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Malaysian New Cabinet: What To Expect?

What's new? PM retains senior figures.
Malaysian Politics - AllSight Malaysia

On the 21st of August, 2021, Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob, previously known as the Deputy Prime Minister as well as the coordinating minister for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s COVID-19 response task force, completed his swearing-in ceremony held at Istana Negara. With the presence of Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA), Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob took his oath of office as the ninth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Malaysian politics situation become trending news since then.

The lead-up to this ceremony was paved with numerous rumblings within the Malaysian political scene. On the 16th of August, 2021, former Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister, as well as the Coordinating Minister of the National Immunisation Programme against COVID-19, Khairy Jamaluddin, announced the resignation of the cabinet operating under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) party via Instagram story. Later that day, in addition to the lack of a cabinet in the Malaysian government, the country was thrown into further turmoil with the announcement of the resignation of the eighth Malaysian Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

In order to reinstate a sense of political stability,  YDPA had assigned the role of caretaker Prime Minister to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. This was to be on a temporary basis until a new Prime Minister has been elected. 

However, on the 20th of August, Istana Negara released a statement, appointing Ismail Sabri as the new Prime Minister. The candidate had received a total of 114 nominations from Members of Parliament, supporting the former deputy premier and UMNO Vice President.

Promptly after the announcement, Ismail Sabri took it upon himself to approach the leaders of Pakatan Harapan (PH), Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) opposition block, to join the National Recovery Council (MPN) and Special Committee on tackling the Coronavirus. 

After further consideration, this invitation was accepted by the opposing party, with a release of a statement from the PH Presidential Council stating the importance of overcoming this crisis. Additionally, the statement included PH’s focus on being an effective opposition by sharing concerns, constructive criticisms, views, and other proposals.

The timeline and efficiency of these events were met with confidence from reputable investors and members of the public, believing that Istana Negara had prioritized the needs of Malaysian citizens, swiftly reinstating political stability amongst the upward trend of COVID-19 cases. 

This confidence was quickly shaken upon the unveiling of the newly appointed Prime Minister’s cabinet on the 27th of August, 2021. Many noticed a number of familiar faces from the previous administration, an administration that had largely failed at combating the tribulations faced by the country, the biggest being the handling of the SOP and treatments regarding the heavily present COVID-19 crisis. 

Among the reappearing ministers: 

– Former Foreign Minister, Hishammudin Hussein, was named Defense Minister in the new administration, while retaining his senior minister portfolio.

– Former Communications and Multimedia Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, becomes the new Foreign Minister. 

– Finance Minister, Zafrul Abdul Aziz, along with the Home Minister, Hamzah Zainuddin, from the previous administration, have retained their positions. 

– Mohamed Azmin Ali retains his position as International Trade and Industry Minister, along with the retention of his position of senior minister.

– Khairy Jamaluddin, former Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister, was named the new Health Minister. 

In a televised address, Ismail Sabri stated: “The formation of this cabinet is a re-formulation based on the current situation, in order to maintain stability and prioritising the interests and safety of the Malaysian people above all.”

Furthermore, it was clarified that each ministry will need to prove its early achievements within the first 100 days, adding that the government aimed to reopen economic activities in stages with the Coronavirus expected to become endemic

*Endemic: A disease that is consistently present but limited to a particular area. This signifies that the spread and rate of the illness are predictable. 

With the King’s acceptance and legitimization of the new cabinet line-up during Ismail Sabri’s second audience after his appointment as Prime Minister, many Malaysian citizens and critics seem to be having mixed emotions, with some believing this is the correct strategy, others wavering in their confidence.

“(Malaysia) ranks last in Covid Resilience Score. Yet, we have the same cabinet which plunged us into this miserable state for the past 18 months. PN & UMNO have no intention to reform – it’s only (about) status quo and power. We deserve so much better.” Stated disappointed Twitter user @limweijiet.

“A missed opportunity to build legitimacy and strengthen Malaysia as Cabinet essentially the same with only a few swaps.” Commented another Twitter user, @dririshsea, in response to the announcement of Khairy Jamaluddin becoming health minister, with the absence of a Deputy Prime Minister. 

Along with dissatisfied netizens, political analysts such as Awang Azman Awang Pawi from the University of Malaya (UM), has described the newly announced cabinet as “old wine in a new bottle”. Calling out the obvious move by Ismail Sabri, beholden to the various parties that had gifted him with the simple majority in parliament. 

Based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) most recent report on the COVID-19 situation in Malaysia, as of 15 August 2021, there have been a total of 1,404,899 confirmed cases in the country. The report also states 142,359 new recorded cases, a 7.8% increase from the previous week. 

The highest number of reported COVID-19 cases were from Selangor (47,588), Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur (14,015), and Kedah (12,034). 

On the bright side, as of the 8th of August (per WHO’s most recent report), 32.9% of Malaysia’s total population have received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and his appointed cabinet will begin to take full effect on Monday (30th August 2021). Malaysians are highly doubtful with the new administration, however, there is still a slight glimmer of hope in introducing a new leader to propel the country.

It should be noted that despite the cooperation, efficiency, and efforts made in stabilizing the political landscape, livelihoods are still being greatly affected, with the Malaysian unemployment rate creeping up to 4.8% in June from 4.5% in May.

It goes without saying that actions do speak louder than words. 

Featured Image Origin: Thomas Wanhoff | Flickr

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