Minister Saifuddin Abdullah who once backed limiting PM’s term says things ‘different’ now

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during a press conference at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur August 26, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during a press conference at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur August 26, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said today he supports the controversial decision to withdraw a monumental Bill that would have limited how long a person could be prime minister, despite once calling it crucial for government reform.

The communications and multimedia minister said he did not view the reversal as a setback to reform, but adds that the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) remains committed to transparency and accountable governance through other means.

Asked about the change in mindset, Saifuddin suggested that many coalition leaders now felt differently about the term limit for the prime minister’s post.

“I think different philosophy,” the Bersatu politician formerly with PKR and Umno replied to Malay Mail at a press conference held after a government event here.

“I think different government, different administration has a different philosophy. A different way of looking at certain things,” he added.

Earlier today, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government recalled two items of proposed legislation that would have introduced a term limit for the position of the prime minister and external oversight of the police, a move that drew immediate public backlash on social media.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan told the Dewan Rakyat that the government was withdrawing both the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill and Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2019.

Saifuddin confirmed later on that the decision had been deliberated and was unanimously backed by the Cabinet.

“It [was] a Cabinet decision,” the minister said at the press conference.

“And Cabinet decisions are made unanimously,” he added when asked if he too had backed the withdrawal.

PN, which took over government from Pakatan Harapan (PH), had indicated as early as March that it planned to withdraw the IPCMC Bill.

The Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2019 was tabled by the PH administration last December to limit the tenure of the prime minister to two terms and had been scheduled for debate in March — but delayed due to the change in government and the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The move to limit terms of office-bearers and the prime minister’s tenure were among key election pledges by the PH coalition in its 14th General Election manifesto that was seen as widely popular.

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