PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has described the appointment of Hishammuddin Hussein as minister with special functions in the Prime Minister’s Department “as a strategic move for a strategic purpose”, adding that it also showed Najib Razak’s trust in his cousin.
“Whatever it is, Najib is setting the agenda. Sometimes in politics, it is for political survival to ensure you survive. You have to come up with a strategic move. And this is part of the strategic move on the part of the prime minister,” said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s associate professor Jeniri Amir.
“He trusts his cousin Hisham. Blood is thicker than water,” he added.
Hishammuddin and Najib are first cousins.
Jeniri said the move would strengthen Hishammuddin’s position in both the short and long term, but added it was not a clear indication of the much speculated friction between Najib and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“But his inclination is towards Hisham. He is in favour of his cousin,” he added.
Meanwhile, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said Najib and Zahid had discussed Hishammuddin’s appointment.
He said it would help Malaysia’s ties with countries in the Middle East, including in matters beyond defence, the portfolio currently held by Hishammuddin.
“These are very important countries to us. Having a senior minister who is holding a special function (in the Prime Minister’s Department) to look into this is important,” said Nazri.
A similar appointment was made involving a former senior minister was in 1998, at the height of the Asian economic crisis, when then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad brought Daim Zainuddin back into the Cabinet.
The move was seen as undermining Anwar Ibrahim, finance minister at the time. Anwar was sacked three months later, triggering Malaysia’s worst political crisis in decades.
But Nazri brushed aside the comparison.
“Daim was never made deputy prime minister,” he said.