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Malaysia PM shakes up cabinet

Malaysia's premier made sweeping changes to his cabinet line-up on Tuesday, dumping his long-serving trade minister, after the ruling coalition suffered a heavy setback at elections this month.

world Updated: Mar 18, 2008 14:01 IST
Jalil Hamid

Malaysia's premier made sweeping changes to his cabinet line-up on Tuesday, dumping his long-serving trade minister, after the ruling coalition suffered a heavy setback at elections this month.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi retained his deputy, Najib Razak, as the defence minister, left his economic team almost intact, moved former Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar to the home ministry and scrapped some posts to reduce the size of his governing team.

The omission of Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz, a minister for almost 30 years and a senior member of the main ruling party, was the biggest surprise in the new line-up, which could shape Abdullah's political future after the election upset.

"Half (of the cabinet) will be new faces and will represent the people effectively," said Abdullah, who faces a possible test of his leadership at party elections later this year.

Asked why Rafidah, reputedly the world's longest-serving trade minister with 20 years on the job, had been dropped, he said: "I don't want to discuss this. I don't need to explain further.

"Rafidah needs to make way for someone new to take over."

Party opposition to Rafidah had been growing silently following a controversy over car import licenses distributed by her ministry, said political analyst Ooi Kee Beng, of the Institute of South East Asian Studies in neighbouring Singapore.

"She is an old giant who was valuable to the party but she has been tainted with allegations of corruption from the approved permits issue," he added.