Malaysian PM Muhyiddin asks voters to give his government a chance to prove itself in first public address

In the speech broadcast over national television, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president called for reconciliation after a week of political impasse. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ASTROWANI.COM

KUALA LUMPUR - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has denied claims he betrayed former premier Mahathir Mohamad, and asked Malaysians to give his government a chance to prove itself, in his first public address as the country's new prime minister on Monday (March 2) night.

In the speech broadcast over national television, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president called for reconciliation after a week of political impasse, during which accusations of betrayal were flung across the political divide.

"I am a prime minister for all Malaysians from Perlis to Sabah. Whatever race or ethnicity, I am your Prime Minister. Give me a chance to use my 40 years of experience in politics and government to steer Malaysia to glory," he said in the pre-recorded message broadcast over national television.

Mr Muhyiddin had last Monday led Bersatu out of the Pakatan Harapan coalition to join hands with then opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, and a rebel faction from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

This resulted in PH losing its majority in Parliament.

The move was intended to ensure premier Mahathir Mohamad could serve a full term, instead of handing over the reins to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as agreed by the PH pact in 2018.

But Tun Dr Mahathir baulked at the prospect of having to work with Umno, a party he campaigned against in 2018 and accused of being riddled with corruption.

He then resigned as premier last Monday, sending the country into a week-long search for a new leader that could form a government.

Mr Muhyiddin explained in his speech that he did not "dream of the post of Prime Minister" and had supported Dr Mahathir to return as premier.

But after the 94-year-old statesman failed to gain the majority backing of MPs, all of whom were interviewed by the King, Mr Muhyiddin said, he was nominated for the post by Bersatu and other parties.

"I met with Tun Dr Mahathir... and witnessed by two other party leaders, he said he was prepared to make way for me if I had the majority," he said.

Malaysia's King announced Saturday evening that Mr Muhyiddin would be sworn in as Malaysia's eighth prime minister, amidst claims from Dr Mahathir that it was he, and not Mr Muhyiddin, who had the support of the majority of lawmakers in the 222-seat Parliament.

Fewer than a-fifth of MPs in the Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) that Mr Muhyiddin now leads were voted in under a PH ticket during the last general election in 2018, leading to accusations that it is a "backdoor" government.

But Mr Muhyiddin said "I know there are those angry with me. As expected, some have called me a traitor. My conscience is clear that I am here to save the country from a prolonged crisis".

He also addressed concerns that several Umno leaders who collectively face hundreds of graft charges will now be part of his government.

"I promise to appoint a Cabinet of individuals who are clean, with integrity and of calibre. My government will also prioritise efforts to increase integrity and good governance," he said.

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