KUALA LUMPUR – Hours after being dropped from the Cabinet, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defended his scathing comments about Prime Minister Najib Razak’s handling of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy, calling them remarks made in the public interest.
Mr Muhyiddin – who was Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister – said he accepted the Prime Minister’s decision, adding that he had always supported Datuk Seri Najib’s leadership.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Mr Muhyiddin said: “During my service, I have always supported all government policies and the leadership of the Prime Minister. In the 1MDB issue, I have principles and my own stand in defending the rights of the public, the good name of the party, and the national interest.
“If my stand in this issue has caused me to be sacked from Cabinet, then I accept it.
“I will always be loyal to Umno’s cause. As Umno deputy president, I will continue the duties entrusted to me and devote myself to the service of strengthening the party and restoring the faith of Malays and the public in Umno.”
Following the democratic mandate given to the Barisan Nasional government in the 2013 General Election, it is my duty to ensure that the government delivers on our transformation programme.
The Cabinet must act as one solid team. I welcome vigorous debate, and can accept dissent and criticism. However, this process should take place in Cabinet as part of the decision-making process. Members of the Cabinet should not air their differences in an open forum that can affect public opinion against the government and Malaysia.
It is contrary to the concept of collective responsibility that is the foundation of Cabinet government.
The decision to replace Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was very difficult, but leadership is about doing what you think is right. To deliver for Malaysia, I must have a solid and unified team moving in the same direction.
I accept the PM’s decision to drop me from the Cabinet with an open heart. I respect the PM’s prerogative to appoint and drop any Cabinet member.
As DPM, I have been involved directly in government policy and executed my duties responsibly. During my service, I have always supported all government policies and the leadership of the PM.
In the 1MDB issue, I have principles and my own stand in defending the rights of the public, the good name of the party and the national interest. If my stand in this issue has caused me to be sacked from Cabinet, then I accept it.
I will always be loyal to Umno’s cause. As Umno deputy president, I will continue the duties entrusted to me and devote myself to the service of strengthening the party and restoring the faith of Malays and the public in Umno.
By late last night, his Facebook post had attracted more than 160,000 likes.
Mr Muhyiddin hit the headlines after a 70-minute speech on Sunday in which he said he had pressed Mr Najib to quit as 1MDB adviser and told him that he should personally take the lead to explain the issue to the people.
He had also warned that the Umno-centred Barisan Nasional coalition would lose the general election if it were called today.
In yesterday’s reshuffle, Mr Muhyiddin’s closest ally, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who was the Rural and Regional Development Minister, was also dropped. Mr Shafie, who is also an Umno vice-president, issued a statement to say it was Mr Najib’s right to drop him but added that he had fought for “the interests of the rakyat and the sentiments of the grassroots” ever since becoming a Cabinet member.
Family, friends and supporters, as well as foreign and local media, camped outside Mr Muhyiddin’s house. Among his visitors was Kedah Mentri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad who is one of Mr Najib’s most vocal critics.
Opposition lawmakers said the reshuffle was an attempt by Mr Najib to halt investigations into the 1MDB scandal.
Mr Lim Kit Siang of the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) asked Mr Najib convene an emergency Parliament meeting to demonstrate that the new Cabinet has the full support of the federal Parliament.
Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali said Mr Muhyiddin’s sacking and Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s removal as Attorney-General gave the impression that Mr Najib was attempting to stop investigations against him.
“Parliamentarians without considering their parties should unite to save Malaysia. The people will not support any Member of Parliament who watches as the country plunges into a deeper crisis,” said Mr Azmin, who is also Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president.
DAP’s Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said Mr Gani should file a judicial review against his termination as it may have been “politically motivated”.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said he hoped the new Cabinet would be able to carry out its duties and responsibilities in a fair and transparent manner.
He said it was too early for PAS to express its stand on the new line-up. “We cannot say we agree or not. We’ll see how they carry out their tasks, especially on issues affecting the people and the country,” he told reporters.
National Human Rights Society president Ambiga Sreenevasan said the Cabinet reshuffle was only “compounding the crisis”, and threatened a massive street protest by several NGOs if Mr Najib does not take a leave of absence.
She also called on federal lawmakers to form a new temporary government and a bi-partisan Cabinet.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline ‘Muhyiddin defends remarks on 1MDB’.