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Malaysian opposition says new cabinet is "jurassic"

Date: 10 Dec 1999
Time: 22:32:06


Malaysian opposition says new cabinet is "jurassic"

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 (AFP) - Malaysian opposition leaders criticised the new cabinet announced Friday, with one calling it "jurassic."

Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP), said the line-up was "most disappointing."

"It does not impress Malaysians as a millennium cabinet but looks very jurassic," Lim said in a statement.

"Many old tired faces remain and even the new cabinet ministers ... have not distinguished themselves as millennium leaders with an open and liberal outlook who could break the shackles of the past."

Lim said Mahathir failed to inspire confidence in the leadership as he refused to drop "political deadwood in the previous cabinet."

The retention of Abdul Hamid Othman as minister in the prime minister's department despite losing his seat highlighted the "grave poverty of UMNO leaders versed in Islam," he said.

Abdul Hamid was previously in charge of religious affairs, and is expected to retain his portfolio. He is a member of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the lynchpin of the National Front coalition.

Lim said the appointment of outsider Musa Mohamad to replace Najib Tun Razak as education minister was a "red light warning that Najib's political stock in UMNO is very low" after barely scraping home in his seat.

Najib, one of UMNO's three vice-presidents and touted as a possible successor to Mahathir, was moved back to head the defence ministry.

Chandra Muzaffar, deputy president of the National Justice Party (Keadilan), said the cabinet comprised "tired old faces with a sprinkling of new names."

In a statement, he said Mahathir ignored the "serious erosion of popular support" for the National Front in the November 29 polls and scorned the feelings of voters by reapppointing defeated candidates through making them Senate members.

He said Mahathir had also "disregarded the principle of equitable state representation in the federal cabinet" by failing to appoint any minister from the northeastern states of Kelantan and Terengganu.

The two states were won by the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in the election. PAS is Keadilan's ally in the Alternative Front alliance, along with the DAP.

"Is this Mahathir's way of punishing the people of the two states for voting for the opposition?" Chandra asked.

"Mahathir's lacklustre cabinet is a pathetic reflection of the paucity of credible, capable and committed leaders within the National Front today."

Last changed: December 10, 1999