‘Age is just a number,’ says Malaysia’s youngest ever Cabinet minister - Kogonuso


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Jul 10, 2018

‘Age is just a number,’ says Malaysia’s youngest ever Cabinet minister

The 93-year-old Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has recently appointed the youngest minister in the country’s history — 25-year-old Syed Saddiq — as part of Malaysia’s expanded Cabinet.
Saddiq, who is also the MP for the constituency of Muar, was one of the remaining list of the 13 ministers and 23 deputy ministers appointed during the swearing-in ceremony held at the Royal Palace on Monday.

When the National Front coalition (BN) was defeated during the last general elections on May 9, the coalition led by Mahathir promised to appoint a more diverse Cabinet. It also includes Yeo Bee Yin, aged 35, Minister of Energy and the youngest female minister in Malaysia’s history.
“Working in a huge organization like the Ministry, you naturally have to face a lot of stakeholders,” Saddiq told Arab News. As Minister for Youth and Sports, Saddiq has been dealing with athletes, championship organizers, and youth organizations, a job that requires you to be “very skilled at diplomacy and negotiation,” he said.
“At the end of the day, age is just a number,” added Saddiq, who is a three-time Asia’s debating champion. Mahathir, currently the oldest Prime Minister, has placed his confidence in a political novice with little experience.
Saddiq, the bespectacled young politician is popular with young people and has millions of social media followers. He has been featured in beauty and entertainment magazines in Malaysia, capitalizing on his charm and good looks.
The youngest of four siblings, Saddiq, comes from a humble, working class background. His father is a construction worker and mother is an English teacher. His father commuted to Singapore in order to earn more money in the preferential exchange rates, said Saddiq.
Saddiq first rose to prominence in 2016 when the “Change Led by the Young Generation” (Challenger), which he was a part of, spoke out against Najib Razak’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal.
His political activism caught Mahathir’s eye, and he was appointed Youth Chief of Malaysia United Indigenous Party (BERSATU), giving up his Chevening Scholarship at Oxford University to pursue his political career at BERSATU.
His mentor, Mahathir, sees Saddiq as part of his larger strategy to capitalize on his resurgent youth support given the current political zeitgeist.
Mahathir needs young bloods like Saddiq to bridge the generational gap and engage younger voters.
The previous administration appointed older politicians to hold ministerial positions. In fact, the ceiling age of the Youth Chief in the once-dominant Malay-based UMNO party is age 50.
Saddiq’s appointment was criticized by those who wanted an older, more experienced politician at the Ministry. That has not deterred the Johor-born lad — who is comfortable with his Ministry staff calling him “bro” — from bringing a youthful vibe to high office.
“For far too long our performance in sports has been hampered by politics. We will make sure there will be less interference in sports management,” Saddiq told Arab News.
Saddiq also plans to use sport to tackle Malaysia’s weight problem as the country has become known as the “fattest nation” in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, Saddiq consistently called for more civil and mature political engagement among youth, even calling for the voting age to be lowered to 18. Malaysian youth are plagued by political apathy as the Elections Commission reported that four million young voters are unregistered.
“I want youth to be empowered in whatever space they go — in politics, sports, the workplace and campuses. We have to show them they matter,” he added.
“We will listen all voices regardless their background, especially if they were marginalized such as people living with disabilities, Malaysia’s indigenous Orang Asli, young women, people in poverty and the homeless,” he added.


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