KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob should just take on the responsibilities of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) without extra pay after its minister, Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin, said she will tender her resignation after defecting from her old party, a DAP MP has said today.

Steven Sim urged Ismail Sabri to not elect a new minister for the portfolio until the end of this Parliamentary term, claiming that not only will it prevent political turmoil among the parties vying for the post but also save taxpayers' money.

"I would like to call on Prime Minister Ismail Sabri not to appoint a new minister to replace the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Zuraida Kamaruddin who has become a political frog once again by jumping the party from Bersatu to Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM).

"I would like to suggest that the PM not appoint a new minister, instead hold the post of Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities himself without pay until the end of the 14th Parliamentary term,” said the Bukit Mertajam MP.

Sim said if the prime minister can take Zuraida's responsibilities, he would reduce the huge number of Cabinet members currently in government, pointing out that there are 31 ministers and 37 deputy ministers in the current administration.

"This giant Cabinet is seen as a waste, especially when the government has failed to address the various problems faced by the people since the Covid-19 pandemic until now.

"Currently, the management of the chicken subsidy has failed, resulting in the chicken industry not being subsidised and resulting in the price of chicken continuing to be expensive and the supply of chicken reduced by up to 50 per cent in the market,” he said.

He said that should the PM also take on the responsibility without extra pay, it would certainly save the public’s money, as well as send a signal that the government needs to spend more prudently, especially when people are facing a rise in prices for goods in the country.

"If a new minister is appointed, the financial implications will be not only the minister's salary and allowance, but also pensions, as well as benefits such as vacations, employment of new employees and so on.

"This does not include further council expenditures, celebrations and specific programmes that will be directed by the minister at the ministry level,” he said.

He said that the prime minister can bring stability to MPIC, which has seen three different ministers leading the ministry over the past three years as there would be no need to implement major changes in terms of policy or organisational structure.

Sim added that in the era of post-pandemic economic recovery, Ismail Sabri can also provide more effective leadership to MPIC after the failures of previous ministers from PAS and Bersatu in helping the sector cope with the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic.

"Issues such as lack of workers, rising cost of input materials, logistics costs and so on have not been addressed by the previous ministers from PAS and Bersatu to date,” he said.

The power struggle between both Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional within the government can also be soothed should the PM absorb the post into his portfolio as then there would not be a tussle for the post of MPIC minister.

Finally, Sim said that it would not make sense to elect a new minister of MPIC, as there is only one year left on this Parliamentary term, and electing someone to the post would be akin to giving the said person a honeymoon job.

On May 26, Zuraida officially announced her entry into PBM and indicated that she plans to relinquish her ministerial role upon her return from a work trip in Turkey.

However, Ismail Sabri told reporters in Tokyo that Zuraida has yet to tender her resignation and will remain in the Cabinet 'for now”.

Bersatu has so far insisted that someone from the party should be appointed to the post to replace Zuraida.