Amid political turmoil, backed with dissonance, and events that graced Malaysian AND international media, Malaysia’s 8th Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin steps down.
The week to come had Malaysians gritting their teeth with what was to become of the country’s political future, and all of this during a pandemic that has and still is claiming thousands of lives.
Of the handful of politicians on the ground ensuring Malaysians were immunised to fight the virus was Coordinating Minister of the National Covid-19 vaccination in Malaysia (PICK) Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, or KJ in short.
TLDR: He is now the Minister of Health in the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration under Malaysia’s 9th Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
While his face is recognisable as being one of the younger ones around in Malaysian politics, what do we know about him?
Let’s delve deeper into his persona in Malaysian politics and beyond.
A worldly guy with politics in his blood
KJ was born on 10 January 1976 in Kuwait City, Kuwait to former diplomat Dato’ Jamaluddin Abu Bakar and Datin Dato’ Rohmah Abdul Hamid.
He had his secondary education at the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore and later completed his tertiary studies at Oxford University and University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom.
It seems politics had always been instilled in KJ as he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) and later a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory at UCL.
After completing his studies, KJ worked as a journalist for some time writing for major publications like The Economist, Time, and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
He was even a TV commentator for Dateline Malaysia, a talk show described by WSJ as “revolutionary” by “actually letting people talk”.
KJ’s political career emerged under the leadership of the fifth Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who also happened to be his father-in-law.
He was then appointed Abdullah’s Deputy Principal Private Secretary (2003-2004) and from 2003 to 2009 he rose to prominence within UMNO where he served as Deputy Chief of UMNO’s youth wing and served as a close personal advisor to his father-in-law.
A brief outline of KJ’s political duties is as follows:
- 2001 – 2004 : Exco of the Malaysian UMNO Youth Movement
- 2001 – 2004 : Deputy Chairman, Education Bureau of the Malaysian UMNO Youth Movement
- 2004 – Present : Head of Rembau Division UMNO Youth Movement
- 2004 – 2008 : Vice Head of UMNO Malaysia Youth Movement and Deputy Chairman of Barisan Nasional Malaysia Youth
- 2008 – 2018 : Head of UMNO Malaysia Youth Movement and Chairman of Barisan Nasional Youth.
- 2013 – 2018: Minister of Youth and Sports under Prime Minister at the time Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
- 2020 – 2021: Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation under Prime Minister at the time Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin
- 4 February 2021-16 August 2021: Coordinating Minister of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Program (PICK)
- 27 August 2021 – present: Health Minister under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob
Focusing on the last 10 years of his colourful political journey on a Minister level, KJ is bound to come across a few controversies – although not as extensive as some of his older cohorts.
In 2016, a senior officer in the Youth and Sports Ministry was alleged to have siphoned off RM100 million funds to live a lavish lifestyle.
As the minister in charge at the time, KJ took full responsibility and assured the matter would be handled immediately.
In 2017, KJ competed as part of the Malaysian polo team at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games and although the team won a Gold medal in the Men’s Team Polo event, defeating Thailand, his credibility and contributions to the team were questioned by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
The Johor ruler took to his Facebook to slam KJ accusing him of ordering a player to fake an injury so he could play the last minute and appear as the leading man of the moment.
KJ was even challenged to play against the Sultan of Johor’s state polo team. The event led to KJ seeking an audience with the Sultan at his palace.
Outside the political lens
Strip all the political prowess aside and you’ll find that KJ at the end of the day is a doting family man.
He married his wife Nori Abdullah in 2001 and the couple has three sons.
KJ is also an athlete at heart.
Aside from winning Gold in Men’s Team Polo at the 2017 SEA Games, KJ was also closely involved in football during his pre-parliamentary career.
Bonus: KJ has also done some acting and appears in a 2009 short film called Meter.
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