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4 things you didn’t know about Muhyiddin, who once apparently vowed to never become PM

(Artikel asal ditulis dalam BM. Klik sini kalau nak baca!)


This past week has been a roller coaster ride for Malaysians. The political drama went from Anwar’s apparent power craze to become the next Prime Minister to how Mahathir didn’t really wanna let go of the Prime Minister’s post to people believing Azmin Ali to be a suitable Prime Minister. Wah, 8 seasons of Game of Thrones could never top this.

But the question of who’s gonna be the Prime Minister was answered over the weekend when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed as the 8th Prime Minister by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA). According to an official statement from the palace, the Agong found that Muhyiddin has the majority support to be the PM.

Bet y'all didn't see that coming. Img from mStar

“Bet y’all didn’t see that coming.” Img from mStar

While this may seem the end of what feels like the longest week in Malaysia, but some analysts claimed that this is not the end to the political crisis in Malaysia. On the day Muhyiddin was announced to become the next Prime Minister, the rakyat became divided.

If you were on your social media, particularly on Twitterjaya, when that happened, you can see those who support Muhyiddin’s appointment and those who don’t through hashtags like #respectYDPA and #NotMyPM respectively. In fact, a protest was staged at Sogo Mall on 1st March, the day Muhyiddin was sworn in to become the Prime Minister.

The protest against backdoor govt. Img from Straits Times

The protest against backdoor govt. Img from Straits Times

Okay la, people were angry that a person who is a part of the backdoor govt became the Prime Minister but let’s be real. Throughout this whole political drama, have you even thought that Muhyiddin would be the next Prime Minister? If you answered no, then that’s probably because nobody has ever mentioned his name when they’re talking about who’s becoming the next Prime Minister during the political crisis.

In fact, he’s pretty low profile compared to other ministers. Well, except for that one time when he was sacked for voicing out against his party president (we’ll get to that in a bit). But that’s not the only thing he’s known for so let’s look at other lesser known things Muhyiddin has done throughout his political career.


1. Muhyiddin turned Johor from the backwaters of Malaysia into an industrial state

The Sultan of Johor and Muhyiddin. Img from FMT

The Sultan of Johor and Muhyiddin. Img from FMT

Muhyiddin’s political career began in Johor as the Johor Assistant State Secretary in the Training and Scholarship department in 1970, and formally joined UMNO a year later. It was said that Muhyiddin rose up the ranks pretty quickly and within 15 years, he went from being a state executive council member to Johor’s 13th Chief Minister in 1986. And he retained that position in 1990 during GE8.

But politics aside, Muhyiddin is also believed to be the man behind Johor’s rapid economy. According to Dr Mohammed Fauzi OthmanSenior Lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Muhyiddin turned Johor into an industrial state when he was the state’s Chief Minister.

“When Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin took office, Johor has changed from a normal Malay state to an industrial Malay state.” – Mohammed Fauzi to Astro Awani.

Muhyiddin started joining the corporate world in Johor when he worked with several state-owned investment subsidiaries of the Johor’s Economic Development Corporation (PKENJ). He also held several important roles in SGS Ates Sdn Bhd, Sri Saujana Berhad, Sergam Bhd and Equity Mal (Johor) Sdn Bhd. All of this happened between 1974 and 1978.

And, according to Mohammed Fauzi, Muhyiddin would turn PKENJ into Johor Corporation (JCorp), which is one of the most well-known economic corporation in Malaysia. He also added that Johor became the third largest contributor to the country’s GDP at that time – a far cry compared to when the state was known to be the sleepy backwater of Malaysia.

Besides that…


2. He got rid of PMR and PPSMI, and introduced PT3 instead

As you may have already know, Muhyiddin held several important ministerial posts in the country, regardless of when he was with BN or Pakatan Harapan, such as…

  • Minister of Youth and Sports (1995-1999) – BN
  • Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (1999-2004) – BN
  • Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries (2004-2008) – BN
  • Minister of International Trade and Industry (2008-2009) – BN
  • Deputy Prime Minister (2009-2015) – BN
  • Minister of Education (2009-2015) – BN
  • Minister of Home Affairs (May 2018-February 2020) – Harapan
Muhyiddin back when he was a belia the Youth and Sports Minister. Img from mStar

Muhyiddin back when he was a belia the Youth and Sports Minister. Img from mStar

One of the most important ministerial posts he held was the Education Minister in 2009, the same time he was the Deputy Prime Minister. While he was the Education Minister, he introduced several new policies, such as the PT3 (formerly known as SRP but if you’re too young to remember what that is then it’s also known as PMR).

Unlike in PMR or SRP, the PT3 examination is not a centralised national examination. And students are assessed based on their written and oral tests besides several practical tests, projects, field study and case studies. That pretty much sounds like something you’d do in university, and if you wanna know more about PT3, you can check it out here.

And although the result of PT3 would be used to determine the entry of students into Form 4, students may also need to sit for another test before entering the school they chose.

