Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob (Jawi: إسماعيل صبري بن يعقوب‎; born 18 January 1960) is a Malaysian politician who has served as the 9th Prime Minister of Malaysia since August 2021.[1] A Member of Parliament (MP) for Bera since 2004, he is a member and Vice-President of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), a component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition which is aligned with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition. He served as the 13th Deputy Prime Minister from July 2021 to August 2021, serving for only 40 days, and several cabinet positions in successive governments from 2008 to 2021. As of a result of the ongoing 2020–21 Malaysian political crisis, he was formally appointed and sworn in as Prime Minister on 21 August 2021 following the resignation of his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin.[2] He is the first Prime Minister of Malaysia born after the independence of Malaya in 1957, the first ever former Leader of the Opposition in Malaysia to become Prime Minister and the first ever Prime Minister who is not the highest in rank in a political party or coalition.


Ismail Sabri Yaakob

إسماعيل صبري يعقوب
9th Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.jpg
Ismail Sabri in 2021
9th Prime Minister of Malaysia
Assumed office
21 August 2021
MonarchAbdullah
Preceded byMuhyiddin Yassin
13th Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
In office
7 July 2021 – 16 August 2021
Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin
Preceded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail
Succeeded byVacant
Minister of Defence
In office
10 March 2020 – 16 August 2021
Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin
Preceded byMohamad Sabu
Succeeded byHishammuddin Hussein
Senior Minister for Security
In office
10 March 2020 – 7 July 2021
Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byHishammuddin Hussein
15th Leader of the Opposition
In office
12 March 2019 – 24 February 2020
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
Preceded byAhmad Zahid Hamidi
Succeeded byAnwar Ibrahim
Minister of Rural and Regional Development
In office
29 July 2015 – 9 May 2018
Prime MinisterNajib Razak
Preceded byShafie Apdal
Succeeded byRina Harun (Rural Development)
Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry
In office
16 May 2013 – 29 July 2015
Prime MinisterNajib Razak
Preceded byNoh Omar
Succeeded byAhmad Shabery Cheek
Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism
In office
10 April 2009 – 15 May 2013
Prime MinisterNajib Razak
Preceded byShahrir Samad (Domestic Trade, Consumerism)
Noh Omar (Cooperatives)
Succeeded byHasan Malek
Minister of Youth and Sports
In office
18 March 2008 – 9 April 2009
Prime MinisterAbdullah Ahmad Badawi
Preceded byAzalina Othman
Succeeded byAhmad Shabery Cheek
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Bera
Assumed office
21 March 2004
Preceded byConstituency established
Majority2,311 (2018)
Personal details
Born
Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob

(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960 (age 61)
Temerloh, Pahang, Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia)
Political partyUnited Malays National Organisation (1987–present)
Other political
affiliations
Barisan Nasional (1987–present)
Muafakat Nasional (2019–present)
Perikatan Nasional (2020–present)
Spouse(s)
(m. 1986)
Children4
EducationUniversity of Malaya (LLB)
OccupationPolitician
ProfessionLawyer

He served in several cabinet positions in the BN administration under former Prime Ministers Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak from March 2008 to its 2018 general election loss, including Minister of Rural and Regional Development, Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism and Minister of Youth and Sports.[3] He was the 15th Leader of the Opposition in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration from March 2019 to its collapse in February 2020 amid the 2020 Malaysian political crisis. In the PN government, he was appointed Senior Minister in charge of Security from March 2020 to his promotion to the deputy premiership in July 2021, during which he was prominent in the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He led a faction of his party (UMNO) that continued supporting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in June 2021, when the party withdrew its support over the government's handling of the pandemic. After this culminated in the collapse of the government and Muhyiddin's resignation, he successfully entered negotiations to become Prime Minister in August 2021 after garnering the support of the most MPs.[1][4] Ismail Sabri has attracted controversy for his comments in support of ethnic Malay pre-eminence in Malaysia.[5][6][7]

Early life and educationEdit

Ismail Sabri was born in Temerloh, Pahang, Malaysia[8] and raised as a son of a farmer.[9] His parents are Yaakob Abdul Rahman and Wan Jah Wan Mamat. His education began in 1967 at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bangau, followed by Sekolah Menengah Air Putih in Kuantan in 1973, and Sekolah Menengah Teknik Kuantan in 1976. After graduating from form six at Jaya Akademik, he continued his studies at the University of Malaya majoring in Law in 1980.[8] The title of his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) thesis is "Treatment of political detainees in Malaysia" ("Layanan terhadap tahanan politik di Malaysia").[10]

