Southeast Asia

Malaysia’s new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim sworn in

(From right) Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim and his deputies Zahid Hamidi and Fadillah Yusof after the Cabinet's swearing-in at the National Palace. Photo courtesy: The Straits Times

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has continued to draw flak for his "kleptocrat" cabinet as the new ministers were sworn in before the King on Saturday.

Political rivals and netizens have taken issue with his appointment of Umno president Zahid Hamidi as deputy prime minister, despite the latter facing 47 graft charges in court.

Anwar has also been criticised for keeping the finance minister's post for himself.

His main rival, Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, who is now opposition leader, said that this will lead to the centralisation of power and corruption.

"Anwar's actions are akin to selling the nation's dignity simply because of his desire to become prime minister," Muhyiddin said on Saturday.

Muhyiddin's claim to the premiership was thwarted after he lost the support of several Umno MPs and coalitions that would have given him a parliamentary majority.

The Umno-led Barisan Nasional was one of several coalitions that agreed to form a "unity government" with Anwar's Pakatan Harapan (PH) at the King's urging, after Malaysia's Nov 19 election resulted in a hung Parliament.

Muhyiddin refused to join the unity government, choosing instead for PN to sit on the opposition bench.

Former international trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz was among those who took issue with the appointment of former finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz as international trade and industry minister. The well-connected but first-time Umno candidate had lost at the polls when he ran in Kuala Selangor.

She said in what she called an "open letter" to Anwar on Facebook: "There is that optics of scraping the barrel when you appointed someone who lost in the election... Where is the credibility?"

She also questioned Zahid's appointment "as DPM, no less", pointing out that he is awaiting the outcome of "an unbelievably long list" of corruption charges.

"Yes, some say one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But if the person is finally found guilty, then you have to get a replacement DPM!" she wrote.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP), a member of Anwar's Pakatan Harapan coalition, said Zahid's appointment did not mean that the party's anti-graft stance was being sacrificed.

"If we do not form the government, the alternative will be that the other parties will form the government," party secretary-general Anthony Loke told a news conference.

Loke, who re-assumed the Transport Ministry post he held in 2018, said that DAP had pledged "unconditional support" to Anwar as PM and had been "willing to sacrifice anything" including cabinet positions to facilitate the formation of the new government.

DAP, which won 40 seats – the most among the PH coalition's entities – has just four ministers in Mr Anwar's 28-seat cabinet.

Asked about Anwar holding both the premiership and the finance portfolio, Loke gave the assurance there would be checks and balances within the cabinet.

Separately, DAP MP Gobind Singh Deo said he had declined Mr Anwar's invitation to be a minister in order to focus on his role as lawmaker. He served as the communications and multimedia minister during the previous PH administration in 2018 and was widely expected to have a place in this cabinet.

Law and Institutional Reform Minister Azalina Othman Said, of Umno, praised Zahid for his "bravery and courage in taking BN to a different level of politics, and (for daring to) rise above party politics, especially in this climate, to extend a hand across the aisle for the sake of nation-building".

She pledged to amend outdated laws, including the separation of powers of the attorney-general and the public prosecutor.

"I will also ensure that outstanding issues, including the citizenship status of children born overseas to Malaysian mothers, will see continued progress," she said.

Copyright: The Straits Times/Asia News Network  


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