Najib drops deputy, four others in Cabinet reshuffle


UPDATE (2.40PM):

The following is the list of new ministerial appointments as reported by The Star:

1. Science, Technology and Innovation Minister - Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau

2. Domestic Trade Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister - Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin

3. Natural Resources and Environmental Minister - Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar

4. Education Minister - Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid

5. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department - Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said

6. International Trade and Industry Minister II - Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan

7. Communication and Multimedia Minister - Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Keruak

Ministers with new portfolio

1. Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister - Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek (Former Communications and Multimedia Minister)

2. Higher Education Minister - Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh (Former Education Minister II)

3. The Rural and Regional Development Ministry - Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Former Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister)

Malaysian media reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak has dumped his deputy and four others in a cabinet reshuffle, with the attorney general also replaced amid the fallout from a graft scandal at state investment fund 1MDB.

Najib's government announced in a statement that Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, the man who had led investigations into the 1MDB scandal, had been replaced by Mohamed Apandi Ali. It gave no reason for the change.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Malaysian Insider news portal reported that Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would be among those sacked from the cabinet, a day after Najib told Muhyiddin and others to avoid commenting on the 1MDB scandal.

Muhyiddin had said at the weekend the ruling coalition could lose the next election if Najib and others did not better manage issues stemming from the scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad , which has debts of more than US$11 billion.

Najib named Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to replace Muhyiddin Yassin, who had called for answers on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd imbroglio including its investment decisions. Najib announced the changes in a televised broadcast.

Zahid Hamidi is a right wing politician well liked by members of the United Malays National Organisation party, which has led Malaysian coalition governments since independence in 1957.

The fund has debts of more than US$11 billion (S$15 billion) and is being investigated for financial mismanagement and graft. The firm's advisory board is chaired by Najib, who is facing his toughest challenge since taking office in 2009.

Utusan Malaysia Online, a mouthpiece for the powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, reported that Najib had met Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam, to present his new cabinet.

Reuters was unable to verify the reports and a spokesman for the prime minister's office declined to comment.

According to media reports at the weekend, Muhyiddin had warned that Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition of which UMNO is the major party, would lose power if it did not do better at explaining the 1MDB scandal to the public.

UMNO, which represents the majority ethnic Malay community, has led Malaysia's coalition governments since independence in 1957. Najib's office has also warned of the political damage the divisive scandal could cause.

Other media reports on Tuesday said deputy UMNO president Shafie Apdal, who is also the rural and regional development minister, was among those to be dropped from cabinet, along with senior ministers G. Palanivel and Idris Jala.

Najib's office said he would hold a media conference later on Tuesday.

The prime minister has tried to consolidate support among UMNO's core leaders. He told Muhyiddin and others on Monday to stop commenting on the 1MDB graft scandal, saying arguments among leaders would erode support for the government.

Patail was the head of a task force, which included the central bank, police and Malaysia's anti-corruption commission, that had conducted raids and arrests as it investigated the heavy losses at 1MDB.

His replacement as attorney general, Apandi, is a former federal court judge with strong UMNO ties.