Early careerEdit

In 1985, he began his legal career as a lawyer. He was then appointed as a Member of the Temerloh District Council in 1987 and a Member of the Temerloh Municipal Council in 1996. In 1995, he was appointed Political Secretary to the Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, Sabbaruddin Chik. He also was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Pahang Tenggara Board (DARA) in 1995 as well as the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board in the same year.[8] Before entering Parliament in 2004, Ismail Sabri served as Chairman of the National Sports Complex.[11]

Political careerEdit

Early political careerEdit

 
Ismail during the 2009 Bagan Pinang by-election campaign

Following his appointment as a Member of the Temerloh Division UMNO Committee in 1987, he held several positions such as Temerloh Division UMNO Information Chief in 1988, Temerloh Division UMNO Youth Chief in 1993, and Temerloh Division UMNO Deputy Chief in 2001. He was appointed as inaugural Bera Division UMNO Chief in 2004 following the border redelineation process for parliamentary constituencies. Ismail Sabri was elected to Parliament in the 2004 general election, becoming the first MP for the new seat of Bera.[8]

Ministerial careerEdit

Minister for Youth and Sports (2008–2009)Edit

He was re-elected in 2008 general election,[12] and was appointed in the third cabinet of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi as Minister for Youth and Sports (2008–2009).[13]

Minister for Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (2009–2013)Edit

In April 2009, under new Prime Minister Najib Razak he became the Minister for Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (2009–2013).[14]

He introduced the Menu Rakyat 1Malaysia (MR1M) program in 2011 that aims to help the people get food at affordable prices.[15] As of February 2012, 1,314 food premises across the country were participating in the program.[16]

Minister for Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (2013–2015)Edit

 
Ismail during Putrajaya MAHA Youth Carnival 2013.

After the 2013 general election, in which he retained his parliamentary seat, he was appointed as the Minister for Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (2013–2015).[17]

Ismail's ministry has introduced the 'Jihad Against the Middlemen' (Malay: Jihad Memerangi Orang Tengah) initiative which aims to eliminate the role of middlemen in the agriculture sector.[18] Produce from the three agriculture sub-sectors, namely paddy, fisheries, and vegetables and fruits, are marketed directly to consumers through various platforms including Paddy Purchasing Center (Pusat Belian Padi), Fishermen's Market (Pasar Nelayan), Farmers' Market (Pasar Tani), and Agrobazaar Kedai Rakyat. Public Service Department claims that the income of crop farmers, fishermen, and livestock producers have increased as a result of this initiative, while consumers can obtain fresh products at lower prices than those offered in the public market (pasar awam).[19]

Minister of Rural and Regional Development (2015–2018)Edit

 
Ismail with the Minister of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration of the Indonesia, Eko Putro Sandjojo in Kuala Lumpur, 2018.

He was appointed as the Minister of Rural and Regional Development (2015–2018) after July 2015 cabinet reshuffle.[20][21]

His ministry launched Rural Urbanization (Malay: Membandarkan Luar Bandar) initiative in November 2015 to address people's needs and wants while keeping the rural development process on track. To encourage the younger generation to continue living and building their future in rural areas, basic rural infrastructure is expanded, particularly in underserved areas such as Sabah and Sarawak, as well as rural areas in peninsular Malaysia, including Orang Asli areas.[22]

During his tenure in this position, Ismail came up with the concept of Mara Digital Malls in August 2015, which are essentially malls that sell IT products, but only from Bumiputera vendors. The initiative was intended to enable more Bumiputra traders to sell digital goods and IT gadgets, with lower rents than existing IT centres.[23] Traders were given a six-month rental subsidy to establish themselves.[24]

UMNO Vice President (2018–present) and Leader of the Opposition (2019–2020)Edit

 
Ismail Sabri delivering a speech in 2019

After BN's 2018 general election (GE14) loss, Ismail contested for Vice President in the subsequent 2018 UMNO leadership election and won with the top slot by highest votes ahead of Mahdzir Khalid and Khaled Nordin. On 20 December 2018, being the top Vice President, he was tasked to carry the Deputy President duties in-place of the incumbent Mohamad Hasan who was acting President during the over six-month "garden leave" by UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.[25][26] He was appointed as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament in 2019 when Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stepped down.[27]

