PM and Najib swap portfolios

Abdullah, Najib swap portfolios

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have swapped ministry portfolios as part of the power transition plan agreed between them.

Rapt attention: Abdullah listening to Naijb as he speaks to reporters during a press conference inPutrajaya yesterday.

Abdullah is the new Defence Minister while Najib has taken over the Finance portfolio.

Announcing this to the media yesterday, Abdullah said their new posts took effect after he disclosed it to the Cabinet at its weekly meeting.

He explained that the decision to hand the Finance portfolio to Najib was part of the transition of power planned between them for 2010.

“We are both committed to our plan which we have spoken to Umno leaders, where I will remain as president and Najib will be the deputy.

“During this period, I will gradually hand over to him (Najib) my duties and responsibilities and now it is time for me to pass on the Finance Minister post (to him),” he said.

Abdullah said the Finance portfolio was key as it involved plans to strengthen the national economy, especially with the current global economic situation.

He added that Najib would soon play his new role when he attends a United Nations conference in New York where he would meet fund managers and American investors including chief executive officers of American companies set up in Malaysia to exchange information.

With the new portfolio, he said, Najib was also appointed the new deputy chairman of Khazanah Na­­sional Bhd.

Abdullah pledged to complete the tasks he had initiated such as legal and judicial reforms and a revamp of the Anti-Corruption Agency.

Race relations, religious affairs and eradication of hardcore poverty were also on his agenda to be completed before he was ready to pass the premiership to Najib, he said.

He indicated that the transition plan could happen earlier than 2010 depending on the situation, but added that it would not exceed that year.

“The transition is flexible, I will decide when I want to go and will tell Najib but (I) will not stay more than June 2010; if I want to go earlier it is possible,” the prime minister said in response to questions, adding that the matter would be discussed at the Umno supreme council meeting today.

Abdullah also said he and Najib had offered themselves as president and deputy president of Umno and would let the party decide during the general assembly this year.

Najib, who was seated beside Ab­­dullah at the press conference, thanked the Prime Minister for his gestures which he described as magnanimous, adding that he was grateful for the trust placed in him.

“It is the Government’s practice that the (Finance) portfolio is held by the Prime Minister.

“I will give full attention to my new job and will continue to get his opinion on crucial issues,” Najib said, adding that he would need time to be briefed on the current economic situation.

Speaking after breaking fast with Abdullah later in the evening, Najib said he felt sad to leave the Defence Ministry after being at the helm for 14 years.

He said the armed forces personnel were used to his leadership and the way he had taken care of their welfare.

“But I have to accept the reality that I cannot be in one ministry forever,” he said, hoping that he would be able to perform well in the “most challenging” Finance Ministry.