Malaysian Premier Najib Razak unveils new cabinet with 5 ethnic Indian faces
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Premier Najib Razak on Wednesday unveiled a new cabinet which included five ethnic Indian leaders, but no face from a powerful ethnic Chinese party for first time in the country's history.
P Wayathamoorthy, chairman of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), who decided to back Najib in the May 5 general elections, has been rewarded and made a deputy Minister.
"Over the past months and years, divisions have opened up in Malaysian society.
Now it is time for all of us, in government and beyond, to put the bitterness behind us," Najib said while introducing his 57-member ministry, including 30 cabinet ministers.
"Together we will act to bring about national reconciliation, secure Malaysia's economic future and build a stronger, more harmonious society."
Najib said that Waythamoorthy would be a deputy minister in the prime minister's department.
The appointment is seen by political analysts as a reward for his role in ensuring ethnic Indians to return to the ruling coalition of Barisan Nasional (BN).
In the 2008 general elections, ethnic a Indians stayed away from the BN largely due to a massive rally organised by the Hindraf.
The Malaysian Indian Congress, which is the largest ethnic Indian political party, took four positions in the government, with party president G Palanivel taking over as Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.
S Subramaniam, the deputy president of the BN component party, has been named the new Health Minister.
MIC vice-president M Saravanan will be will the deputy minister of Youth and Sport.
P Kamalanathan, the party's youth coordinator, will be Deputy Minister II in the Ministry of Education and Higher Learning.
In the May 5 Elections, MIC won four out of nine parliamentary seats contested, which is one more than its three-seat victory in 2008.
In April, Waythamoorthy signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the BN government to extend the support of the ethnic Indians towards the coalition.
This created a rift between his brother and Hindraf co-founder P Uthayakumar .
The ethnic Indian community makes up nine per cent of the country's 29 million people.
It is also the first time in history of Malaysian politics, that the cabinet for the first time has no ministers from the ethnic Chinese party, Malaysia Chinese Association.
The ethnic Chinese party had decided that it would not accept any government posts if its results in the recently the general election would be poorer than that of the previous elections.
Najib said the cabinet included a mix of technocrats and civil society representatives, who bring valuable experience from outside government, as well as experienced ministers and younger faces.
"The cabinet also draws on Malaysia's diverse ethnic communities," he said.
New faces include: Paul Low, an anti-corruption campaigner and President of Transparency International (Malaysia), who will be a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
Abdul Wahid Omar, President and CEO of Maybank, one of Southeast Asia's top 5 banks that serves 22 million customers, will be a Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
Khairy Jamaluddin will be Minister for Youth & Sports.
Abdul Rahman Dahlan, MP for Kota Belud in Sabah, will lead the new Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing & Local Government.
"The new cabinet will be responsible for delivering transformation in Malaysia and continuing the economic and political reforms that began four years ago," Najib said.
"The new ministers bring both the measured calm of experience, and the vibrant energy of new ideas; a grounding in anti-corruption and human rights law, and an appreciation for the dynamism of the private sector," he added.
In the May 5 elections, Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled the country for almost 56 years, has taken a simple majority with 133 seats 22-member Parliament, 21 more than the threshold required to form a government.