KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 (Reuters) – Najib Razak was sworn in as Malaysia’s sixth prime minister on Friday, taking the reins of a country grappling with a sharp economic slowdown and a growing racial and religious divide.
In a traditional ceremony at the yellow-domed national palace in Kuala Lumpur, Najib took the oath of office before the king, assuming the premiership from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“I hereby pledge to discharge my duties as prime minister to the best of my ability and pledge my undivided allegiance to the king,” said the 55-year-old, wearing a black traditional Malay outfit and cap.
Malaysian prime ministers are appointed by the king, who is a constitutional monarch.
Watched by government ministers and other guests, Najib signed documents formally appointing him. A Muslim cleric solemnised the ceremony with prayers in a sombre 30-minute event which was broadcast live on national television.
In remarks on his website (http://1malaysia.com.my/ [http://1malaysia.com.my/]) dated Thursday but posted after his inauguration, the new premier asked Malaysians to work together based on his “1Malaysia” vision for a united country.
“Together, we will ensure that Malaysia emerges a stronger, more unified, and prosperous nation,” Najib wrote.
“The tremendous support the 1Malaysia community has exhibited toward the message of unity and tolerance has been very instructive to me and will play an enormous role in developing the relationship between government and our citizens.”
He is scheduled to make his first address at 8.10 p.m. (1210 GMT) on Friday.
Najib takes over the top job at a time when the mostly Muslim country of 27 million people is expected to slip into its first recession in a decade as exports slump.
Racial and religious tensions are also on the rise in this multi-racial country, as ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities chafe under what they say is a growing erosion of their rights.
“Uniting the nation is a cardinal imperative for the new Prime Minister, if Malaysia is to be lifted out of its current state of taut restlessness towards stability, modernity, progress and prosperity,” the government-supporting New Straits Times said in an editorial on Friday. Najib’s National Front coalition is struggling to stem a growing tide of public disappointment which could see it losing power to the opposition in the next general election due by 2013.
Voters handed the ruling coalition its worst election result in 2008 polls, angered by the slow pace of reforms to stamp out corruption and improve the economy’s competitiveness. (Writing by Liau Y-Sing; Editing by Valerie Lee)
Source : Reuters