Najib meets King over Cabinet line-up

(The Malaysian Insider) – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has arrived at the Istana Terengganu to get Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin's consent for a new Cabinet line-up.

Najib, who took office last Friday, has apparently trimmed the number of ministries from the current 27 to just over 20 by merging several ministries. There were 31 ministers in predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Cabinet.

It is understood that Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin will not get a Cabinet post although past Youth chiefs were usually give the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has called Khairy corrupt after he triumphed over his son Datuk Mukhriz in the party polls, set the precedent when he did not give former Youth chief Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a Cabinet post in 1993.

Najib is due to announce the line-up at 3pm in Putrajaya before he leaves for the Asean summit in Pattaya, Thailand.

Government sources said Umno will lead the way by giving up at least three ministerial posts in the reduced Cabinet. Barisan Nasional component party MCA has insisted it keeps four ministerial slots but conceded it was at Najib's discretion.

It is understood that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be the deputy prime minister. Among the Umno ministers likely to be retained from the current Cabinet are Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Nazri Aziz, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim and Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed.

It is learnt that Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon could join the Cabinet as a senator.

There is speculation that there could be as many as seven new faces in the line-up, most of them from Umno. They will replace several Umno ministers who lost in the party polls two weeks ago.

Among those who might be dropped are Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, Works Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohamed, Minister in the PM's Department Senator Tan Sri Amirsham A. Aziz, Energy, Telecommunications and Water Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor and Women,Family and Community Affairs Minister Datuk Ng Yen Yen.

It is understood the post of second finance minister could be dropped as several corporate figures and GLC heads have declined to join the Cabinet.

The criteria for the new line-up are they must have university degrees and are not seen as having any political baggage or corrupt.

However, most Umno and Barisan Nasional politicians are seen as having baggage or are corrupt, leaving Najib with very few options.

At present, Umno has 22 ministers, the MCA four, and the MIC, Upko, SUPP, PBB and PBS one each. The new Cabinet is expected to have between 20 and 24 ministries, with no more than 27 ministers. Several ministries are expected to be merged.

Local newspapers said the ministries which could be merged are Tourism with Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage; Education with Higher Education; Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs with International Trade and Industry; and Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries with Plantation Industries and Commodities.

There have also been suggestions that the Federal Territories Ministry be merged with the Housing and Local Government portfolio.

Three ministries — Works; Energy, Water and Communications and Science, Technology and Innovation — could also be merged into two ministries.

The prime minister is likely to hang on to the important Finance Ministry while Muhyiddin is likely to be given the Home Ministry, although it is understood that the new deputy prime minister has asked that he be allowed to retain his International Trade and Industry portfolio.