Malaysia's new PM pleas for unity to fix virus-hit economy

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Ismail Sabri Yaakob was sworn in as Malaysia's fourth premier in as many years over the weekend
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Malaysia's new prime minister called on his colleagues Sunday to end a months-long political crisis and come together to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, in his first speech as the country's fourth premier in as many years.

Just days after the previous government collapsed in a storm of political infighting, Ismail Sabri Yaakob urged lawmakers to unite to help the country recover from the pandemic.

"The political crisis that has hit the country is causing unrest among the people," the 61-year-old said in a televised address Sunday evening.

"Let us move forward. Let us stem this grab for political power."

Malaysia has been enveloped in a political crisis for months amid growing public anger over the government's handling of the pandemic.

Thousands have lost their jobs as businesses nationwide have been forced to close due to a series of lockdowns put in place to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Those measures are widely seen as having failed to mitigate the pandemic, and Malaysia's healthcare infrastructure is now overwhelmed as it records an average of 20,000 new infections and hundreds of deaths every day.

Ismail said Sunday his government aimed to help the economy by focusing on raising people's purchasing power and aid the country's embattled private sector.

"Our focus will be on Malaysians who have lost their jobs and their livelihood," he said.

"I will also make sure that no Malaysian, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, will be left behind."

The premier also invited leaders of the political opposition to join special councils formed to combat the virus and help the economic recovery.

Ismail succeeded Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned after a turbulent 17 months in office on Monday following the collapse of his razor-thin majority in parliament.

A deputy premier in the previous cabinet and a senior official in the ruling United Malays National Organisation party, Ismail was then picked by a majority of MPs to be their leader.

But his government has come under criticism for containing many familiar faces -- including Muhyiddin and his allies -- and just as vulnerable to collapse as its predecessor.

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