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 12 Apr 2009

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Malaysia's new cabinet sworn in

Malaysia's ministers were sworn in during a 90-minute ceremony, a day after Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled his new cabinet to carry out political reform and shore up the ailing economy, reported AFP.

A total of 28 ministers and 40 deputy ministers took their oath of office and pledged to defend the constitution in an event led by deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin before the King at the palace.

In a wide-ranging shake-up, Najib, who was sworn in last week, retained the finance portfolio key to steering Malaysia away from recession as the global downturn evaporates demand for its exports.

Former trade minister Muhyiddin, who was elected deputy leader of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) at party polls last month, was also given the education portfolio.

The trade ministry is now headed by Mustapa Mohamed, a trained economist. His deputy is Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former prime minister Mahathir.

Khoo Kay Peng, an independent political analyst, told AFP that Najib has to implement democratic reform to regain public trust and woo foreign investment.

"Definitely there is no honeymoon" for Najib. "They (Malaysians) perceive him as a controversial leader," he said, adding that the new PM "has to do more than just rhetoric."

Khoo said Najib remained under pressure by opposition attempts to link him with corruption and the murder of a Mongolian woman who was the mistress of a close associate of the premier.

The analyst also warned that investors would be deterred if he failed to carry out pledges made when he was sworn into power, including revamping the graft-ridden UMNO.

Veteran opposition leader Lim Kit Siang criticised the new cabinet, saying it was "dominated by old faces, old ideas and old approaches rejected by Malaysians" in last year's elections.

"This does not speak well for the government's commitment to accountability and democracy. The Najib cabinet is not a forward-looking and visionary cabinet which hopes to inspire Malaysians," he said in a statement.




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