In a departure from the country’s conventional Cabinet structure, Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Mon (9 Mar) announced the appointment of four Senior Ministers in lieu of a deputy PM.
The four Senior Ministers comprise former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice president Azmin Ali, Umno vice president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Gabungan Parti Sarawak party whip Fadillah Yusof, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) supreme council member Radzi Jidin.
Azmin, Ismail Sabri, Fadillah and Radzi will be placed under the International Trade and Industry, Security, Works, and Education Ministries respectively. Each of the Senior Ministers will have a deputy.
Umno cadres Hishammuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin were appointed to helm the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry respectively.
Hishammuddin previously served as Defence Minister while Khairy served as Minister for Youth and Sports during Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional administration, which fell after former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan coalition was elected into power following the 2018 General Election.
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) general secretary Takiyuddin Hassan was appointed as a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He will oversee matters related to Parliament and the law.
Muhyiddin in his Cabinet announcement speech in Putrajaya today said that the incorporation of four Senior Ministers instead of a Deputy PM was based on the need to ensure a “functional Cabinet” and to deliver a more “focused” service to the people.
The appointment of the Senior Ministers, he added, will enable any contentious issues that may arise in areas such as the economy, security, infrastructural development, and education to be managed more efficiently and swiftly among the relevant Ministries.
Muhyiddin also revealed plans to reinstate a Higher Education Ministry to complement the existing Education Ministry, stating that doing so will ease the workload of the latter.
New ministries such as the National Unity Ministry and the Environment Ministry, as well as a special portfolio for Sabah and Sarawak Affairs — spearheaded by a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office — will be incorporated in the new government, said Muhyiddin.
“My Cabinet will ensure that the spirit of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement will be manifested in the form of policies and programmes that will directly benefit the people of Sabah and Sarawak,” said Muhyiddin.
Muhyiddin was sworn-in as the nation’s eighth Prime Minister at the national palace, the Istana Negara on 1 Mar after a week of political turmoil plaguing the country.
His appointment as Prime Minister received royal assent from the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on 29 Feb, which the Istana Negara said was “in line with Article 40(2)(a) and Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution”.
Article 40(2)(a) provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s capacity to act according to his own discretion in appointing a prime minister, while Article 43(2)(a) provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s appointment of a Member of Parliament (MP) — who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of MPs — as the prime minister.
Muhyiddin, a former Umno cadre, served as Malaysia’s deputy PM from Apr 2009 to Jul 2015 prior to being dismissed from both his position and the political party for publicly criticising then-PM Najib Razak’s handling of the multi-billion-dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Following his exit from Umno, Muhyiddin became one of the founding members of the Bersatu party, taking up the role of president alongside Dr Mahathir as the party chairman.
Bersatu’s alliance with other component parties under the Pakatan Harapan banner contributed to the coalition’s victory against the Barisan Nasional — the latter of whom had governed Malaysia for slightly over six decades — in the 14th General Election in May 2018.
While he received praise for speaking out against corruption at the expense of being sacked from his post and Umno then, Muhyiddin’s current appointment as PM has stirred discontent and anger among many members of the public.
Muhyiddin was one of the PH politicians seen attending a political gathering at Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya with opposition politicians from Umno and PAS, as well as Azmin Ali’s PKR bloc.
Keywords and hashtags such as “traitor” and “#notmypm” began circulating on social media platforms such as Twitter mere hours after Mr Muhyiddin’s appointment was announced, and two petitions were made to protest what the public has deemed to be “a betrayal of the trust and mandate of the Rakyat given to Pakatan Harapan leaders”.