'I will come back': Malaysia's ex-PM Muhyiddin defends track record

Mr Muhyiddin Yassin says he is hopeful of a return to power and will continue to lead his Perikatan Nasional coalition. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin has defended his track record during the shortest premiership stint in the country's history, and has said that he is hopeful of a return to power in the future.

During a farewell message to civil servants made on Monday (Aug 17), the day of his resignation, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said that his 18-month long administration had done what it could to manage the Covid-19 crisis while trying to balance it with the economic impact that lockdowns bring.

"What goes up now, maybe must come down. But what goes down now, God willing, I will come back," said Mr Muhyiddin during a dawn address, hours before his resignation.

The recording of his address was posted on Friday (Aug 20) evening on his Facebook page, hours after Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was announced as his successor by the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.

Mr Muhyiddin had spent five days after his resignation as the caretaker prime minister. Mr Ismail was sworn in on Saturday afternoon.

He had been forced to resign after he lost Parliamentary majority - with several allied MPs from Umno withdrawing their backing for him - ostensibly over his government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Malaysia has recorded more than 1.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 13,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Mr Muhyiddin said that it was "not correct" to say he did not do anything to manage the crisis, while also pointing out that he had never seen Malaysians in such dire straits as they were in the past year following a series of lockdowns.

"So it is just about one year that we struggled, and in the one year, we also achieved. There are records of sorts. I need to thump my chest a little on this because nobody else wants to praise me and I did not ask them to praise me," Mr Muhyiddin said, referring to the country's high vaccination rates. To date, more than half of Malaysia's adult population has been fully vaccinated.

He said the Cabinet he had formed had to focus on Covid-19. Malaysia entered its first lockdown on March 18 last year, just more than two weeks into Mr Muhyiddin's premiership.

The country has remained under some form of economic and social restrictions for the rest of his tenure, only seeing close to full reopening of the economy from June to October last year, and again in December last year.

Mr Muhyiddin imposed a second lockdown in January and also pushed for a state of emergency, which lasted seven months and expired on Aug 1.

He reintroduced lockdowns halfway through the year, as fresh infection spikes from the Delta variant caused the economy to come under several stages of lockdowns since mid-May.

Mr Muhyiddin had spent his last days in office announcing a gradual reopening of limited business sectors, after the country fully inoculated more than half of its adult population. He said he and his PN colleagues backed Mr Ismail to be his successor to ensure continuity of his government's Covid-19 exit plan.

Gradual reopening of limited business sectors has been announced only this month onwards, as the country has fully inoculated more than half of its adult population to date.

Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob with then Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in Putrajaya on July 7, 2020. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Mr Muhyiddin has said that he would continue to lead his Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition ahead of the 15th general election, despite his resignation as PM.

The coalition - which officially consists of his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Parti Islam SeMalaysia, two Sabah-based parties and multiracial Gerakan - controls a total of 50 seats in Parliament.

PN will also be part of Mr Ismail's incoming government, after backing the Umno vice-president's premiership bid.

The 74-year-old Mr Muhyiddin was previously Deputy Prime Minister during Najib Razak's administration between 2009 and 2015, before he was removed from the Cabinet due to his criticism of the 1MDB scandal.

Mr Muhyiddin Yassin waving in Kuala Lumpur, before his inauguration as prime minister on March 1, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

He subsequently co-founded Bersatu with former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and became Home Minister in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration for two years after it scored a shock victory at the 2018 polls.

Mr Muhyiddin's defection from PH with several other leaders collapsed the administration and enabled him to ascend to the post of PM last year.

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