Former DPM

Muhyiddin bides his time, could still do damage

There is no rabble rousing speech or claims of conspiracy from Mr Muhyiddin (above).
There is no rabble rousing speech or claims of conspiracy from Mr Muhyiddin (above). PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

After six years as Malaysia's No. 2, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin issued a statement last week thanking Prime Minister Najib Razak for having appointed him. The statement came the same day he was sacked as deputy prime minister (DPM).

"I will always be loyal to Umno's struggle," he added. "As deputy Umno president, I will continue to carry out the responsibilities placed on me and will pour my services to strengthen the party and bring back the confidence of Malays and people to Umno."

No rabble rousing speech.

No claims of a conspiracy.

In other words, while he has been unceremoniously dumped by the party boss just like Anwar Ibrahim had been 17 years ago, do not expect the same fireworks.

Though Mr Muhyiddin has courted several controversies over the decades he has been in politics, he has, in the past few years, been a steady DPM to Mr Najib - until the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue came around.

After all, he has admitted he helped push out the previous prime minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi, and would thus be keen to see Mr Najib succeed.

But in a speech last Sunday, in comments which ultimately got him fired, Mr Muhyiddin said times had changed and he did not wish to see the party struggle again to regain support as it did after pushing out Mr Abdullah in 2009.

Mr Muhyiddin entered politics in the 1970s and was elected Member of Parliament for Pagoh, in northern Johor, in 1978. At age 68, he is still the Pagoh MP.

He was made Johor menteri besar by then premier Mahathir Mohamad in 1986.

Mr Muhyiddin was chief minister of one of the three richest Malaysian states after Selangor and Penang for nine years until 1995.

But then in 1996, his political career was hit when he lost the contest to retain his position as one of Umno's three vice-presidents in the party's triennial elections. He had to wait until the 2000 Umno polls to win back one of the three posts.

Still, the career of Mr Muhyiddin the MP went on and he served in then PM Mahathir's Cabinet.

When Mr Abdullah took over as PM in 2004, Mr Muhyiddin was made the Agro-based and Agriculture Minister at a time when Mr Abdullah was pushing agriculture as an economic engine to rival manufacturing. Mr Muhyiddin later took another important post, International Trade and Industry.

He began serving his third boss when Mr Najib became Prime Minister in 2009, having been elevated to DPM and Education Minister.

But today, his every move and word is scrutinised because as Umno's deputy president, he could still do damage to Mr Najib. He has said that while he is willing to listen on other issues, he has a different take when it comes to the troubled state investment fund. "I have principles and my own stand in defending the rights of the public, the good name of the party, and the national interest," said Mr Muhyiddin.

REME AHMAD

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'Muhyiddin bides his time, could still do damage'. Print Edition | Subscribe