Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said opposition leaders will not be appointed to his new Cabinet line-up.
This is because the new Federal Government was not a unity government.
Ismail Sabri told reporters in Yan, Kedah on August 23: “They have no participation in the Cabinet. There is no unity government with the opposition.”
On August 18, the palace had said the King “expressed the view that MPs [members of Parliament] should unite to create unity between all political parties”, in what has been interpreted by some to indicate a call for a bipartisan government.
In his maiden speech on August 22, a day after he was sworn in as prime minister by Malaysia’s King, Ismail Sabri emphasised cooperation across the political divide and invited opposition leaders to join in the effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
On August 23, he said the opposition had shown encouraging response to his suggestion to be part of the country’s National Recovery Council and special committee for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The opposition has given me good feedback and I will meet them soon,” he said, adding that discussions would centre on how everyone could make their contribution.
Ismail Sabri took over from Muhyiddin Yassin who resigned as prime minister following a loss of a parliamentary majority.
His appointment also marked his party’s return to power just three years after it lost federal power for the first time since the country’s independence.
The newly-appointed premier said he would make an announcement on members of his Cabinet after the King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah had consented to the proposed line-up.
“I have to present [the list] to the [King] first. Only after the King has consented to it then I’ll make the announcement,” he said.
He called on the public not to believe in a purported Cabinet list that had gone viral, saying it was fake.
Asked who would be his deputy, Ismail Sabri said he would consider all parties involved.
Political analysts said it is vital for Ismail Sabri to have his Cabinet up and running to handle the Covid-19 pandemic and to address economic issues.
They also said that it was crucial for Ismail Sabri to put his stamp on it.
The next three months, they added, would be a critical period as the nation scrutinised him as to whether he would live up to his promises.
Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of the UKM Institute of Ethnic Studies said Ismail Sabri was expected to form a Cabinet that would be able to work more and talk less.
“He is not known as the typical Umno firebrand politician and is not from the prestigious and elite schools which many of the top leaders of Umno were from.
“He can, however, be vocal and firm when he wants to, as we saw when he led the Barisan Nasional MPs in defiance of the coalition chair and his own party president to retain support for former prime minister Muhyiddin.
“He was also a student leader at Universiti Malaya. All these characteristics of his will be applied when he chooses the Cabinet ministers to ensure it is a Cabinet he can work with.
“Being the first non-Umno president to hold the premiership, it would not be a surprise if Mr Ismail turns to people like Umno deputy president Mohamad Hassan and appoint him to the Cabinet as a senator to ensure he had the support and right ideas,” Shamsul said.
He agreed such a move may work to appease the Umno faction that Ismail Sabri might have crossed words with in his rise to be the prime minister.
“It is most likely that he will first fill up some senior ministerial posts before he announces the full Cabinet line-up,” Shamsul said.
Dr Mazlan Ali from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the new Cabinet must be one that was seen to be working for the people.
“It has to be a lean government which does not have too many portfolios and is not burdened with too many positions such as two deputy ministers for one ministerial portfolio,” he said.
“These three months will be a very critical ‘do or die’ phase for the prime minister. He will have to put his stamp on his Cabinet with some new faces so that it is not dismissed as Perikatan 2.0,” Dr Mazlan added.
THE STAR (MALAYSIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK