Malaysia's new PM says he will promote democracy, but he also takes control of the finance and home ministries On his first working day as Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday told parliament he would fight terrorism, promote democracy and tackle corruption. He also widened his duties by taking direct control of the finance and home ministries, surprising opposition members. In a speech to lawmakers, Mr Abdullah, who took over from Mahathir Mohamad on Friday, broke into tears while pledging to defend Malaysia's sovereignty and called on Allah for inspiration. 'Work with me, not for me or against me ... but for the religion, the people and the country,' he said. He also pledged to respect the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, saying that regaining the public's confidence in the government was a top priority. Later, Mr Abdullah, 64, met both opposition and government lawmakers at a closed-door session. An aide said including opposition figures in the meeting was unprecedented and indicated Mr Abdullah's consensual style. However, opposition parliamentarians dismissed the prime minister's tears and the bipartisan gesture as a pre-election political play. Analysts said it was unprecedented for one man to assume the duties of prime minister and finance and home minister. A senior aide said Mr Abdullah would make a formal announcement after he chaired his first cabinet meeting. 'Control of the finance ministry gives Abdullah final say over contracts and tenders ... a powerful tool of political patronage that can be used to reward supporters, punish detractors and enhance his political standing,' one political analyst said. As home minister, Mr Abdullah has control over police, prosecution, media and public security. Opposition leaders expressed surprise at the move to widen his ministerial powers. 'It might be a sign of weakness and indecisiveness ... the decision is sure to raise eyebrows in [his party] circles,' said Lim Kit Sing, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP). The prime minister immediately showed he meant business in fighting graft by choosing over the weekend 53-year-old Bakri Musa - a man with a reputation for fighting corruption - as Malaysia's new chief of police. This week, Mr Abdullah is to hold separate meetings with leaders of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and the 13-party National Front coalition. 'He will tell them all to uphold integrity, incorruptibility and efficiency,' the senior aide said. Pressure is also mounting for Mr Abdullah to select his deputy prime minister. Several newspapers have upped the pressure on him to resolve the matter quickly by suggesting their own candidates. Opposition parties and individuals have also published wish lists of which policy areas the prime minister should set as priorities. Mr Lim said: 'He should break with the past, restore democracy, individual rights, press freedom and abolish all restrictive law.' Chandra Muzzafar, a leading civil rights activist, said in an open letter to the prime minister, published yesterday, that he should address the injustice of 'people who championed the truth, [but] were imprisoned, silenced and vilified' during the rule of his predecessor. 'Abdullah should instead promote truth, honesty, sincerity and integrity as fundamental values of our political culture,' he said. The DAP and the Parti Keadilan Nasional also urged Mr Abdullah to reform the judiciary, police and abolish restrictive laws. Mr Lim said: 'Parliament was reduced to a rubber stamp by Dr Mahathir ... is Abdullah ready to undo the damage?'