Malaysia cabinet to have new ministers: Putrajaya sources

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's cabinet reshuffle is expected to usher in at least two new ministers and affect up to three serving ministers when it takes place just ahead of the fasting month.

Putrajaya sources said the Prime Minister, revitalised by the success of his China visit, is working on the finer details of the changes that will definitely include the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Gerakan presidents.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai and Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong, who won the recent Teluk Intan by-election, are shoo-ins for seats in the Cabinet.

The warm reception, which Najib received in China and the vast potential for trade between Malaysia and China, have also further underscored the urgency for Chinese representation in the Cabinet.

Mr Najib is also expected to fill the three deputy ministers' posts that have been kept vacant since the last general election.

The posts are for Finance Ministry, Tourism Ministry and the Prime Minister's Department.

The same Putrajaya source suggested that up to three current ministers, two of whom with senior statures, might also be affected in the reshuffle.

The ministers are from Umno but any reshuffle involving them will not affect the Umno quota in the Cabinet.

"It is very hard to second-guess the PM. He is so tight-lipped but he may have to respond to simmering unhappiness among Umno members about some of these ministers," said the source.

Mr Najib is unlikely to expand the Cabinet to accommodate demands for posts. The present Cabinet is already bloated with 32 ministers and 26 deputy ministers.

The media, meanwhile, will be keeping a close watch on when Mr Najib seeks an audience with the King because he has to brief the King before proceeding with the Cabinet reshuffle.

A Putrajaya source believes that the reshuffle would be made this month to give the new ministers time to learn the ropes, usually benchmarked at six months.

"By the time they get the hang of things and the workings of ministries, it will already be the end of the year.

"It is best the appointments are made soon so that the Chinese can be represented and everyone can move forward," said one observer.

Several ministers said despite the speculation of an imminent reshuffle, the premier had not spoken about it during weekly meetings.

"We are also anxious to know whether we will be staying on at our ministries or if we will be given new portfolios or be dropped," said one minister who wished not to be named.

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