Malaysia’s new PM Najib snubs predecessor in cabinet selection

(AP) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled a new 28-member cabinet yesterday, offering a snub to his predecessor, Abdullah Badawi, and a sign of deference to elder statesman Mahathir Mohamad along the way.

Mr Abdullah's son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, was not given any cabinet or deputy minister's post even though he was elected the head of Umno's powerful youth wing last month.

The United Malays National Organisation is the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition and traditionally, the Umno youth chief has handled the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Mr Khairy had defeated former prime minister Dr Mahathir's son Mukhriz for the post, prompting Dr Mahathir to accuse Mr Khairy openly of bribing party delegates to win.

But it was Mr Mukhriz who was rewarded yesterday. He was named deputy minister of international trade, one of 40 deputy ministers.

Mr Najib, who retained the Finance Ministry for himself as he embarks on an ambitious reform programme, brought in seven first-time ministers.

In another major change, Mr Najib named Koh Tsu Koon, the leader of a minority party in the ruling coalition, as a minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of national unity. The appointment of an ethnic Chinese to head a newly created post dealing with social issues is a reflection of the importance Mr Najib has placed on healing a sense of alienation among the Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities in the Malay Muslim-majority country.

"The clear message is that everyone wants a government that is responsive to the needs of the people today," Mr Najib said.

Mr Najib, who took office last Friday, has pledged to carry out wide-ranging reforms, a task Mr Abdullah failed to carry out despite making similar promises when he took office in October 2003.

Mr Abdullah's lacklustre rule was largely blamed for the National Front's poor results in the March 2008 general elections. He stepped down as prime minister and leader of Umno last month.

Despite reports he would create a much smaller cabinet than Mr Abdullah's, Mr Najib's lineup is only four ministers fewer. He abolished two ministries but created a new one for green energy and water.