“Besides the PT3, entry into these schools will also use the Psychometric Test to ensure that the selection and emplacement of students suited their capability and interest.” – Muhyiddin to The Star.

Besides PT3, Muhyiddin also implemented the Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening Command of English Language (MBMMBI) policy to replace Mahathir’s PPSMI, which was introduced in schools in 2003.

PT3 examinations. Img from Astro Awani

PT3 examinations. Img from Astro Awani

Mahathir believes that the English language is important when learning Science and Mathematics because that the language is used in management and industries. Besides that, new scientific findings are oftentimes published in English instead of BM anyways. But when Muhyiddin was the Education Minister, he had a different opinion:

“We have scientific data to prove that a student’s improvement in understanding scientific and mathematical concepts is closely linked to the language of communication that he or she can easily understand.” – Muhyiddin to The Star.

He also added that because the command of English among rural students is very poor, it makes it harder for teachers to teach them in two languages.

Who could have predicted Covid-19? The deities of this Malaccan festival did... in 2017.

Although Mahathir didn’t react much to this change, in 2020 (before this political crisis happened), Mahathir was already thinking of bringing PPSMI back. But now that Mahathir’s no longer interim education minister (or Prime Minister), it’s unclear if that’s still on track for now.

Speaking of differing views…


3. Badawi, Najib and Mahathir all sorta thought Muhyiddin betrayed them

You’ve probably heard of Mahathir saying how he felt betrayed by Muhyiddin when he was appointed to become the next Prime Minister. But guess what? He wasn’t the only one that Muhyiddin allegedly crossed.

Back in 2008 when BN won by a simple majority for the first time ever, the then-Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was urged to step down as the Prime Minister due to the poor performance of the coalition. We’ve written about this move here but what we didn’t cover was how Muhyiddin was among those people who urged Abdullah to step down. Ironically tho, according to UMNO stalwart Musa HitamAbdullah was the one who had appointed Muhyiddin to become the Najib’s Deputy Prime Minister in 2009.

So at this point in time, Muhyiddin supported Najib to become the next Prime Minister in 2009…


…but he kinda regretted that in 2015.

That year, the hottest topic in town was that multicolored dress the 1MDB scandal and Najib’s alleged involvement in it. While many people including a certain Dr Mahathir had already voiced out against Najib, no one expected Muhyiddin to bring up a LOT of questions regarding the 1MDB fund during an UMNO retreat, which pretty much led to the termination from his Cabinet post as the then Deputy Prime Minister. What’s interesting tho was how Muhyiddin was apparently not afraid to be terminated because his principle is against the act of allegedly channeling RM2.6 billion to Najib’s personal account.

“I would not have been in peace if I continued to serve beside him (Najib). I can continue arguing on why I should not have been sacked but I just want to move forward.” – Muhyiddin to Today Online.

Specifically, the incident that kicked it all off was when a video of Muhyiddin‘s 1MDB speech where he questioned Najib’s actions during the scandal. We’ve written about the interesting stuff we found from this video and you can read them here.


And because his actions displeased Najib Razak, who was the Prime Minister then, Muhyiddin was sacked from the Cabinet and replaced by Zahid Hamidi not long after that. Besides Muhyiddin, four other ministers and then Attorney General, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, were also removed from the govt.

So with his principle to stand against 1MDB scandal, some are questioning why he ended up teaming up with politicians who still have ongoing trials in court, including the former party president who sacked him. Well, only time would tell what his actual plans are.

But what shocked us the most while researching for this story was how…


4. Muhyiddin apparently vowed not to become the Prime Minister but…

So in an interview with Malaysiakini in 2016, Muhyiddin was asked if he gave up on becoming the Prime Minister since he vowed not to become one. Before we proceed with the answer, we’d like to clarify that we have tried searching for Muhyiddin’s specific quote on this but to no avail. Soooooo you may wanna take his vow with a pinch of salt. #ihatecilisos

“I’m a Muslim and I believe everything is God’s plan. This would mean that we would have the intention and desire, everything is in God’s will, including my future and what will happen to me.” – Muhyiddin, excerpt from Malaysiakini. Translated from BM.

Despite being sacked in 2015, Muhyiddin can pretty much say…

And he came back.

…because he actually came back as the Prime Minister.

At the time of writing, Muhyiddin in his first speech as the Prime Minister vows to have a clean cabinet.

“I promise to appoint a Cabinet from individuals who are clean, with integrity and calibre. My government will also prioritise efforts to increase integrity and good governance.” – Muhyiddin, excerpt from Straits Times.

So would this mean some people from Muhyiddin’s newly formed Perikatan Nasional like Zahid Hamidi won’t be able to hold any ministerial posts? Well, some analysts like the Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun believes that Muhyiddin needs to follow through on early pledges “if he doesn’t want to invite cynicism” the same way PH did when some electoral pledges were abandoned.

But, as of now, only time will tell what Muhyiddin really has in mind.

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