The much anticipated Sarawak cabinet reshuffle will be after the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Triennial Delegates Conference (TDC) which is expected to take place at the end of the year.
Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud yesterday indicated that he did not want the cabinet reshuffle to distract the delegates during a meeting he considered crucial for the party’s future.
“It (reshuffle) will have to wait until after the SUPP TDC. I do not want to create any issue before the TDC because I would like to see SUPP thinking of their future and how to strengthen and renew the party above all other issues,” he told reporters at the Kuching International Airport here.
He said he did not want to ‘introduce’ something that would deter them from doing so.
Taib had initially planned to reshuffle the cabinet after the Dewan Undangan Negeri sitting in May. He told reporters last April that it would be a minor reshuffle but one that was a part of a ‘renewal process’ for the state government.
But come May, Taib, the state Barisan Nasional chairman, decided to hold back the reshuffle citing uncertain political climate in the peninsula.
SUPP deputy secretary-general Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, who was also at the airport yesterday, said the party had complete trust in the Chief Minister when it came to the appointment of ministers and assistant ministers.
“It is the prerogative of the Chief Minister. SUPP has complete trust in him and he knows who is to do what for the best of Sarawak so we will wait and see,” he said.
The post of ministers and assistant ministers in Sarawak are divided among the four state coalition parties according to their representation in the State Legislative Assembly.
There are currently nine full ministers and 16 assistant ministers.
SUPP, the state’s oldest party, had lost two assistant ministers’ post after the May 2006 polls, which saw the party suffering its worst election defeat.
It lost eight out of 19 seats contested and among the casualties were two assistant ministers and the then mayor of Kuching City South. It presently has two full ministers and four assistant ministers.
It is no secret that SUPP wants the two posts back.
SUPP president Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan is a deputy chief minister holding the portfolios of Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Minister of Industrial Development.
Wong is the Second Finance Minister and Minister of Urban Development and Tourism.
The assistant ministers are Datuk David Teng (Modernisation of Agriculture and Local Government), Datuk Dr Soon Choon Teck (Housing), Lee Kim Shin (Infrastructure Development and Communication) and Francis Harden Hollis (Land Development). May 2006 election left SUPP reeling.
Cracks started to appear and the party spent much of 2006 trying to put things right.
The coming delegates conference is especially important for SUPP not just because delegates need to seriously consider how to move forward but also because Dr Chan could decide to retire.
Dr Chan has so far kept his decision very close to his chest but he has made it clear that his priority now is to find a suitable successor.
As for the other coalition parties, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu has five full ministers and eight assistant ministers, while Parti Rakyat Sarawak and the Sarawak Democratic Progressive Party each has a full minister and two assistant ministers.
The two parties - PRS and SPDP - are also eyeing the impending reshuffle with keen interest more so now than before because Sarawak rural constituencies, where the two parties are entrenched, are becoming more vocal with regards to development.
For PRS and SPDP, they must be seen as capable of representing rural Sarawak to be able to hold their forte in the interior, hence would certainly look at the coming reshuffle with a lot of hope for greater rural participation.