Anwar Ibrahim said the people must respect the fact that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has not been convicted yet. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has defended Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s appointment as deputy prime minister, stating that he could not dismiss the Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman’s importance in the unity government that he leads.
Zahid has been charged with 47 counts of corruption, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering.
Last Friday, he was named as one of two deputy prime ministers in the 28-member Cabinet.
Netizens instantly took to social media to voice their disapproval at the former deputy prime minister’s reappointment to the second most powerful position in the government, with anti-graft campaigners and opposition politicians quickly following suit.
“That’s their right,” Anwar said, when asked about the criticism of his unpopular decision.
“He (Zahid) has been charged (in court) but has not been convicted yet, (so) that is a process we have to respect.
“He is the Umno president and also BN chairman. In a unity government like this, I have to take such factors into account,” he added during a press conference.
Zahid played a key role in getting BN to support Anwar en bloc despite initial resistance from some of the coalition’s MPs and senior Umno leaders due to a party resolution not to work with Anwar or DAP.
Previously, NGOs like Bersih and prominent figures such as former federal minister Rafidah Aziz had urged against including politicians with court cases in the Cabinet.
MPs with ongoing court cases include Zahid, DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng, Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin.
Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin was among those who criticised the appointment, saying Anwar had sacrificed the principles of good governance which he promoted during the general election (GE15) campaign.
“Those who shout about corruption have to be clean and should not be involved in projects worth hundreds of millions (of ringgit),” Anwar said in response to the former prime minister.
“That is why when I was challenged during campaigning for GE15, I said we should declare our assets together. I’m willing to declare my assets in Malaysia and overseas.”
“I also wanted people, including the head of PN, to declare their assets in Malaysia, Australia and a few other countries. But there was no reply.”