Malaysia's new administration seeks to clean up government

Sergio Conner
May 15, 2018

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's new government will review political representation in the country's largest government-linked investment firms, including the main sovereign and state pension funds, the funds have said.

When asked by a Chinese journalist how it felt to be Malaysia's first Chinese finance minister since independence-era leader Tan Siew Sin, Lim replied: "I'm sorry, I don't consider myself Chinese".

Both men were among senior government officials installed by Najib in July 2015 as talk was swirling that public prosecutors were looking into whether the premier at the time had links to the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at the state fund 1MDB.

On the whereabouts of Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, Dr Mahathir said authorities were aware of his location.

Anwar, in jail for a sodomy conviction but considers himself a prisoner of conscience, could be released within days. He picked Lim Guan Eng as finance minister, and brought back some old names, like former central bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, to an economic advisory board. "We highlighted the emerging consensus of independent commentators that sees this as a historic opportunity to reset the nation's economy", the statement said.

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Malaysia's new finance minister is seen as a safe pair of hands as he takes on the vast task of bringing down debt while scrapping a consumption tax that was key to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's unexpected election win last week.

Malaysia ranks 145th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, with number one being the freest.

Questions about his whereabouts were answered when he appeared at a meeting of his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to announce that he was stepping down as the party's president and as chairman of the Barisan Nasional, the alliance dominated by UMNO that has ruled Malaysia for six decades. The announcement came after calls from the organization, the linchpin of the coalition, for Najib to resign. He said some people were anxious about him taking the "bold" step but added: "I'm already 69 years old". At the previous election in 2013, Mr Najib lost the popular vote to the ascendant opposition, but clung to a simple majority in parliament.

Dr Mahathir also hinted on Monday that his government is aware of the whereabouts of Mr Jho Low, a former consultant to 1MDB and alleged mastermind behind its missing funds. Mr Najib acknowledged around $700 million appeared in his private bank accounts before the 2013 election, but said the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family.

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