Return as Senior Minister of Malaysia (Security Cluster) and Minister of Defence (2020–2021)Edit

In March 2020 following the change the PH to PN government, he was appointed as Senior Minister of Malaysia (Security Cluster) and Minister of Defence under new Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin to serve in the PN cabinet.[28] His tenure involved conducting daily briefings related to security issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those related to Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions.[29][30][31] He criticised Al Jazeera for a documentary about treatment of immigrants during the MCO, demanding the network apologise for what he alleged was "false reporting".[32] During the 2020 Sabah state election, Ismail Sabri told the press that voters who had travelled to Sabah to vote from other states would not need to quarantine upon their return.[33][34]

Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia (2021)Edit

In July 2021, he was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin while retaining his substantive post as the Defence Minister. He was replaced by Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as Senior Minister of Malaysia (security cluster).[35] The reshuffle was interpreted by media as a tactic for Muhyiddin to ease tensions within Perikatan Nasional by promoting UMNO figures into positions of power, as some members in the party had begun to challenge Muhyiddin's leadership.[36]

Ismail Sabri spearheaded a faction of UMNO that continued to support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in July 2021, despite a substantial proportion of the party withdrawing its support over his government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.[37] This split the party and led to uncertainty as to whether Muhyiddin continued to harbour majority support.[38]

Subsequent to Muhyiddin's resignation as Prime Minister on 16 August 2021 after the loss of the government's majority amid the ongoing political crisis, his cabinet was dissolved. At 40 days of service, Ismail Sabri is to date the shortest-serving Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.[39]

Premiership (2021–present)Edit

Ismail Sabri was appointed as the 9th Prime Minister of Malaysia by Yang di-Pertuan Agong after being satisfied that he had commanded the confidence of the majority in Parliament, with a total of 114 from 220 members of the Dewan Rakyat nominating him in accordance with Article 40(2)(a) and Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution. He was formally sworn in as Prime Minister at the Istana Negara on 21 August 2021.[40] He is the third person to be appointed as PM during the tumultuous period of 14th Malaysian Parliament which see the most times of PM appointment in a single term.[41] He will soon face a confidence vote in parliament as decreed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong which is expected to be held in September 2021.[42] As Ismail became the Prime Minister, his political party, UMNO, came back to power after it was ousted in 2018. It was 3 years after Najib Razak was toppled from power over the 1MDB scandal, against which he attempted to fake evidence taking the help of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.[43] [44] An online petition was launched against his appointment as Prime Minister, garnered more than 350,000 signatures as of 21 August 2021.[34][45] He is expected seek audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to submit his cabinet list for approval and announce his upcoming cabinet line-up at Istana Negara on 25 August 2021.[46][47] However, the audience was then put back to the following day as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was in Kuantan.[48] He then announced his cabinet line-up on the morning of 27 August 2021, a day after his audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong.[49] The Prime Minister's Office stated that the ministers and deputy ministers listed from the cabinet will officially sworn in at the Istana Negara on 30 August 2021.[50] The opposition party criticised that the newly formed cabinet by Ismail Sabri is another failed government, and was described as a "recycled cabinet" put together by him from the previous administration which was led by Muhyiddin Yassin.[51][52]

ControversiesEdit

Boycott callEdit

Ismail Sabri sparked a firestorm in February 2015 with a Facebook comment urging Malay consumers to use their "power" to force the Chinese minority to cut prices by boycotting the Chinese businesses.[53]

[...] Consumers hold the most power. Malay people make up the vast majority of consumers. The Chinese constitute a minority. If Malays boycott their businesses, they will be forced to lower their prices. Consider this: many Chinese eateries do not have a halal logo and have been raided and arrested several times for questionable halal status, [but] Malays continue to flock to the restaurant despite the fact that there are thousands of legitimate halal Malay restaurants. See OldTown White Coffee, [their halal status] has recently been called into question, but Malays continue to refuse to boycott them. Furthermore, the owner is said to be from the Ngeh family [and a member of] DAP Perak, which is known for its anti-Islam stance. If the Malays do not change their ways, the Chinese will seize the opportunity to suppress the Malay.[54]

