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NST Online » Frontpage
2008/03/18
NEW CABINET LINE-UP
Big surprises as Umno stalwarts dropped…and return
By : Newsdesk
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PUTRAJAYA, Tues:

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unveiled a Cabinet line-up today full of major surprises. He dropped Umno stalwarts Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid when he made the announcement at his office in Putrajaya. But the biggest surprise was reserved for the replacements the Prime Minister brought in: Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who was not even picked to contest in the March 8 polls, has been made a minister and so is Datuk Shahrir Samad, returning after a long 22-year hiatus. From out of the wilderness, former Selangor Mentri Besar and Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib was made Rural and Regional Development Minister.

The Abdullah Administration is a now 70-member strong, down from 90, and comprises 32 full ministers and 37 deputy ministers, and one special adviser with full ministerial ranking. For the first time in Cabinet history, the posts of parliamentary secretaries have been scrapped, based on the Prime Minister’s desire to optimise Cabinet deputy ministers' role by taking over the work of these secretaries, especially in answering questions in the Dewan Rakyat.

The Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministries have been merged, reverting to its original name of Home Ministry. The National Unity and Integration Department in the PM's Department has been absorbed into the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, and is now called Unity, Culture and Arts Ministry.

One of Abdullah's strongest picks was outgoing Maybank group president and chief executive officer Datuk Amirsham A. Aziz, as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department heading the Economic Planning Unit. Amirsham, who announced his retirement from the country’s largest banking group effective June, will replace Datuk Seri Effendi Nawawi.

Shahrir will take over the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry while Zaid and Amirsham are expected to be made senators.

The appointment of Zaid, who will be the de facto Justice Minister in charge of judiciary reforms, was all the more surprising because of his well-established stance as a vociferous critic of the Government, especially on issues concerning the judiciary, religious fanaticism and human rights.

The Umno stalwarts were dropped despite winning their respective parliamentary seats in the March 8 polls, reflecting Abdullah’s desire for renewal in boosting the smaller 27-Ministry Cabinet line-up.

As expected, Abdullah will remain as Finance Minister while Datuk Najib Razak resumes as Deputy Prime Minister and his current portfolio of Defense while Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop was retained as Second Finance Minister.

Former Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed Minister of International Trade And Industry, replacing Rafidah, who is also the Wanita Umno chief. She is believed to be the world’s longest-serving trade minister.




Datuk Husni Hanadzlah and Datuk Kong Cho Ha were appointed Deputy Finance Ministers. Husni was formerly Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry while Kong was formerly Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation. As for MITI, the deputy ministers are Liew Vui Keong and Jacob Dungau.

It would be hard to ignore the dropping of Perlis Umno stalwarts like Radzi and Azmi, who was embroiled in a crisis that led to ouster of Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim as Perlis Mentri Besar last week. For Radzi, it is the more surprising because he holds a very senior post in Umno, the secretary-general. Because of the squabbling in Perlis, no representive was picked from the state.

For the first time in Cabinet history, the Wanita Umno chief and deputy chief were not made ministers. Besides Rafidah, Datuk Shahrizat Jalil, who lost to PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar in the general election, was also dropped. The only representation is Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, as Tourism Minister, and Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, as deputy minister in the PM’s Department.

But in a surprising turn of events, Shahrizat was appointed as special adviser to the Prime Minister on women's issues, a post that carries a full ministerial rank.

One appointment to note: the inclusion of Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abu Taib in the new administration. Sulaiman is the son of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud.

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