by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by TMR FILE
PRIME Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has appointed Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as deputy and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (picture) as a senior minister in a surprise move yesterday.
A statement from the PM’s Office (PMO) released yesterday afternoon said Ismail Sabri retains his defence portfolio while his duties as security cluster head will be assumed by Hishammuddin immediately.
Hishammuddin will also help the PM execute the government’s Covid-19 National Recovery Plan (NRP).
The PMO said Ismail Sabri’s appointment as deputy PM will help Muhyiddin’s administration meet the needs of the people in handling the health and economic crises facing the country.
The appointments caught many by surprise, but come at the end of several days of conjecture about Umno taking out its support for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
The PMO said the appointments of Ismail Sabri and Hishammuddin, both members of Umno, will enhance the PN government’s capabilities to deal with the pandemic, “strengthen the unity among the component parties of the government and bolster the administration with transparency, free of corruption and integrity”.
It also said the appointments have been presented to the King.
The appointments of Umno ministers to the most senior posts in the PN administration come amid growing friction between PN and Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and criticisms about the government’s handling of the pandemic measures.
The Umno top council was scheduled to meet yesterday to discuss the party’s withdrawal from the government coalition.
Umno Supreme Council member Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi previously said the decision to exit the allegiance was pending a final decision from the party’s highest decision-making committee.
Ahmad Zahid is believed to be the main proponent of Umno’s withdrawal.
There had been talk that Hishammuddin would be made PM, especially after Muhyiddin was hospitalised for several days.
Despite various lockdown measures on the back of the Emergency period and suspended Parliament, the Covid-19 curve has not been successfully flattened, in fact it has been rising for the past few days to over 7,000 cases daily.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had insisted that the government convene Parliament, which has been suspended by Muhyiddin since the onset of Covid-19 last year.
The government finally called for Parliament to convene at the end of the month after the King summoned the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament for an audience, but limiting it to just five days with no debate.