KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin has insisted that only an MP from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia can replace the Cabinet post should Datuk Seri Zuraida Kamaruddin vacate the post after recently defecting to the newly-formed Parti Bangsa Malaysia.

The Bersatu secretary-general was quoted saying that this arrangement was reached between party president Tan Sri Muhyiddin and Umno's Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob before the latter was appointed prime minister.

"In the event someone from Bersatu who is in the Cabinet decides to leave, the replacement must come from the same party,” Hamzah was quoted by The Star at a PAS Hari Raya event in Ipoh, Perak yesterday.

"The party’s president is firm in meeting the prime minister to present a candidate’s name to represent Bersatu in the Cabinet,” the Larut MP added, referring to Muhyiddin.

Zuraida quit Bersatu this week just after over a year with the Umno splinter party.

She is still the current plantation industries and commodities minister but the former PKR leader said she would discuss her future in Ismail’s Cabinet soon. The prime minister is currently on a working visit in Japan.

Hamzah’s assertion came after several Umno leaders pointed out publicly that the prerogative to decide on Zuraida’s position is solely the prime minister’s.

Ismail Sabri told reporters in Tokyo that Zuraida has yet to tender her resignation and will remain in the Cabinet "for now”.

Malay Mail previously reported that Ismail Sabri is expected to announce a Cabinet reshuffle next week in a move that is believed will ensure his government can last until the end of the Parliamentary term.

Several sources from government lynchpin parties Umno and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia told Malay Mail that this move was prompted by Zuraida’s recent defection, with Hamzah himself expected to be promoted as deputy prime minister in return.