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Malaysia’s new leader: I am not a traitor

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Muhyiddin says he accepted post to save country from political crisis

KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia's new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he is not a traitor and only accepted the premiership because he wanted to save the country from further political turmoil.

In his first televised message as premier last night, he said he had no ambition to become prime minister but stepped up in order to resolve the situation, reported The Star.

Mr Muhyiddin said: "I know there are those angry with me. As expected, some have called me a traitor.

"My conscience is clear that I am here to save the country from a prolonged crisis."

He "deliberated about it for a long time before making a decision".

He added that he accepted the responsibility to avoid the dissolution of Parliament and to prevent the political turmoil from being drawn out any further.

Mr Muhyiddin explained in his speech that he did not "dream of the post of prime minister" and had supported Dr Mahathir to return as premier, The Straits Times reported.

But after the 94-year-old statesman failed to gain the majority backing of MPs - all of whom were interviewed by the Malaysian king, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin - Mr Muhyiddin said, he was nominated for the post by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and other parties.

"I met with Dr Mahathir... and witnessed by two other party leaders, he said he was prepared to make way for me if I had the majority," he said.

Mr Muhyiddin added he had no intention of causing any confrontation with anyone by revealing what had happened, the Malay Mail reported.

"I had merely wanted to explain what had transpired so that my sincerity will not be questioned," he said.

He pledged to prioritise the fight against corruption after taking over from Dr Mahathir with the backing of Umno - a former ruling party tarnished by graft.

"The government under my leadership will prioritise efforts to increase the integrity and good practices by government," Mr Muhyiddin said.


"This includes efforts to stamp out corruption and abuse of power and improving enforcement and the relevant laws, regulations and practices."

He also said he will select an honest Cabinet.

"I am aware that what the people want is a government that is clean, with integrity and free of corruption.

"For a start, I promise to elect the members of Cabinet from those who are clean, with integrity and with calibre."

Malaysians are waiting to see what impact the new government will have on the trials of Umno officials.

The US Department of Justice estimates US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion) was misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad sovereign fund between 2009 and 2014.

Former prime minister Najib Razak is facing 42 criminal charges related to losses at 1MDB and other state entities. He denies wrongdoing.

Mr Muhyiddin also faces anger from supporters of Dr Mahathir's administration, in which he had served as interior minister, Reuters reported.

Some accuse him of leading a coup from within to form a backdoor government.

Meanwhile, police said they were investigating whether a rally on Sunday against Mr Muhyiddin's premiership, in which Dr Mahathir's oldest daughter Marina took part, contravened a law on illegal assembly.