KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) â€” Malaysia’s new premier Najib Razak unveiled a new-look cabinet Thursday, ejecting figures close to his predecessor and installing loyalists to help him push through promised reforms.
Najib was sworn in last week with an ambitious reform agenda, including plans to overhaul the ruling party UMNO which was humbled in elections last year by voters who see it as corrupt and out of touch.
In a wide-ranging shake-up, the 55-year-old premier retained the finance portfolio which will be key to steering Malaysia away from recession as the global downturn evaporates demand for its exports.
“This is our team which I hope will provide strength for the Barisan Nasional and help us to regain the confidence of all people,” Najib said.
“We need to understand that the era of government that exerts excessive control, and has an attitude of ‘government knows best,’ is over,” he said in a televised address.
The number of cabinet ministers was cut to 28 from 32, and several ministries were amalgamated.
Former trade minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was elected UMNO deputy leader at party polls last month, was promoted to the key post of deputy prime minister and also given the education portfolio.
The trade ministry is now helmed by Mustapa Mohamed, a trained economist who served as agriculture minister in the last administration. His deputy is Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The defence portfolio goes to Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a close ally of Najib and one of the newly appointed vice-presidents of UMNO.
Foreign Minister Rais Yatim was shifted to the newly created ministry of information, communications, arts and culture, and replaced by Anifah Aman, a backbencher from Sabah state on Borneo island.
Several figures seen as loyal to former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi were dropped, including Rural Affairs Minister Muhammad Muhammad Taib, Tourism Minister Azalina Othman and Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar.
The sensitive home affairs portfolio, which handles internal security, is now held by Hishammuddin Hussein, the former education minister, who was also made one of UMNO’s three vice-presidents.
There was a snub for Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of Abdullah who won the influential post of UMNO youth chief. Traditionally, the youth chief sits in the cabinet but he was omitted from Najib’s new line-up.
Source : AFP