03 April, 2009

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Malaysia's new Prime Minister

Hobson's choice ?

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Friday afternoon officially handed over the duties of prime minister to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the Prime Minister's Office at the Perdana Putra building here.

Najib had taken the oath of office as the country's sixth prime minister before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

On Thursday, Abdullah, who had helmed the country for more than five years, had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the Istana Negara to hand over the letter relinquishing the post of prime minister and sought His Majesty's consent to appoint Najib as his successor.

Abdullah was appointed the fifth prime minister of the country on Oct 31 2003, and the handing-over of duties from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Abdullah had taken place at the same Prime Minister's Office, also on a Friday.

Najib is inheriting myriad challenges, including a flagging economy, a racially divided society and a moribund ruling party struggling to regain its popularity.

He is expected to announce a new Cabinet lineup next week, faces a mammoth task ahead in healing the country's politics, society and an economy heading for recession.

Unlike Abdullah who inherited a battleship in full steam, Najib is taking over a battered ship.

Malaysia, Southeast Asia's third-largest economy, has been hit by a slew of depressing economic data in recent months. Exports, the economy's mainstay, plunged 15.9 percent in February over last year. More than 26,000 people have already been laid off this year. The economy is expected to shrink by 1 percent in 2009.

Najib also faces a belligerent opposition, which accuses him of corruption in a deal to buy French submarines when he was defense minister. It has also alleged he was linked to the killing of a Mongolian woman, who was the estranged lover of a close friend. Najib has denied the allegations as "malicious lies."

Najib's swearing-in came hours after Malaysia and three other countries were placed on a blacklist of noncooperative tax havens by the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD).

It accused Malaysia of breaching international tax standards in its offshore financial center of Labuan by refusing to adopt new rules on financial openness.

Najib is also expected to unveil a slew of populist announcements to win over the support of the people over the next one week.

He is likely to talk about his One Malaysia call to bring Malaysians together and the reforms he would be carrying out.

He is said to be planning to visit Kampung Baru, Chinatown and Brickfields as symbolic gestures to promote his "one nation, one people" agenda under his leadership.

Immediately after the April 8 by-elections, he is likely to name his new Cabinet line-up, which is expected to be smaller.

New PM Najib Launches Administration With Release Of 13 Isa Detainees

New Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tonight launched his administration with the release of 13 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees and pledged to conduct a comprehensive review of the ISA which has been regarded as controversial.

In his maiden speech over television after having been sworn in as the country's sixth prime minister earlier in the day, Najib also announced the government's decision to remove the three-month ban imposed on Harakah and Suara Keadilan, the official organs of PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), respectively, last month.

"These decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order, while recognising the need to remain vigilant of the very real security threats we continue to face as a young nation," he said.

Najib said the Home Ministry would announce details shortly.

Declaring the slogan of "One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now", Najib invited all the people of Malaysia to join him in the task of renewing Malaysia.

The following is the full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's maiden speech, which was delivered over TV tonight:

"On behalf of all Malaysians, I would like to thank Yang Berbahagia Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for his 31 years of exemplary public service to our country, his commitment to strengthening the institutions and fabric of our democracy and for his graceful example as our leader.

"I am grateful to Yang Berbahagia Tun for his confidence in proposing my name as Prime Minister to Duli Yang Maha Mulia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and I am honoured that His Majesty has consented to my appointment with this morning's swearing-in ceremony. I feel a deep sense of humility at the opportunity to serve as your Prime Minister at an important time in our nation's history.

My life has been dedicated to public service.

Growing up, I was inspired by the positive impact of public service in the example of my late father. Four decades on, I remain committed to the goals of tackling poverty, of restructuring our society, of expanding access to quality education for all, and of inspiring a new generation of young Malaysians to work on behalf of this great country.

My own service in government has always been about getting results: to ensure a better deal for teachers, to improve conditions for our brave soldiers, and to strengthen our economy in defence of the people of Malaysia, as we deal with the outbreak of a global recession.

In the coming weeks, I will be consulting with people around our country, as I begin to reshape the leadership and priorities of the Government. I am mindful that we should build on the successes and lessons of the past. It must be a government with new approaches for new times -- a government that places a priority on performance, because the people must come first.

We must reach out to all parts of Malaysia... to all our diverse communities. In our national discourse and in pursuing our national agenda, we must never leave anyone behind. We must reach out to the many who may have been disaffected and left confused by political games, deceit and showmanship.

We must draw on talented people across our nation, regardless of their position or background, to re-energise a passion for public service. We must sow the seeds of goodwill and understanding in every corner of this land, so that we continue to harvest the fruits of progress and prosperity for all Malaysians.

We must seek to include and unlock the potential of our young people who will be the next generation of leaders, business people, engineers, scientists, teachers and doctors. We must give them wings to fly.

And so today, I pledge that I will work tirelessly to serve all of you.

In this spirit, I would like to announce that the government has decided with immediate effect, to remove the temporary ban on two news publications, release 13 detainees from ISA detention, and conduct a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act. Additional details will be announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs shortly.

These decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order, while recognising the need to remain vigilant of the very real security threats we continue to face as a young nation.

I know that for every citizen, these are hard times and I remain focused in providing strong leadership to lead us out of this economic crisis and unleash our full potential as a nation. I will be steadfast in my commitment to meet the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians.

So today I ask you to join me in this task of renewing Malaysia. I urge us to rise to the challenge of building a One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.

Let us begin this great journey together.


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