— Ismail Sabri Yaakob, 2 February 2015

Political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan said in his personal capacity that any Malaysian voter regardless of race would be repelled by Ismail's comments. “I think the reaction of any right-minded Malay or Chinese who believes in Malaysian unity would be of disgust … The Chinese voters will remember what he said when it comes to the vote”.[55] MCA's Wee Ka Siong slammed the statement, saying, "As a minister in the Cabinet, he should not make such ethnic generalisations. It is not as if only Chinese are businessmen".[56] Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar stated that the minister would be investigated under the Sedition Act 1948 and Ismail Sabri has since deleted the Facebook post.[7]

In October 2018, Ismail agreed to pay DAP's Ngeh Koo Ham RM80,000 in damages and RM5,000 in legal fees after being found guilty of defamation. Ngeh's office clarified that Ngeh has no share or interest in OldTown White Coffee, and that the anti-Islam allegation is "false" and "absurd".[57]

Low Yat 2Edit

Ismail Sabri sparked controversy in 2015 when he proposed establishing "Low Yat 2", a digital gadget mall that would only house Malay traders. He claims that "Low Yat 2" will be able to compete with Plaza Low Yat, Malaysia's most well-known electronic products store.[23] Although the traders are all Malay, Ismail calls on the minorities to support the mall.[58]

MCA then-president Liow Tiong Lai said that the setting up of Low Yat 2 would only hurt racial relations, and described the proposal for the bumiputra-only mall as an “antagonistic approach”.[59] Fellow UMNO member Saifuddin Abdullah also criticised the proposal, claiming that Ismail Sabri's proposal would be detrimental to Malays and Malaysians in general, and that having commercial sectors divided by ethnicity would be counterproductive.[6]

Taylor's University sponsorship cancellationEdit

Taylor's University terminated the services of a bus operator who utilised their vehicles with the university's logo to transport passengers to the racially-motivated 2015 Malay Dignity rally. According to Ismail Sabri, the sponsorship for the next intake of students to Taylor's University will be terminated by MARA. However, he did not specify the reasons for the revocation. When questioned if this was due to the cancellation of the service, he answered, "There are many reasons." Ismail stated that he will notify Mara's director-general to evaluate its funding of Taylor's University.[60]

DAP's Teresa Kok criticised the decision, calling it a "personal vendetta and abuse of power", and called for the cabinet to censure Ismail Sabri, as well as challenging him to publicly reveal the reasons for the decision, as well as publish the internal report which led to the decision. MCA's Chai Kim Sen said the minister's inability to state even one reason for this decision was not only “unbecoming” but “even childish”. He said his latest announcement about MARA would only “further weaken his already-tarred reputation as a racist”. He further added that the education institutes are expected to remain apolitical.[61]

Alleged sea turtle egg consumptionEdit

On 4 November 2015, a photo of Ismail Sabri having dinner at a seafood restaurant in Sandakan with Beluran Umno chief Datuk James Ratib went viral.[62] A plate of a dozen sea turtle eggs on the dinner table was seen in the photo. On 19 November 2015, other photos surfaced and went viral on Facebook showing fragments of turtle eggshells on the table in front of some of the diners.[63] Turtle eggs are one of the protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Ismail denied consuming the turtle eggs, citing health reasons.[62][64]

In March 2017, Ismail filed a RM10 million suit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, alleging that Sabah Publishing and James Sarda had wrongfully and maliciously published three articles in the Sabah-based Daily Express over the matter. The suit was settled out of court without a trial in September 2018 after the plaintiff and defendant reached an amicable agreement.[65]

Support of the vaping industryEdit

On 9 November 2015, Ismail Sabri stated that he supports the vaping industry in Malaysia. He says that the Malay-dominated industry is a success story for bumiputera entrepreneurism despite health warnings by the Malaysian Health Ministry.[66] He has gone further in hoping that the unregulated industry can expand globally.[67] Many prominent doctors and physicians have publicly chided Ismail Sabri's support for the industry,[68] including the Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Ismail, who publicly decreed that all vape outlets must be shut down by 1 January 2016.[69]

