Malaysia PM Mahathir seeks to restore nation's dignity as new Cabinet is sworn in

From left: Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing their appointment letters at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. They were among 13 members of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's core
From left: Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing their appointment letters at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. They were among 13 members of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's core Cabinet who were sworn in.PHOTO: BERNAMA

He sets tone for officials by stressing need for checks and balances; task force to probe 1MDB

More than a week after he returned as Malaysia's Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's administration finally rolled into Putrajaya as 13 members of his core Cabinet were sworn in yesterday evening.

They will report to work in the administrative capital this morning, filling key positions such as finance, economic affairs, home affairs and defence.

 

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) ministers were sworn in at the palace after a week of dispute over who would fill important Cabinet roles among the four allied parties that won the May 9 general election, the first time Malaysia saw a change in ruling coalition since independence.

Several ministers, such as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women and Family Development Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, have already called for press conferences to set out their agenda after clocking in for the first time today.

Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng's confirmation as Finance Minister was also historic - the first time in 44 years that a person who is not from the Malay majority has taken up the key portfolio. With PH promising a complete overhaul of government finances, his office will be closely watched, especially with the goods and services tax set to be scrapped next month.

Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali has also been elevated to Economic Affairs Minister. While he will relinquish leadership of Malaysia's richest state only when a suitable candidate has been agreed by the Selangor Sultan, he will be fully occupied in Putrajaya as a slew of huge projects, including the high speed rail from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, is slated for review.

"I pledge to do my utmost to undertake economic reforms to save the nation from the crisis stemming from the misguided policies of the previous administration. No doubt, we will remain committed to our social justice cause and initiatives of ensuring that the wealth of the nation be distributed fairly and equitably," Datuk Seri Azmin said.

 
 
 

Dr Mahathir began yesterday by setting the tone for civil servants who will work under new leaders, saying that they "shouldn't do anything against the law, even if ordered to by the government".

"It is our duty to restore this country's dignity so it is respected by the world," he said in a speech to staff of the Prime Minister's Department. "The separation of powers is important, as without these checks and balances, wrongdoing will continue without any comment, obstruction or objection."

Hours later, the government announced an investigative task force to look at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) made up of key personnel whose probe into the scandal-hit state fund was disrupted in 2015 by former prime minister Najib Razak.

They include then Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, then Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Abu Kassim Mohamed and his deputy Mohd Shukri Abdull, who has returned to lead the anti-graft agency.

Up to US$4.5 billion (S$6 billion) is alleged to have been siphoned from 1MDB by associates of Datuk Seri Najib, including US$700 million found in his personal accounts, but the former PM denies any wrongdoing.

Separately, Mr Najib has also been summoned by anti-graft investigators to the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya this morning.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'Mahathir seeks to restore nation's dignity as KL Cabinet is sworn in'. Print Edition | Subscribe