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Najib appoints ethnic Chinese ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Najib appoints ethnic Chinese ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday announced a Cabinet reshuffle, with fresh appointments for ethnic Chinese ministers.

The representatives are from Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Gerakan, both Chinese-majority parties that are component members of Mr Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional.

“Representatives from MCA are returning to represent the Chinese community, and representatives from Gerakan are returning to the Cabinet,” said Mr Najib when unveiling the additions to the current line-up.

As expected, MCA president Liow Tiong Lai will be Transport Minister, replacing Mr Hishammuddin Hussein, who has held the post temporarily since the general election on May 5 last year.

MCA recently reversed its decision to opt out of all government posts following its poor performance in the federal poll last year, saying its inclusion in the Cabinet was necessary for it to serve the Chinese community better.

Mr Najib said he had to expand the size of the Cabinet due to the “unexpected situation” after MCA’s about-turn on ministerial appointments.

Gerakan president Mah Siew Keong was appointed a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, a move seen as his reward for defeating the opposition Democratic Action Party at the recent Teluk Intan by-election. Dr Wee Ka Siong, who is MCA deputy president, was also appointed a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Mr Najib said he would decide later which portfolios Mr Mah and Dr Wee will handle, as their inclusion raises the tally of ministers in his office to nine.

Three other ethnic Chinese, all from MCA, were appointed deputy ministers — Mr Chua Tee Yong as Deputy Finance Minister, Mr Lee Chee Leong as International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister and Ms Paduka Chew Mei Fun as Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister.

The new Cabinet members will be sworn in tomorrow.

Mr Najib denied that he was under pressure to announce the shake-up, saying he was merely looking for the right time to do it. This is especially so with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March, with Mr Najib saying there was a need to focus on searching for the jetliner.

“It’s just a question of finding an opportune time to make an announcement and look at the bigger national programmes so that it’s not in the way of the announcement. Now with the new search phase, it’s an appropriate time for us to make the announcement,” he said.

As to whether Mr Hishammuddin, who is Defence Minister, will continue to head the search for the missing plane, Mr Najib said that would be discussed. AGENCIES