KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 8, 2020, The Straits Times. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may be reaching out across political parties as he attempts to assemble his new Cabinet, with talk swirling that he could offer the former health minister his old post amid the growing coronavirus outbreak, The Straits Times reported.
Sources said that Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who is from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, is offering former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, who belongs to the moderate Islamic Parti Amanah Negara, his old position.
Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly was seen to have done a good job, and is a popular figure, a political source told The Straits Times.
Bringing him back into Cabinet however would be an unusual move, especially since Mr Muhyiddin had last week taken his Bersatu party out of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which Amanah is part of, leading to the collapse of the PH government.
Political rivals from Umno, including its secretary-general Annuar Musa, have also suggested on social media that Dr Dzulkefly be re-appointed as the health minister in order to tackle the outbreak of coronavirus disease – officially known as Covid-19 – in Malaysia, which has seen 93 people infected here so far.
“This is all hearsay, there is nothing official,” Dr Dzulkefly told The Straits Times, adding that he would not accept a Cabinet post from the current government.
He said he does not mind working in another capacity to help manage the virus outbreak, such as in an advisory role on a taskforce.
“While I am keen to help the rakyat (people), I want to make it very clear that it is not to be construed as legitimising the power grab of Perikatan Nasional (PN),” he said.
PH has denounced PN as a backdoor government, calling Mr Muhyiddin and other former PH lawmakers aligned to him traitors.
Amanah communications chief Khalid Samad said that Mr Muhyiddin has approached PH leaders to be part of his Cabinet.
“But no one wanted to accept,” he said.
Mr Muhyiddin faces a difficult task as he has promised a Cabinet that practises integrity and clean governance, but several leaders of his new ally Umno currently face numerous graft charges in court.
On Saturday (March 7), Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who faces dozens of corruption and money-laundering charges, confirmed that he will not be in the new Cabinet after having discussed the matter with Mr Muhyiddin.
“The new government must be clean and chances must be given to those (facing charges) to clear their name through legal court procedure,” he said.
“As the president of Barisan Nasional and Umno, I will not offer myself to be in the new Cabinet,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.
Meanwhile Mr Khalid said that he had sent a text message to Mr Muhyiddin, urging him to leave PN and return to PH.
“Tan Sri (Muhyiddin), you have betrayed PH, now you should betray Perikatan Nasional, then it’s fair. Tan Sri, bring PPBM (Bersatu) back into PH,” Mr Khalid was quoted as saying at a PH rally in Hulu Kelang on Wednesday.
Mr Khalid, who is the former federal territories minister, said that PH coalition partner Democratic Action Party (DAP) had been prepared to reduce the number of DAP ministers during the political crisis that gripped Malaysia two weeks ago.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had said, “It’s okay, if the Malays are so angry with DAP, we can reduce the number of ministerial positions for DAP, even if I myself do not become finance minister, it’s okay,” according to Mr Khalid.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that Mr Muhyiddin had long tried to convince him to take Bersatu out of the coalition, which had suffered three by-election losses after the 2018 general election.
According to Tun Dr Mahathir, Mr Muhyiddin blamed DAP for the losses, amid increasing Malay unhappiness over perceptions that the Chinese-led DAP was controlling the PH administration.