Who's in, who's out

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday shook up his Cabinet, removing detractors, including his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who had openly criticised the government's handling of allegations of abuse of public funds by state investor 1M
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday shook up his Cabinet, removing detractors, including his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who had openly criticised the government's handling of allegations of abuse of public funds by state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). PHOTOS: THE STAR, UTUSAN MALAYSIA

The Straits Times' Regional Correspondent Amy Chew profiles seven key figures


Political survivor takes a step up

A new deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. PHOTO: THE STAR 

The promotion of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to the post of Deputy Prime Minister is a testimony to his resilience.

The 62-year-old is a come-back politician who survived a brief detention under the now-abolished Internal Security Act (ISA) to rise to a position a heartbeat away from the prime ministership.

Not bad for a man who once served as the political secretary to Prime Minister Najib Razak from 1987 to 1993.

A former ally of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Mr Zahid was arrested under the ISA for allegedly supporting Anwar's Reformasi - or Reform - movement in 1998.

Mr Zahid also spoke out against then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that same year, calling for an end to cronyism and nepotism in the Malaysian government.

After his release from prison, Mr Zahid was left out in the political wilderness for several years until then Premier Abdullah Badawi picked him as deputy tourism minister in 2004.

From then on, there was no stopping this former banker of OCBC. He was appointed defence minister in 2009 and home minister in 2013, both important positions in the Malaysian Cabinet.

He has also attracted controversy - people either love or hate the politician.

As Home Minister, he suspended in 2013 the screening of Malaysian-made movie The New Village, saying it portrayed the Malayan Communist Party in a too-positive light.

Meanwhile, he allowed another controversial movie, Tanda Putera, or Mark Of A Prince, to be shown despite complaints that it inaccurately and negatively portrayed Chinese Malaysians in the 1969 racial riots.

Following the 13th Malaysian General Election in 2013, he responded to allegations of electoral fraud by reportedly saying that Malaysians who were unhappy with the political system should leave the country.

In the past few years, Mr Zahid has also defended tough action against illegal workers, amid complaints the foreigners were being treated like criminals.

In the 2013 Umno party polls, Mr Zahid garnered the most votes in the contest for the three vice-president posts.

He first became a Member of Parliament in 1995 after winning the Bagan Datoh parliamentary seat in Perak in the general election. The following year, he was elected as Umno Youth chief.

Outgoing DPM

Muhyiddin still holds powerful Umno post

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. PHOTO: THE STAR

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, 68, may have been ousted as Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister but he remains deputy president of Umno, a powerful post he won uncontested in 2013. 

His outspoken speech on Sunday, when he urged his boss to explain allegations in The Wall Street Journal about US$700 million (S$960 million) deposited into the latter's personal accounts, surprised many members with its directness.

He explained that he wanted to warn members of the danger of not explaining the issue clearly to voters.

Mr Muhyiddin said that, while he had always been supportive of Prime Minister Najib Razak's leadership, he held a different view when it came to state-owned investment agency 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). 

"In the 1MDB issue, 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 yesterday after he was sacked by Datuk Seri Najib.

He told reporters yesterday that he would answer today all questions regarding his sacking and his future.

His exit was not a surprise to some in Umno as he had led the criticism of Mr Najib within Umno regarding the 1MDB issue.

And it was not the first time he had courted controversy.

He admitted that he had led the calls for then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to quit.

And in 2010, when Mr Najib introduced the 1Malaysia concept to promote national unity regardless of race, background or religious belief, Mr Muhyiddin raised eyebrows when he described himself as "Malay first" after being challenged by the opposition to pronounce himself as "Malaysian first".

Mr Muhyiddin is from Johor, which is also the birthplace of Umno and the bastion of the party's Malay support base.

He entered politics in the 1970s and was elected as Member of Parliament for Pagoh, in northern Johor, in 1978.

During his term as MP, he was named Deputy Minister of Federal Territories and later Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry.

He later became Menteri Besar of Johor and ran the state from 1986 to 1995.

After the 1999 general election, he was appointed Federal Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, and became a vice-president of Umno in 2000.

He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education by Mr Najib in 2009.


New Attorney-General

Ex-judge presided over many high-profile cases


Malaysia's new Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali (photo), is a former Federal Court judge who has presided over several high-profile cases.  

Tan Sri Mohamed, 65, chaired the Court of Appeal which overturned a High Court decision to convict two former police commandos over Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu's murder.

She was killed in 2006 in a case linked to a submarine deal involving a former aide to Datuk Seri Najib Razak when the latter was defence minister.

In his 47-page judgment in August 2013, Mr Mohamed held that circumstantial evidence produced by the prosecution was insufficient and that the duo's guilt had not been satisfactorily proven.

On Jan 13 this year, the Federal Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal and re-convicted the two commandos.

In October last year, Mr Mohamed chaired the three-member Court of Appeal that ruled on the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims.

It allowed the Government's plea to overturn the 2009 High Court decision which had declared that the Home Ministry's decision in prohibiting the use of "Allah" by a Catholic publication, in its Bahasa Malaysia section, was illegal.

He had said the reason for the prohibition was to prevent confusion among the various religions.

Outgoing Attorney-General

Often in spotlight, he has served under 3 PMs

Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who was yesterday replaced as Malay-sia's Attorney-General, has lived under the glare of the spotlight as much as the people he prosecuted.

Mr Abdul Gani, 59, was in the midst of a high-profile probe into troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Appointed the country's eighth Attorney-General in 2002, he has served under three prime ministers.

One of the most famous cases of his career was opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's first sodomy case in 1998.

Anwar was found guilty and sentenced to nine years' jail for sodomy in 2000.

Four years later, the Federal Court, in a majority ruling, overturned the conviction and Anwar was freed.

Mr Abdul Gani also attracted attention for the cases which he did not prosecute - among them, the death of opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) aide Teoh Beng Hock in a tragic incident.


New Rural Minister

Controversy in last post

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (photo), 55, the new Rural and Regional Development Minister, was previously the minister of agriculture and agro-based industry. He raised controversy in February this year when he called upon Malay consumers to assist the fight against profiteering by boycotting Chinese businesses.

He claimed that the high prices by Chinese traders were aimed at stirring dissent against the government. His comments triggered a string of protests from opposition politicians to non- governmental organisations.

He clarified later that he was not criticising the entire Chinese community, but was referring to Chinese distributors and traders who refused to reduce prices despite the falling fuel prices.

Mr Ismail was first elected to Parliament in 2004 when he won a seat in Bera, Pahang.

Outgoing Rural Minister

He openly criticised Najib

Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, vice-president of Umno, Malaysia's ruling party. PHOTO: UTUSAN MALAYSIA

The former rural and regional development minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, hails from Sabah.

As Umno vice-president, he is the highest-ranked Sabahan in the party.

Mr Shafie has stood with former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin in openly voicing criticism against Prime Minister Najib Razak's handling of the troubled state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Mr Shafie was appointed as rural and regional development minister in 2009 by Datuk Seri Najib.

Prior to that, he was the minister of domestic, trade and consumer affairs under then Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

New Special Branch chief

Management director moves up the ranks

Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun has been appointed the new director of the Special Branch (SB), the intelligence agency of the Malaysian Royal Police. Mr Mohamad Fuzi replaces Datuk Seri Akhil Bulat, 62, who retired after 38 years of service with SB.

Mr Mohamad Fuzi was promoted from his current position as SB's director of management.

He was previously director of the Special Task Force for Operations and Counter-Terrorism before it was disbanded.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Who's in, who's out Muhyiddin still holds powerful Umno post'. Print Edition | Subscribe