The presence of familiar figures in the cabinet line-up raises doubts on whether the new government is up to the task of tackling challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Office, Malaysia's new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaks at his office in Putrajaya, Malaysia on August 27, 2021.
Prime Minister Office, Malaysia's new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaks at his office in Putrajaya, Malaysia on August 27, 2021. (AP)

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has retained mostly familiar faces in his cabinet, but vowed his government will be more open as it seeks to curb a worsening pandemic.

The cabinet lineup unveiled on Friday, mirrors that of his predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned August 16 after less than 18 months in office as infighting in his coalition cost him majority support.

Ismail did not name a deputy but kept the four senior ministerial posts, which had been created by Muhyiddin to keep factions in his Malay-majority government happy. 

Banker Zafrul Abdul Aziz held on to the powerful finance portfolio while some former ministers swapped portfolios.

READ MORE: Malaysia's new PM assumes office as scandal-hit party reclaims leadership

'Recycling' government

Opposition lawmakers immediately voiced disappointment with what they called a recycling of the former government, which failed to curb the pandemic despite a seven-month state of emergency and a lockdown since June.

The Southeast Asian nation has the highest per capita Covid-19 infection rate in the region, with more than 1.6 million reported cases, including 15,211 deaths.

Lim Guan Eng, an opposition leader, said the new cabinet was disappointing and raised questions whether Ismail is committed to seeking new solutions to the pandemic and economic recession. 

Another opposition lawmaker, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, said it was a “wasted opportunity" for Ismail to bring about real change.

READ MORE: Powerful party in Malaysia coalition withdraws support for PM Yassin

Malaysians voice disapproval

Many Malaysians also slammed the decision on social media, saying they felt let down by the return of what many view as an incompetent cabinet.

Ismail said the team was chosen based on their experience and to ensure stability. 

He pledged the economy will be reopened in stages amid the lockdown. “This cabinet will take a new approach that is more open" and be more sensitive to current needs to restore public confidence, he said in a live national broadcast.

Ismail was a senior minister in charge of defense under Muhyiddin's government, before he was promoted to deputy prime minister in July this year.

READ MORE: Malaysia reports record daily Covid-19 infections 

Same politicians, new roles

Ismail said the cabinet will be sworn in on Monday, and that each ministry must prove their performance within the first 100 days in office.

Popular former Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who was in charge of the vaccination program, is now the health minister.

Former Health Minister Adham Baba took over the science portfolio. 

Ex-Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is Defense Minister, while former Communications Minister Saifuddin Abdullah was made foreign minister. 

All of the posts are held by ethnic Malays, except for transport and human resources.

Some Malaysians lauded Khairy's appointment, voicing hope that he can improve the situation in overcrowded hospitals and boost morale of frontline medical workers.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies