As Malaysia suffers record Covid deaths, incoming PM names Cabinet

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New Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Friday announced his first Cabinet, retaining many of his predecessor’s nominees but naming a new health minister following record coronavirus deaths being reported on Thursday.

“Thank you for trusting me,” said Khairy Jamaluddin, who was given the vital health portfolio after having previously served as minister of science, technology and innovation.

On Thursday, despite Malaysia being in lockdown since mid-May, the Health Ministry reported 393 Covid-related deaths and a new record of almost 25,000 cases in one day.

Ismail Sabri kept Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz on as finance minister, with Azmin Ali staying on in trade and Hamzah Zainuddin retaining the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Saifuddin Abdullah returned as foreign minister after working as communications minister under the previous administration, while former foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein was given defence.

Former finance minister and leader of the opposition Democratic Action Party Lim Guan Eng criticized what he called “a recycled Cabinet.”

Appointed a week ago to replace Muhyiddin Yassin, who quit last month after his handling of the pandemic was criticized, Ismail Sabri named 10 members of his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) as ministers, alongside the same number from Muhyiddin’s United Malays Indigenous Party.

Ismail Sabri’s slim parliamentary majority hinges on support from Muhyiddin’s party, who warned the incoming prime minister against the appointment of anyone facing criminal charges to a ministerial portfolio.

Several UMNO members have been in court facing charges related to former prime minister Najib Razak’s period in office between 2009 and 2018.
Najib, who was sentenced to 12 years in jail for corruption last year, is still an MP, and remains free on appeal.

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