Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the press conference in Putrajaya on Wednesday where Abdullah announced he and Najib would be swapping portfolios.
Abdullah is now the new Defence Minister while Najib takes the Finance Minister post.
In making the announcement to the media on Wednesday, Abdullah said their new posts took effect after he disclosed it to his Cabinet members during the weekly meeting.
He added that the decision to pass the finance portfolio to Najib was part of the transition of power which is planned to take place by 2010.
He also indicated that the transition of power could happen earlier than 2010 depending on the situation, adding that it would not exceed that year.
“We are both committed to our plan which we have spoken to Umno leaders about 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 Minister portfolio was an important one as it implemented plans to strengthen the country’s economy and especially during 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 front managers and American investors including chief executive officers of US companies set up in Malaysia to exchange information.
With the new portfolio, he said Najib was also appointed the new deputy chairman for Khazanah Nasional Berhad.
Abdullah said he would be taking over the Defence portfolio and would complete tasks that he had started such as reform of the law and the judiciary and also agencies like the Anti-Corruption Agency.
Matters on race relation, religious affairs and eradication of the hardcore poor are also on his agenda to be completed before he is ready to pass the premiership to Najib, he said.
“The transition is flexible, I will decide when I want to go and will tell Najib but will not stay any longer than June 2010 naturally; if I want to go earlier it is possible,” he said, adding that the matter would be discussed at the Umno Supreme Council meeting on Thursday.
Abdullah said both 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 also at the press conference, thanked Abdullah for his “magnanimous” gesture and was grateful for the trust put in him to handle such a big portfolio.
“It is the Government’s practice that the 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,” he said, admitting that he would need time to be briefed on the current economic situation.
The Star - Wednesday September 17, 2008 MYT 6:10:16 PM