Dr M says Najib’s Cabinet has “unsavoury characters”

By Leslie Lau (The Malaysian Insider)

KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed disappointment that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet appointments include several “unsavoury characters.”

Writing in his blog today, Dr Mahathir said the inclusion of these “unsavoury” personalities had negated any desire to rid Umno of blatantly corrupt politicians.

Dr Mahathir’s remarks suggest his shadow will loom large over the new prime minister, just as it did over Tun Abdullah Badawi’s administration.

Malaysia’s longest serving PM had quit Umno last year after falling out with Abdullah. He rejoined the party a day after Najib became PM in what appeared to be an endorsement of the new administration.

But Dr Mahathir, who has denied being offered any posts as advisor to Najib, had said he would continue criticising the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration if he felt the new prime minister made any mistakes.

True to his word, the former PM wrote in his blog today of his opinion that “several unsavoury characters who had been accused of being corrupt while in the previous government” had been included in Najib’s cabinet.

He did not name the ministers, but it is apparent Dr Mahathir was signalling to Najib his wish for ministers associated with Abdullah to be removed.

“The exclusion of Khairy Jamaluddin, the Umno Youth head who was found guilty of corruption by the Umno disciplinary committee, seems to indicate a desire on the part of the new prime minister to rid Umno of the blatantly corrupt politician.

“Unfortunately the inclusion of several unsavoury characters who had been accused of being corrupt while in the previous government, seem to negate this desire,” he wrote on his popular chedet.cc blog.

The administration, he said, should be aware it has less than three years to regain the support of the public.

He said Najib’s government had missed a good opportunity for regaining public backing for BN by “excluding dubious characters.”

Pressure from Dr Mahathir is the last thing Najib needs now as he is already facing problems on multiple fronts.

Najib’s 1Malaysia concept has come under fire amid some racial tensions stoked by a significant sector of the Malay ground who are unhappy with what they see as unreasonable demands from non-Malays.

He is also busy trying to quell a revolt in Terengganu against the BN mentri besar.

But his foremost challenge has been to try to turn around a softening economy.

He will now have to contend with criticisms from Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir said that in his administration, ministers, their deputies and mentris besar were all required to declare their assets.

“But the declarations did not reveal much. Some ministers were queried by the then Anti-Corruption Agency but no charges could be made.

Still talks about corrupt mentris besar and chief ministers in particular were frequently heard.

No one was prepared to come forward to give evidence.

“In the end I had to simply drop the MBs whom I heard were corrupt. No charges were made against them as they would not stand up in a court of law,” he wrote.

What mattered, he claimed, was that the level of corruption during his time as PM was never high and did not hamper the implementation of government projects and did not result in abuses of ministerial power.

“I don't believe that corruption can be totally eradicated. But it can be minimised.

“From the complaints I hear today, corruption especially in the government party has reached record levels during the tenure of the last PM,” he claimed.