New Sabah leadership off to a rough start


THE new Sabah state government headed by Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor (front row, fourth from left) got off to a rough start yesterday over disagreements on the assignment of state Cabinet positions.

Gabungan Rakyat Sabah’s fragile partnership was once again tested in the latest bout of infighting since its victory in Saturday’s state polls, as party leaders jostled for their preferred portfolios in the new administration.

Hajiji was sworn in as the new chief minister (CM) at the Istana Negeri as scheduled amid threats of last-minute defections to Opposition Parti Warisan Sabah. However, he was forced to mend cracks within his own Cabinet right after the ceremony.

Barisan Nasional Sabah chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, who was named as one of Hajiji’s three deputies, was handed the local government and housing portfolio at the official event.

The other two deputies are Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Parti Bersatu Sabah’s Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam. According to a report, citing internal sources, the agreement was to appoint Bung Moktar as works minister.

It was reported that the Lamang assemblyman was ready to express his regret over the appointment at a press conference to be held in the afternoon yesterday.

Crowds of Umno supporters and leaders had gathered at Bung Moktar’s residence ahead of the media invite before Hajiji stepped in and quickly resolved the matter by ultimately giving the Umno man the infrastructure portfolio.

Karanaan assemblyman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, who was initially given the position, will now take the housing portfolio.

Hajiji later announced the swap at the Sabah State Administrative Centre where he denied there was unhappiness among Umno leaders.

Bung Moktar also played down the issue and described the reshuffle as a “miscommunication”. Masidi, however, tweeted that he will “tell all” on the day’s events once he retires.

“What a day! Less than three hours after being appointed works minister, I am now local government and housing minister. I swapped jobs with Bung (Moktar). Please don’t ask me the reasons. I will tell all after I retire,” he wrote.

Masidi is also the state’s second finance minister. Hajiji said he needed the Bersatu assemblyman’s experience to help him boost the state’s economy. Hajiji is expected to name five more ministers in his 11-member Cabinet.

Chinese-language newspaper Sin Chew Daily later reported that STAR’s Kitingan had stepped down from his federal post as deputy tourism, arts and culture minister. It was reported that Kitingan had informed Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on his resignation.