There is nothing legally or morally wrong with the Prime Minister’s appointment of his eldest daughter Nurul Izzah as his Senior Adviser. Legally, the law allows it. Morally, she has the basic qualifications (forget the title: she could just as easily be called Assistant Special Assistant to the PM). The poor optics and noisy chatter are but temporary distractions of a disgruntled few (or many).
Newly minted Ministers without prior administrative experience is a risky, hit or miss proposition. And more so with bigger, weightier portfolios. First time front benchers in the past, particularly during the Tun Razak, Tun Hussein and Tun Dr Mahathir eras, were made Deputy Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries initially, but this apprenticeship rite of passage no longer applies in today’s Tik Tok, ChatGPT politics. But if we truly want high performing, competent Ministers in the future, they will need to be carefully groomed. We do this all the time in the private sector: Leaders are identified early, given stretched challenges and increasingly bigger roles. Some succeed while others fall by the wayside. But not everyone who is capable or has potential gets a chance. That’s life and life isn’t fair.
Nurul Izzah’s government appointment is not without precedent either. Before full time politics, Khairy Jamaluddin began his working life as an adviser to his father-in-law the then DPM (and later the 5th PM). Khairy’s grasp of government and his efficacy as a Minister can be traced back to these early foundations as a civil servant. A competent Minister isn’t necessarily the best qualified but is often the best exposed and most rounded. As a nation we need a good crop of them to be harvested time and again.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but what the 10th Prime Minister is doing might just be the small first steps towards competent government this nation so badly needs.
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Time will tell.
Ps. Notwithstanding the above, I strongly urge that Nurul Izzah be properly hired as a contract officer to regularise her appointment and presence in the Prime Minister’s office and the Finance Ministry. She can donate her salary to charity but an employment contract ensures she is governed by a code of conduct and subject to a set of rules and laws applicable to all civil servants carrying out their public duties in the name of King and country. There cannot be any grey areas or half hearted measures at the very heart of government.