Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim today defended the appointment of his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi following criticism on domestic as well as international fronts over the 47 corruption charges facing the Umno president in court.
Speaking at a press conference today, he said Zahid had yet to be found guilty of the criminal charges.
"He has been charged but not sentenced. We must respect the process," he said at the Prime Minister's Office after chairing a special Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya.
"As it happens, he is also the president of Umno and chairman of Barisan Nasional (BN). And in this unity government, I take that factor into account."
He also took a jibe at critics who questioned Zahid's inclusion in the Cabinet.
"I said from the start that those who shout about corruption need to be clean themselves," he said.
Anwar announced Zahid as one of his two deputies on Dec 2, returning the Bagan Datuk MP to the second highest post in the country which he had held until the collapse of the BN government in 2018.
The announcement was met with anger by many Malaysians who cited Zahid's involvement in the Umno court cluster – a group of party leaders facing criminal charges in court.
It also followed PH's election campaign where coalition leaders repeatedly assured supporters that they would not allow the return of scandal-tainted leaders to government, while denying claims by Perikatan Nasional of a secret alliance between Anwar and Zahid.
Zahid had been instrumental in getting his MPs to back the government led by Anwar, which was met with resistance by individual leaders including Hishammuddin Hussein and Annuar Musa.
They, alongside leaders in MCA and MIC, said BN should play the role of the opposition given its poor performance in the 15th general election.