Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled his Cabinet on Monday evening with his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Umno dominating the new Perikatan Nasional (PN) lineup without appointing anyone to the hotly contested deputy premiership.
Confirming a report by The Straits Times on Monday morning, the Bersatu president took a leaf out of Singapore and Indonesia’s books, creating four senior minister positions in a move he said would “ensure a functional Cabinet that will deliver service that is more focused”.
“These senior ministers will aid me in my duties as Prime Minister, including chairing Cabinet meetings when I am not in the country. With these senior ministers, there is no current need for a Deputy Prime Minister,” he said, in the announcement carried live on national television.
Former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, who joined Bersatu after the party’s exit from Pakatan Harapan (PH) saw the government collapse two weeks ago, was named international trade and industry minister and senior minister in charge of the economy.
Infrastructure development has been handed to Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu vice-president Fadillah Yusof, the most senior MP from Sarawak’s ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), who will also be works minister.
Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri was named senior minister in charge of security – defence minister – while Bersatu information chief Radzi Jidin was appointed senior minister of education, coordinating social affairs.
Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, the CEO of CIMB, one of the region’s largest banks, was a surprise choice for finance minister.
Former defence minister and ex-Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein is the new foreign minister.
As indicated by Muhyiddin last week in his maiden address to the nation as prime minister, no politician with ongoing graft charges was appointed to the Cabinet. This included former prime minister Najib Razak, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and its former secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.
Muhyiddin has faced pressure and scrutiny over the makeup of his government since being controversially sworn in as Prime Minister on March 1, after a week’s political impasse when his party and other defectors left PH, triggering the resignation of then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Critics have attacked the move, which allowed the scandal-tainted and kleptocratic Umno to return to power. It was less than two years ago since it became an opposition party following the shock end of its six-decade rule in the 2018 election.
Concerns have been raised over the potential of a pro-Malay government due to the majority community’s dominance of the PN alliance.
But Muhyiddin’s address last week promising a “clean Cabinet” resulted in backlash from Umno.
Despite Umno’s top figures demurring, second-liner and grassroots leaders have demanded that the largest party in PN be given due recognition, lobbying especially for its president Zahid to be made deputy prime minister.
“To ensure the Cabinet formed is one with integrity, all members that I am announcing have been screened by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission and police,” the prime minister said.
Muhyiddin’s Bersatu and Umno dominate the Cabinet lineup with nine ministers each.
GPS and the Islamist party PAS have four and three members respectively. Smaller PN parties such as MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Sabah have one minister each.
Federal Territories Mufti (religious leader) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri was appointed religious affairs minister.
THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK