KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has retained a host of senior ministers in the same portfolios as the previous administration. He has also left the deputy premiership post empty, taking a leaf out of predecessor Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s book.
The newly minted premier unveiled his Cabinet on Friday (Aug 27) morning, with his own Umno party dominating the line-up.
Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Aziz has been retained as finance minister.
Former Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin will be helming the Ministry of Health. Under the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration, Mr Khairy was also the coordinating minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
With his appointment as the new health minister, the Rembau MP replaces Datuk Seri Adham Baba when PN was in power. Dr Adham, meanwhile, will now take over Mr Khairy’s old portfolio.
Several senior ministers from the previous administration were also retained, such as International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali, Works Minister Fadillah Yusof, Education Minister Radzi Jidin and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
“I hope the appointment of this Cabinet will give new confidence for the country to rise up and unite against Covid-19, as well as liberating the Malaysian families from misery as a result of this pandemic,” Datuk Seri Ismail said in a national televised announcement.
“I will make sure this Cabinet emphasises a high performance work culture. Thus, every ministry needs to make short-term and long-term planning and achieve the target. For that, each ministry needs to prove their achievements in the first 100 days (in office),” he added.
Overall, there are 31 ministers and 38 deputies in the new Cabinet.
The new Cabinet line-up was announced a week after Mr Ismail was installed as Malaysia's ninth premier, following the collapse of the PN administration on Aug 16.
The new ministers will be sworn in on Monday.
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi last night issued a statement after the Umno supreme council held a meeting, saying it will cooperate with the new administration to jointly address the economic crisis and the pandemic.
The similarity of Mr Ismail’s Cabinet to PN’s line-up has prompted the opposition to question the rationale behind it.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said fresh ideas and new approaches were needed to tackle the country’s Covid-19 and economic crises.
"But the measure that was taken is just recycling of ministers who did not show their capabilities to overcome the problem effectively," he said in a video statement.
The lack of fresh blood would also not restore investor confidence in the country, he added.
Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng described it as a "recycled Cabinet" which is "no different from putting old wine in a new bottle".
"The return of the recycled Cabinet of the previously failed PN government will put into doubt the commitment of the new Prime Minister towards not only winning the battle against Covid-19 and the economic crisis.
"It will also raise scrutiny whether Ismail is genuine about undertaking concrete institutional reforms to protect our democratic and constitutional rights as expressed during the meeting with Pakatan Harapan three top leaders two days ago," Mr Lim said in a statement.
Mr Ismail met the opposition pact on Wednesday and offered reforms and wider measures to combat the Covid-19 crisis, in exchange for their support in Parliament.
Describing the cabinet as "disappointing", former premier Mahathir Mohamad said: "The same people have been appointed even though they did not perform under Muhyiddin."
DAP lawmaker Hannah Yeoh tweeted: “Just the same old composition of #KerajaanGagal (failed government). Same politicians rotating offices in Putrajaya. Ismail Sabri’s Cabinet is nothing more inspiring than Muhyiddin’s Cabinet.”
She also questioned the omission of outgoing Lower House deputy speaker Azalina Othman Said from the newly announced line-up.
“Children will have no reliable spokesperson and how can Azalina be excluded? I now want Ismail Sabri to make Azalina speaker for greater check and balance.” Ms Azalina has been championing women and children’s rights.
Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, president of the unregistered Malaysia United Democratic Alliance (Muda), said Mr Ismail had “wasted” a chance to introduce real institutional reforms.
The Muar MP questioned the line-up, saying MPs in Umno and PAS who had shown their commitment to build the country had been overlooked.
“Why appoint another minister who is clearly not performing well? Why are leaders with bad records still part of this government?"
Senior Minister (International Trade and Industry): Azmin Ali (Bersatu)
Deputy: Lim Ban Hong (MCA)
Senior Minister (Defence): Hishammuddin Hussein (Umno)
Deputy: Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (Bersatu)
Senior Minister (Works): Fadillah Yusof (GPS)
Deputy: Arthur Joseph Kurup (PBRS)
Senior Minister (Education): Radzi Jidin (Bersatu)
Deputies: Mah Hang Soon (MCA), Eddin Syazlee Shith (Bersatu)
Finance Minister: Tengku Zafrul Aziz
Deputies: Mohd Shahar Abdullah (Umno), Yamani Hafez Musa (Bersatu)
Health Minister: Khairy Jamaluddin (Umno)
Deputies: Noor Azmi Ghazali (Bersatu), Aaron Ago Dagang (GPS)
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister: Adham Baba (Umno)
Deputy: Ahmad Amzad Hashim (PAS)
Home Minister: Hamzah Zainuddin (Bersatu)
Deputies: Ismail Mohamed Said (Umno), Jonathan Yassin (Bersatu)
Foreign Minister: Saifuddin Abdullah (Bersatu)
Deputy: Kamarudin Jaffar (Bersatu)