Nurul Izzah Anwar defamation suitEdit

PKR's Nurul Izzah Anwar sued Ismail Sabri Yaakob and IGP Khalid Abu Bakar in November 2015 for allegedly accusing her of being a traitor to the country. She claimed that Ismail Sabri said words that implied she was a traitor to the country and had declared war on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.[70][71] She also claimed that Khalid said defamatory words about her in another press conference. Both incidents occur just a few days after photographs of her with Jacel Kiram, daughter of Jamalul Kiram III, who is said to have ordered or led the 2013 invasion of Sabah surfaced. In April 2018, the High Court ordered Ismail and Khalid to pay Nurul RM600,000 and RM400,000 in damages, respectively, after ruling that their statements had defamed Nurul in their natural and ordinary meaning.[72]

2018 pre-general election commentEdit

Ismail Sabri sparked another controversy in April 2018, ahead of the GE14, when he stated that every vote for the DAP is a vote for the Pakatan Harapan to eliminate the purported Malay "special rights" and "uniqueness" of Islam.[73] Lim Kit Siang responded that Ismail Sabri appeared to be attempting to frame the upcoming general election as a battle between Malays and Chinese, as well as between Islam and its enemies.[74] Lim also explained that Pakatan Harapan's basic documents, including its election manifesto, had been clear and specific in giving unconditional support to Article 153 on Malay special rights and Article 3 on Islam as the official religion of the Federation.[74] He also stated that although the DAP or other races party managed to form a new government in the country if winning the election, the Malays will never perish since the overwhelming majority of Malaysian voters are still Malays and the overwhelming majority of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies in the country are Malay voter-majority constituencies.[5]

Petition against his appointment as prime ministerEdit

Hours after Ismail Sabri was announced and nominated by his party as the 9th Prime Minister of Malaysia on 19 August 2021, an online petition was launched to address to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as well as the Istana Negara, calling on all Malaysians against his possible appointment as the nation's next prime minister after the collapse of the Perikatan Nasional administration on 16 August 2021. The petition, which was started by Kyle Mohd on change.org web, has gained over 200,000 signatures within 8 hours after it went online and has since garnered more than 350,000 signatures.[45] According to the petition, the former deputy prime minister was responsible for mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to large-scale infections. Additionally, the petitioner stated that Ismail had issued numerous remarks which were deemed inappropriate such as the boycott call in 2015, where he urged Malay consumers to use their "power and rights" to pressure the Chinese minority to lower prices as well as promoting racial segregation between the Malays and ethnic Chinese in the country, and more.[75] Ismail has been also criticised in the petition for the sometimes confusing and conflicting health protocols, namely Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), including on which economic sectors should stay shut as COVID-19 cases kept rising non-stop.[34]

Personal lifeEdit

He married Muhaini Zainal Abidin in 1986. He is the father of one daughter and three sons: Nina Sabrina, Gaddafi, Iqbal and Nashriq.[76] His son Gadaffi Ismail Sabri or more popularly known as Dafi is a former participant-student of entertainment reality show Akademi Fantasia Season 5 turned singer and actor.[77] His only daughter, Nina Sabrina, is married to fashion designer Jovian Mandagie.[78]

Ismail is an avid fooball fan well-known for his support towards Chelsea Football Club.[79]

Election resultsEdit

Parliament of Malaysia: P90 Bera, Pahang[12][80][81][82]
Year Government Votes Pct Opposition Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
2004 Ismail Sabri Yaakob (UMNO) 16,714 53.75% Abd Wahab Ismail (PAS) 12,244 39.37% 31,096 4,982 76.53%
2008 Ismail Sabri Yaakob (UMNO) 18,051 54.50% Mazlan Aliman (PAS) 14,230 42.96% 33,123 4,313 77.04%
2013 Ismail Sabri Yaakob (UMNO) 21,669 50.46% Zakaria Abdul Hamid (PKR) 19,526 45.47% 42,944 2,143 84.21%
Mohd Wali Ahmad (IND) 670 1.56%
2018 Ismail Sabri Yaakob (UMNO) 20,760 43.89% Zakaria Abdul Hamid (PKR) 18,449 39.00% 48,339 2,311 82.33%
Musaniff Ab Rahman (PAS) 8,096 17.11%

HonoursEdit

Honours of MalaysiaEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Muhyiddin Yassin
Prime Minister
2021–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Deputy Prime Minister
2021
7 July – 16 August
Succeeded by
Vacant
Preceded by
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Leader of the Opposition
2019–2020
Succeeded by
Anwar Ibrahim