KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 – Health care experts have expressed support for Khairy Jamaluddin, after the health minister revealed he was told to vacate his Rembau parliamentary seat in the 15th general election.
Khairy told a press conference yesterday that Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan wants to run in Rembau – which Khairy has represented as MP for Umno since 2008 – and had asked him to look for another seat to contest.
Khairy, who is Rembau Umno deputy division chief, said: “Worst-case scenario is I don’t contest.”
Dr R. Arasu from the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), the country’s largest doctors’ association, said Khairy has shown “strong leadership” in the health portfolio, particularly in planning reforms for Malaysia’s health care system.
“He is a leadership asset to the country,” Dr Arasu tweeted.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, chief executive of think tank, the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, described Khairy as a “serious” leader with the ability to solve serious problems.
“He has shown what an Umno leader with energy, youth, vision and audacity to commit to reform can look like. This is a time for serious people,” Azrul tweeted.
Former Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad acknowledged his differences with Khairy.
“But to hear of younger leader ‘displaced’ by Baby-Boomers doesn’t augur well for the bigger-longer interest of Malaysia already experiencing a dearth of competent-dynamic leaders,” tweeted Dzulkefly, who is currently Kuala Selangor MP from Amanah.
Khairy is 46-years-old, 20 years younger than Mohamad aged 66. Mohamad, also known as Tok Mat, told the press last Saturday that he intended to not just defend his Rantau state assembly seat, but also to simultaneously run for federal office.
Two other lawmakers from PKR and Umno expressed disappointment that Khairy may not be able to run for office.
Housing and Local Government Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican from Umno said it would be a loss if Khairy did not contest the 15th general election, saying that Khairy has carried out his responsibilities well.
“I have also seen how KJ, as a fellow minister, makes solid arguments during Cabinet meetings,” Reezal posted on Facebook.
“His leadership has also been acknowledged at the international level, with his appointment as vice president at the 75th World Health Assembly last May.
“Like other human beings, KJ is not perfect, but I am confident that his leadership capabilities and abilities will be an important political asset for the party’s victory in the coming 15th general election.”
Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin from PKR, who was formerly agriculture and food industries deputy minister, described Khairy as a “performing minister”.
“Bro @Khairykj I feel for you,” Sim tweeted.
“This exposes problematic party process in choosing candidates.”
In Malaysia’s election system, candidates for elections must be approved by their respective party president, unless they are running as independents. Ministers, however, do not necessarily have to be elected legislators, as the government can also choose appointed senators to be Cabinet members.
Khairy oversaw the Covid-19 vaccination programme, Malaysia’s biggest inoculation campaign in history, when he was appointed as science, technology and innovation minister under Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration in 2020.
Malaysia has among the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in the world. About 84 per cent of Malaysia’s total population is fully vaccinated, while about half have received their booster jabs.
Khairy is also planning wide-ranging reforms to Malaysia’s unsustainable health care system, setting up an advisory council to lead the drafting of a White Paper that is to be tabled in Parliament to propose health care reforms across a 15-year period.
The health minister further envisions a tobacco-free generation, succeeding in tabling Malaysia’s first ever tobacco control Act in Parliament last July.
The Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill 2022 – which seeks to prohibit smoking and vaping for anyone born from 2007 – has been sent to a new Dewan Rakyat special select committee for further review before a vote in the next parliamentary meeting in October for passage.
Khairy, who was formerly youth and sports minister under the Najib Razak administration, has among the highest followings among Malaysian politicians, with 2.8 million followers on Twitter, 1.4 million followers on Facebook, and 1.1 million followers on Instagram.