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Najib’s journey begins

THE Prime Minister began drawing up his list of Cabinet members shortly after the Umno general assembly three weeks ago. He revised the names several times and finally completed his task early yesterday.

Some had lobbied to keep their positions, including one person who wanted to send a delegation of 20 people to meet him but was politely told to come alone.

Others passed their messages via personalities who knew the Prime Minister.

“But I told them these are Cabinet posts and cannot be lobbied for,” said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, adding that most of them got the message.

Yesterday, after an audience with the King, he telephoned those he had decided to drop.

He even called Datuk Shahrir Samad, who had quit his Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs post at the last Cabinet meeting chaired by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“Shahrir was very sporting. He was in Bangkok playing golf and he invited me to join him. I told him ‘no, no, no’ – I am too busy,” he quipped.

Najib said the phone calls were the most unpleasant part of his duties yesterday.

He explained that in deciding on the names, he had to strike a balance between party and people’s interests. He also took into account geographical interests, making sure every state had at least one representative.

Then he had to accommodate the interests of the Barisan Nasional component parties, adding that he wished he could have trimmed down the size of the Cabinet further. The Cabinet now features 29 members. But he obviously had to face political reality.

“I want a hands-on Cabinet that can produce results. I want those who can produce maximum impact,” he told editors at his office shortly after announcing his Cabinet line-up.

The historic meeting was also attended by blogger Ahiruddin Atan (Rocky’s Bru) and Agenda Daily editor Hanafiah Man.

The inclusion of several new faces, especially deputy ministers, was part of the rejuvenation process.

For the first time, key performance indicators (KPIs) will be used to evaluate and measure the performances of the Cabinet members while he will personally chair the management meetings of each ministry every six months.

He has promised to make sure they perform in line with his “People First, Performance Now” slogan.

“How do I deal with non-performers? I can use the football system. A gentle reminder or a yellow card first. But I have my ways and I am sure they realise the need to perform,” he added.

He wants his ministers to emulate his walkabouts without the fanfare or the presence of the press. On Sunday, he visited Chinatown, Brickfields and Kampung Kerinchi in the federal capital.

“The Indian shopkeeper I visited (to have tea) says he is going to call it Najib’s Corner,” he quipped, referring to the table he sat down at for a teh tarik.

He wants a stop to “all the trappings” of extravagance, saying there should no longer be billboards featuring the faces of leaders.

“If you want to advertise Malaysia, do so. There’s no need to put the face of the Prime Minister on it,” he said, in reference to billboards sponsored by certain ministries, carrying huge pictures of government leaders.

“There’s no need for red carpet and all that. I want a less formal setting and a more business-like culture,” he said.

Elaborating on his One Malaysia First slogan, he said Malaysians expected fairness and transparency.

He cited the awarding of scholarships to bright students, saying it should be based on merit and not on race.

“For example, if a student with 9As fails to get a scholarship, he must be told why. The process must be fair, we must be seen to be fair,” he said.

Najib said affirmative action would be kept but no ethnic group should feel marginalised or deprived.

He was also asked by the editors if he would send a message to his Cabinet members to accept criticism from the press.

“I’d rather be criticised fairly by the press than be criticised by the people (in the elections),” he said, adding he had put on record that the press should be critical.

At the MPI-Petronas Malaysian Journalism Awards dinner on Monday, the new Prime Minister said he wanted to encourage respectful and fair dialogue on Malaysia’s future involving the whole nation that takes place in a vibrant, free and informed media.

He said he would encourage his Cabinet members to blog, citing his www.1malaysia.com.my that now has Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese versions. The Chinese version, launched barely 48 hours ago, already has 1.5 million page views.

Najib realises that expectations of Malaysians are high. All new leaders bring fresh hope but the question is whether they can sustain their plans.

“Like the Chinese saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” he said, referring to Chinese philosopher Lao Tze.

The country’s sixth Prime Minister took his first step yesterday. It will not be an easy one, but he has asked Malaysians to join him on his journey into the future.

Source : The Star

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