Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Wednesday that all of his Cabinet members will have to declare their assets as part of his pledge to have a government with integrity.
The move comes amid concerns over the inclusion in his administration of the scandal-plagued party of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is on trial for corruption charges.
Chairing his first Cabinet meeting, Muhyiddin said fighting corruption would remain a key priority and reiterated his ethnic Malay-majority government will be fair to all races.
Muhyiddin, 72, took office last week after his party’s defection and then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation sparked the collapse of the reformist ruling alliance.
Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party teamed up with several opposition parties, including the United Malays National Organization, which has several key leaders including Razak on trial for corruption charges.
Mahathir resigned in protest of Bersatu’s plan to work with UMNO, which his alliance ousted in a 2018 election.
The fall of the Alliance of Hope has split the nation, with many angry over what they see as a betrayal of voters’ mandate for a change. Mahathir has accused Muhyiddin of betraying him.
Nevertheless, Mahathir conceded this week that plans to seek a no-confidence vote against the new prime minister aren’t likely to succeed.
In an interview with the Sinar Harian Malay-language newspaper published Wednesday, Mahathir said some of his supporters have now switched sides after being induced with ministerial posts. He said Muhyiddin is likely to stay on until the next general election is due in 2023.
Mahathir, 94, earlier said he had the support of a majority of lawmakers and called for an urgent Parliamentary vote. Muhyiddin responded by pushing back Parliament sitting by more than two months to May 18.
Muhyiddin said he would seek to reconcile with Mahathir and get his endorsement for his government.
“This is the government for the people. It is legal, and it is constitutional. I think people are hoping this government will deliver and we promise that we will deliver. If he wants to have a snap elections, I don’t want that,” he said.
Muhyiddin’s Cabinet is dominated by ethnic Malays, who account for 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people.
Some critics have said the Cabinet is bloated with 70 posts, compared to 55 under Mahathir’s previous government. Muhyiddin did away with the deputy premier post and instead appointed four senior ministers in a move to keep factions in his government happy.
He also appointed a banker as finance minister, and a mufti — an Islamic scholar — as religious affairs minister in an unprecedented step.
Muhyiddin said he will head a new economic council to help cope with a slowdown due to the global coronavirus outbreak and plummeting oil prices.
He said a fund of at least 1 million ringgit ($236,000) will be set up to help those under quarantine cope with a loss of income. Malaysia has recorded 129 cases of the virus so far.