Bro. Jalaluddin Bahaudin and Sis. Hardev Kaur, please correct me if I am wrong.]
11. Women who make up 49% of Malaysia’s population and a rising force in the economy are represented by only two Ministers and both of them are from Sarawak.
12. And Wanita Umno members, the backbone of Umno’s campaign machinery and the most loyal to the party, are the ultimate losers. They were left out in the cold for the first time in decades. They have no representative in the Cabinet.
In short, the “congak” does not quite add up and the mathematical logic is lost in what appears to be a haphazard arrangement that disregards the key elements of our demography and in the distribution of seats won by the BN. And the Cabinet could only become larger and unruly despite the BN winning proportionally fewer seats in the House of Representatives since the 1969 General Elections.
Then again, who are we to complain? Our peasant way of looking at things counts for nothing against the brilliance and cleverness of the people who make up the Prime Minister’scouncil of advisers - the political secretaries, the special advisers, the special officers and the Blue Ocean consultants. Wallahualam.