KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — The imminent Cabinet reshuffle that Datuk Seri Najib Razak is to carry out may be a major one rather than just to accommodate the presidents of two Barisan Nasional component parties.
Sources said Najib was considering a major overhaul of his administrative line-up since instead of just bringing in MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and his Gerakan counterpart Datuk Mah Siew Keong.
The new line-up could be announced as early as Friday and latest after Hari Raya which is expected to fall on July 28.
Najib is on an official visit to Turkmenistan and is expected home tomorrow. This week’s Cabinet meeting is fixed for Friday.
“This change he is considering may even involve the three Umno vice-presidents — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
“Najib knows he needs to revitalise his Cabinet and what better way than to move his ministers around,” said a party official.
Traditionally, the three Umno vice-presidents are accorded senior Cabinet posts to reflect their party position.
Word has it that the Prime Minister is considering Hishammuddin for the Finance Minister’s post which Najib has held since September 2008 when he was still Deputy Prime Minister under Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Hishammuddin now holds the Defence portfolio and is also acting Transport Minister — a post Najib asked him to hold on to while waiting for the MCA to decide on rejoining the Cabinet.
Home Minister Zahid could see a return to the Defence portfolio — a position that he thoroughly enjoyed and excelled prior to the 13th general election last year.
Najib is said to want to take over the Home Ministry which he has never helmed in his long political career.
Shafie is not expected to be moved from his two-term portfolio as Rural and Regional Development Minister. Party officials, however, say they would not be surprised if Shafie is moved as there are several other important ministries that affect the rural folk, for example, the Agriculture Ministry.
A couple of Umno ministers who are underperforming are expected to be dropped. Sources said one of them holds a senior party post and is expected to be asked to concentrate on administering Umno to get it ready for the next general election.
The other Umno minister is likely to be replaced by his home state menteri besar who is well-liked by Najib. The state leader has served several terms as menteri besar and is said to be well-qualified to be a minister, especially in the economic field.
Liow is widely expected to be made Transport Minister in the re-entry of MCA into the federal administration.
The question on everyone’s mind is whether MCA, which used to have four ministers in the Barisan government, will get another minister although Najib has made it widely known he is only considering one minister’s post for the party.
MCA No. 2 Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong would under normal circumstances be a minister but is now expected to be made Deputy Finance Minister which is said to be the most senior post for a deputy minister.
Up until Mah’s unexpected victory in Teluk Intan a few weeks ago, it was thought that Najib would relent to MCA’s request for a second ministership.
Mah is likely to be offered his predecessor’s old post of being the minister in charge of Pemandu and other red tape-cutting portfolios presently held by Datuk Paul Low.
Officially, Mah will be Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
With the entry of Mah and Liow, the Barisan Cabinet will have a total of three Chinese representatives.
Sources said Najib was likely to offer MCA three deputy ministers’ posts.
Trouble, however, is brewing in the MIC with party president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel and his deputy Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam at odds with each other.
It seems the truce which Najib personally brokered last year is an uneasy one whereby Palanivel was supposed to hold the presidency for only one term before Subramaniam took over.
Party sources said the supporters of the two leaders had been lobbying Najib to drop their man’s opponent in the reshuffle.
While Palanivel’s supporters claim that Dr Subramaniam does not have the support of party members, the latter’s loyalists are questioning the president’s performance as a minister.
Najib will also have to take cognizance that there is now a new man at the helm in Sarawak and may move some of Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s supporters in the federal line-up.
He will also have to take into consideration the formation of Teras — a new political party — and the crossover of 11 elected representatives from various Barisan component parties in Sarawak.
Headed by Tan Sri William Mawan, Teras is a self-declared Barisan-friendly party and if allowed into the coalition, it will be the second largest party.
Najib will probably not move any of the six ministers from Sarawak but would probably look at the deputy ministers.
Sabah will also not be affected by this exercise with Umno so deeply entrenched in the state and well-represented in several senior posts.
Besides Shafie, other Sabahans who are ministers are Datuk Seri Anifah Aman (Foreign), Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan (Housing, Local Government and Urban Well-being), Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (PM’s Department), Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili (Energy, Green Technology and Water) and Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin (Science, Technology and Innovation).