Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Malaysia replaces transport minister who took charge of MH370 hunt

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2014, 10:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 7:39pm

Malaysia's premier yesterday appointed a new transport minister to replace Hishammuddin Hussein, who took charge during the search for missing flight MH370.

Hishammuddin, who is also defence minister, had provisionally held the transport post after it was left vacant following elections a year ago.

He led the nation's search for the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a widely expected announcement that Liow Tiong Lai, a former health minister and president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, would helm the transport ministry.

The post has usually been held by a representative of the ruling coalition's main Chinese party. But the MCA refused to accept any cabinet posts last year after a poor electoral performance amid anger among ethnic Chinese and other minorities about perceived discrimination by the ethnic Malay-dominated coalition.

Najib's National Front coalition, which has ruled the country since independence in 1957, was re-elected in May last year though it lost the popular vote for the first time. MCA delegates reversed the decision not to accept posts earlier this year.

Besides Liow, two other ethnic Chinese politicians were also named ministers, and three others deputy ministers.

"These appointments reflect my desire to ensure that the make-up of the cabinet, and the government, broadly reflects that of our nation," Najib said.

Flight MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. But an extensive search in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia has so far turned up no sign of any wreckage.

Angry relatives of those aboard have accused Malaysia's national carrier and the government of doing too little and hiding information relating to the missing plane.

The government has repeatedly rejected the claims.