Muhyiddin Yassin: Malaysia’s veteran political survivor

Muhyiddin Yassin: Malaysia’s veteran political survivor

The 72-year-old was sacked by his political party UMNO and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer less than 2 years ago. He is now set to become Malaysia’s eighth prime minister.

Muhyiddin Yassin, former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister, speaks during an interview with Reuters i
FILE PHOTO: Muhyiddin Yassin, former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ebrahim Harris

KUALA LUMPUR: After a week of uncertainty brewing across Malaysia, the political impasse seemingly ended on Saturday (Feb 29) when Malaysian King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah announced that Pagoh member of parliament Muhyiddin Yassin would be the country’s eighth prime minister

Mr Muhyddin, 72, will be sworn in at 10.30am on Sunday at the national palace.

The veteran politician has been in Malaysia politics for more than 50 years, serving in seven Cabinet minister positions. 

He is renowned among Malaysians for his political drive and principled character. 

Mr Muhyiddin grew up in Muar, Johor. He graduated from the University of Malaya with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Malay Studies.

He joined the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia’s longest ruling party, in 1971.

As a young man, Mr Muhyddin rose up the ranks quickly. Within 15 years, he went from being a state executive council member to Johor’s Chief Minister. 

Locally, he has served as MP for Pagoh, a quiet town in northern Johor, for eight terms since 1978.

He is known locally as "orang kuat Pagoh" and oversaw the development of a RM1 billion education hub in the town. 

Malaysia General Election Muhyiddin Yassin (1)
Pakatan Harapan's Muhyiddin Yassin on Nomination Day for the 2018 General Election. (Photo: Justin Ong)

He served as Johor Chief Minister from 1986 until 1995, under the deceased Sultan Mahmud Iskandar. Following this, Mr Muhyiddin served in six Cabinet minister posts under the UMNO government. 

He was Minister of Youth and Sports, Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based industry as well as Minister of Trade and Industry. 

SACKED BY NAJIB FOR SPEAKING OUT 

During Mr Najib Razak’s adminstration, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education. 

In 2010, he stirred controversy when he said: "I am a Malay first, I want to say that. But being Malay does not mean you are not a Malaysian." 

He was responding to the opposition, who was questioning his commitment to Mr Najib's 1Malaysia concept. 

In 2015, Mr Muhyiddin was dismissed from his Cabinet posts after he publicly criticised Mr Najib’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. 

Najib shows manifesto
File photo of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 2018 budget speech. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Mr Najib said the dismissal of Mr Muhyiddin, and other ministers who criticised his leadership, was to create a more unified team. 

Mr Muhyddin received praise from certain quarters for his courage to speak out against corruption. He was eventually sacked from UMNO in 2016, almost 50 years after joining the party. 

Mr Muhyddin, together with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, then formed a new party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).  He is the president of Bersatu, while Dr Mahathir is the chairman. 

LEADING PH TO VICTORY IN GE 14 

The party joined the Pakatan Harapan coalition in 2018, and played a critical role in helping PH overthrow the Barisan Nasional coalition in a historic victory in the general election. 

Mahathir cheers
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (C) celebrates with other leaders of his Pakatan Harapan coalition during a press conference on May 10, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyayana)

After the victory, Dr Mahathir was appointed Malaysia’s seventh prime minister while Mr Muhyiddin was appointed Minister of Home Affairs.

In August 2018, Mr Muhyiddin was diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer and underwent successful surgery in Singapore. 

After the surgery, Mr Muhyiddin was visited by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who shared with him some dietary tips. 

PM Lee Muhyiddin Yassin
Muhyiddin is recovering after undergoing surgery for a pancreatic tumour.(Photo: Facebook/Muhyiddin Yassin)

Mr Lee encouraged him to eat in moderation, and added that there was "no need for any pantangs (restrictions)" on food. 

The Sultan of Johor and other Malaysian Cabinet Ministers also visited Mr Muhyiddin in Singapore. 

After he recovered, Mr Muhyiddin resumed his post as Home Affairs Minister, where he oversaw operations to curb terrorism and enhanced security measures along Sabah’s waters. 

He was also involved in the Malaysian government's efforts to track down fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, who is linked to the 1MDB scandal. 

He said that Malaysia would not stop its efforts to bring back Low and take him to court.

However, despite the efforts of Mr Muhyddin and the other ministers, PH garnered criticism, especially from the majority Malays in the country. The people were unhappy with issues such as cost of living and employment. 

The mounting pressure culminated in political uncertainty over the last week. 

Last Sunday, Mr Muhyddin was one of the PH MPs who attended a political gathering at Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya, along with other opposition MPs from UMNO and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and a Parti Keadilan Rakyat spliner faction led by Mr Azmin Ali. 

READ: Bersatu nominates Muhyiddin Yassin as Malaysian prime minister candidate

After a few days of twists and turns that included Bersatu’s withdrawal from PH, Dr Mahathir’s resignation as prime minister, and Sultan Abdullah interviewing each MP at the national palace, Mr Muhyddin emerged as the frontrunner to become Malaysia’s next prime minister. 

The Perikatan Nasional coalition, which includes MPs from Barisan Nasional, PAS and Bersatu, initially pledged their support for Dr Mahathir as prime minister.

But Dr Mahathir maintained that he did not want to work with MPs from UMNO, while Mr Muhyddin was more accepting of this. 

The coalition and MPs from Parti Warisan Sabah and Gabungan Parti Sarawak subsequently nominated him to be their prime minister candidate to end the political turmoil in the country. 

Source: CNA/am(aj)

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