Muhyiddin Yassin replaces Mahathir as Malaysian PM

Muhyiddin Yassin replaces Mahathir as Malaysian PM
Malaysia’s Premier-designate Muhyiddin Yassin, along with his family members, waves to reporters outside his residence in Kuala Lumpur. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 March 2020

Muhyiddin Yassin replaces Mahathir as Malaysian PM

Muhyiddin Yassin replaces Mahathir as Malaysian PM
  • New leader was dismissed as deputy prime minister in 2015 for criticizing Najib Razak

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s king on Saturday appointed a new prime minister, ending a week of turmoil in the country and sidelining two figures who have dominated the country’s political landscape for years.

Muhyiddin Yassin replaces 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who quit less than a week ago in a shock move. He will be sworn in on Sunday.
Mahathir said days after his resignation that he would stand as prime minister on behalf of the former ruling coalition, which disintegrated after his departure. He teamed up with his on-off rival Anwar Ibrahim and even declared that he had the numbers for a majority.
But Comptroller of the Royal Family and Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said that King Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had decided that the figure who looked likely to command the most confidence of the majority of MPs was Yassin.
“Therefore, the king has selected Muhyiddin as the prime minister in line with Article 40(2)(a) and 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution,” Shamsuddin said.
Shamsuddin said that the king had ordered for the appointment not to be delayed and for a new government to be formed for the nation’s well-being. “He believes this is the best decision for everyone and hopes this puts an end to the political crisis at the moment,” the comptroller added.
Yassin is from the state of Johor and is little known outside of Malaysia. He was instrumental in founding the Malay-based Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) in 2016 alongside Mahathir.
He was dismissed as deputy prime minister in 2015 for criticizing then-Prime Minister Najib Razak amid the high-profile, billion-dollar 1MDB graft scandal.
Yassin must team up with other parties to get the majority he needs, but the inclusion of some groups could lead to a government with more conservative religious values.
Prof. James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at Tasmania University, said the appointment was  “bad news” for the country.
“I am very surprised that he got the job,” Chin told Arab News. “One of the parties in this government is the Malaysian Islamic Party which is a fundamentalist Islamic party, while the United Malays National Organization will go along with a more Islamic government.”

HIGHLIGHT

Yassin must team up with other parties to get the majority he needs, but the inclusion of some groups could lead to a government with more conservative religious values.

He also said ethnic minorities would be the “bogeymen” of a Yassin-led government because of election losses suffered by some parties when they were part of a previous coalition.
“It will be tough on the Chinese community because they blame the Chinese for their loss in the previous general elections,” he said. “Muhyiddin is largely unknown outside of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations circles. I do not expect any major changes in Malaysia’s foreign policy.”
The king intervened to stabilize the government after Mahathir resigned, conducting personal interviews with parliamentarians at his palace in an unprecedented move to deduce who had the most support to become prime minister.
But constitutional lawyer Surendra Ananth said parliament could undo the palace’s decision to appoint Yassin.
“The king must have formed the view he (Yassin) had more votes than Mahathir,” he told Arab News. “However, a vote of no confidence can be moved against Yassin in parliament by the Alliance (Mahathir and Anwar’s coalition). If he doesn’t sustain the majority he can advise for a dissolution or resign as the prime minister.”


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle
Updated 18 min 49 sec ago

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”