PUTRAJAYA: Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has unveiled his 32-member Cabinet that, for the first time in history, does not include a deputy prime minister.
For the past week or so, political observers had been discussing the possibility of the Prime Minister breaking with tradition by not choosing anybody to be the No.2 at the helm of government.
The move was nevertheless a surprise to many others when Muhyiddin announced the line-up of ministers and deputy ministers here yesterday. However, he named four ministers who will assist him to coordinate Cabinet affairs in the areas of the economy, security, infrastructure development, education and social development.
He explained that now that there are four senior ministers, the Cabinet can do without a deputy prime minister.
The senior ministers are Datuk Seri Azmin Ali (International Trade and Industry Minister), Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Defence), Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof and Education Minister Dr Mohd Razdi Md Jidin
While the appointment of a deputy prime minister is not stipulated in the Federal Constitution – unlike that of Ministers – the country always had someone holding the post.
The Constitution only specifically mentions “Cabinet of Ministers” or “Ministers” and the “Prime Minister”, without any mention for a need to appoint a deputy prime minister.
The post was formed based on convention; it was an office created by first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, to enable Tun Abdul Razak Hussein to help him carry out national administrative duties.
Since then, the nation has always had a deputy prime minister.
On the appointment of the four senior ministers, the Prime Minister said this will allow issues raised between the ministries covering the five areas to be coordinated effectively.
“In essence, I want to form a Cabinet that will truly provide the best service to the people; a Cabinet that delivers, ” Muhyiddin said when naming his line-up yesterday.
The senior ministers are to assist the Prime Minister in his duties, including chairing Cabinet meetings in his absence.
“With the senior ministers, there is no need at this point to appoint a deputy prime minister, ” he said.
Muhyiddin injected new elements into his administration – a new ministry, a dedicated ministry, new portfolios, and restructured the Education Ministry.
The new ministry is the National Unity Ministry, with the environment getting a dedicated ministry, Sabah and Sarawak Affairs is a new portfolio under the Prime Minister’s Department and the Higher Education Ministry is back.
The Higher Education Ministry has always been a part of the Education Ministry until then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2004 separated it into two separate entities – the Education Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry.
In 2013, then premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak merged the two ministries. The Education Ministry was again separated in 2015.
Muhyiddin said a ministry to handle national unity was needed and necessary to ensure the country’s survival is given priority.
The setting up of the Sabah and Sarawak portfolio is the Federal Government’s commitment to tackle development and socio-economic issues in the two states, as well as to honour the Malaysia Agreement 1963.