Updated 8:03pm, 9 April 2009
PUTRAJAYA, 9 April 2009: Datuk Seri Najib Razak has described the new cabinet he announced today as the “People’s Cabinet”.
The prime minister said the main criterion considered in the appointment of the ministers was the people’s trust in the cabinet line-up.
“The two main principles in the formation of a cabinet are parties and the people, but the more important eventually is the people because we want them to have trust and confidence in the new cabinet,” he said.
Najib disclosed this at a meeting with selected media at his office soon after announcing the new cabinet line-up. The prime minister had earlier declined to take questions from the media covering the event which was held at the Prime Minister’s Department and telecast live on television.
Najib, who took his oath of office as prime minister on 3 April, has announced a smaller cabinet comprising 28 ministers in 25 ministries compared to the 32 ministers in 27 ministries under the administration of the previous prime minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Najib, who was calm and cheerful, expressed confidence that members of his cabinet would be able to fulfil the requirements of his motto “One Malaysia; People First; Performance Now”.
Asked how much time he would need to restore the confidence and support of all groups and races in the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, he said: “It is a long journey but we have to start somewhere.”
“The 1,000-mile journey starts with the first step. We will get there,” he said, alluding to his efforts to regain greater people support for the BN.
Asked what he would do to non-performers after the six-month evaluation, he said he believed that all those entrusted were fully aware of the big task and responsibility given.
“But there are many ways to go about it. We could follow the football system of giving the yellow card or a gentle reminder,” he said in a lighter vein.
Najib also said that the appointment of new faces to the cabinet was a process of rejuvenation in the government and BN component parties.
“The rejuvenation process has to be implemented, whether in the government or parties,” he said, adding that the switching of portfolios among the ministers from Umno and the introduction of seven new faces were part of this process.
He said he had emulated his father and the country’s second prime minister, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who had brought in new faces to his cabinet.
Najib acknowledged that the factor of representation from the states was also taken into account when deciding on the cabinet line-up.
He said the appointment of Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon in the cabinet was to make use of his ideas and expertise as well as for him to help in the management of the key performance indicators (KPI) of the ministers and deputy ministers.
On the size of the cabinet, which comprised 28 ministers and 40 deputy ministers, Najib said he had originally intended to form a smaller cabinet but then he had to take into account the needs of the BN component parties “in an ever-growing family”.
Najib said he encouraged his ministers to hold dialogue sessions and open discussion with the people and non-governmental organisations and make informal visits to meet the people.
He said he did not encourage them to put up billboards showing the faces of party and government leaders.
He also reiterated his government’s stand to give the media the liberty of practising responsible press freedom.
On “One Malaysia”, he said it was different from that of “Malaysian Malaysia” and was based on the principle of mutual trust and respect among the various races.
“We don’t want to abandon affirmative action. What is important is that we will be fair to all. No race or group will be marginalised,” he said.
Asked about his initiatory move to improve racial and religious relations, Najib said “we will start on a fair and equal premise”.
“For example, in the giving of scholarships, a student who obtains 9A’s should be considered for scholarship regardless of race.” — Bernama