KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — No agreement was ever made for Umno's Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to take on a deputy prime minister before he became prime minister, according to the party's information chief.
Shahril Hamdan told Utusan Malaysia that the appointment of a deputy prime minister was also never discussed with parties in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, including PAS.
"There is no such agreement as far as I know. If there was, why are we hearing claims about it now? If it exists, then why do we have senior ministers?
"It has never been announced or discussed. PAS is also in PN. It has never said anything about this issue. So I assume this is simply a fictional story created by desperate parties,” he was quoted as saying.
Shahril was responding to his Bersatu counterpart Datuk Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who claimed that Ismail Sabri had made a deal with the co-ruling coalition PN to appoint a deputy prime minister.
Shahril added that Ismail Sabri, who is Umno vice-president, would not bow to the insistence of other parties.
"Furthermore, with the current economic challenges and the end of term nearing, this is not the time to raise concerns about new positions considering we already have a Cabinet. The Cabinet and National Recovery Council should help the PM, not urge for new positions,” he added.
The post of deputy prime minister is more a convention and is not explicitly provided for in the Federal Constitution.
Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had bucked the convention and appointed four senior ministers when he was prime minister, making Ismail Sabri his deputy only a month before he stepped down from office in August last year.
Ismail Sabri, who replaced Muhyiddin as PM, has continued the new trend of going without a deputy prime minister in his Cabinet and instead chose four to be senior ministers.
They are: International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali from Bersatu, Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu, Education Minister Datuk Radzi Jidin from Bersatu, and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein from Umno.