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After months of turmoil, Malaysia sees new leadership5 min read

August 25, 2021 4 min read

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After months of turmoil, Malaysia sees new leadership5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Malaysia has had a rough few months. The Southeast Asian country has not only been seeing several cases of Covid-19, but has also been in the middle of many political issues. In this week’s Law and Order, we visit this cultural melting pot, and understand why there has been so much trouble there.

Photo: mapsofworld.com

A new Prime Minister

The Malaysian King, Sultan Abdullah, appointed Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the country’s ninth prime minister (PM) last week. This ended months of political turmoil over the government’s alleged mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, and also saw the resignation of former PM Muhyidden Yassin.

Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the new PM. Photo: AP

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Ismail Sabri belongs to United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main party in a coalition that governed Malaysia for decades after independence from Britain.

So what went wrong?

Former Malaysian PM Muhyidden Yassin. Photo: Bloomberg

Yassin became PM in March 2020, which wasn’t a smooth process either. He managed to convince the King that he had a majority in parliament, and that he could run the country. However, the public was not convinced — they did not think that he would be good leader.

This was mainly because he was not appointed via a general election, but rather appointed by the King.

Even his own political party was not convinced, which led to a lot of fighting among the members. This finally led to his resignation, and made him the shortest serving PM with just a seven-month term.

What about Covid?

Soon after he was sworn in, Yassin imposed a strict lockdown to bring down the number of coronavirus cases. When restrictions were eased back in July 2020, the country was faring well, reporting zero cases.

Malaysians waiting in line to get vaccinated. Photo: Reuters

However, cases started to rise again when a state election was called for in September, and quarantine rules were put into force for politicians flying in and out of the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The result was new restrictions being imposed in October. The rules were relaxed again just before the Christmas and New Year holidays – a popular time for travel in Malaysia – and in January cases surged again.

Yassin, who was now facing a lot of pressure, decided to order a state of emergency, which also suspended parliament.

Since then, cases have continued to rise. In June this year, Yassin called for a total lockdown when the country was reporting 7,000 cases a day.

The long halt in business and schooling, coupled with a lack of financial support, started to anger many Malaysians. Young people went onto the streets to protest, including doctors. They blamed the PM for his poor handling of the pandemic, and demanded he resign.

On the bright side, the country’s vaccination drive has been picking up pace, which more than 30% of people being fully vaccinated.  

What is the King’s role?

The monarchs of Malaysia. Photo: AP/Getty Images

Malaysia’s system of monarchy is quite unique. The role of the king is rotated every five years among the nine sultans in the country. The current monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, is from the central state of Pahang, and took the throne in 2019.

Who is the new PM?

Ismail Sabri Yaakob is the new PM. He was the defence minister in the previous government and gave daily updates about the fight against the virus. He was promoted to deputy prime minister in the administration’s final days.

Sultan Abdullah said in a statement that he hopes Yaakob appointment will bring an end to the country’s political turmoil. He urged lawmakers to set aside their political differences and unite to tackle the country’s worsening pandemic.

However, many don’t like Yaakob either. The public even launched an online petition against him running for PM, which was signed by almost 4 lakh people. They believe that the new PM will not be successful in helping the country fight Covid-19.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Malaysia has one of the world’s highest infection rates and deaths per capita. Daily new infections have more than doubled since June, bringing the country’s total to more than 1.5 million cases! Deaths have surged to above 13,000.

Yaakob has also been criticised for his controversial statements about the minority groups living in Malaysia.

Did you know?

Malaysian Indians make up about 7% of the entire population of Malaysia, which is more than 2 million people! A total of 6.3% of the population in Malaysia follow Hinduism.

The chart below illustrates the cultural diversity of Malaysia.

Photo: Britannica

Sources: Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times, Channel News Asia, BBC

Banner photo: Microsoft News

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