MIRI: The initial reaction among the people in Sarawak was one of surprise and, to a certain degree, shock.
Datuk Seri Adenan Satem and Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad are no longer in the Federal Cabinet?
Has Sarawak's representation at the federal level diluted?
These were the questions most asked following news of the Cabinet reshuffle.
The political circles, however, are not that surprised.
“The full picture is just taking shape,” said Parti Rakyat Sarawak president Datuk Seri Dr James Jemut Masing.
Sarawak is about to face its ninth state election.
Developments indicate an early state poll, possibly within the next three months.
The current state assembly term ends in October.
Adenan's decision to “give up” his post as Natural Resources and Environment Minister and the dropping of Toyad as Tourism Minister is just part of the stageplay ahead of the state polls, observed some quarters.
“Sarawak's leadership succession scenario has become clearer now following the Cabinet reshuffle,” said a Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) senior grassroots leader here.
Toyad and Adenan, from PBB, have served less than one term at full ministerial level in Kuala Lumpur even though Toyad has been deputy minister for several terms.
Adenan is very new at the federal level.
His decision to leave his post, or rather, PBB's decision for him to vacate the post, now paves the way for him to concentrate on Sarawak politics full time.
Sources said PBB president Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is Sarawak Chief Minister and state Barisan Nasional chairman, was aware of the decision on Adenan and Toyad prior to the reshuffle.
For the past few months, Adenan, who is PBB senior vice-president, had been representing Taib at PBB division meetings throughout Sarawak.
The fact that he had been representing Taib and not state Housing Minister Datuk Seri Abang Johari Abang Openg, who is PBB deputy president, gave rise to speculations.
Taib has openly said that he would be succeeded by Adenan, Johari or former agriculture minister Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi one day.
Sarawak has always been rather independent in terms of its decision concerning state leadership succession.
It has had good relations with Kuala Lumpur and all federal Barisan component parties.
Taib had made it clear in 2001 that he wanted his successor to have a good and close working relationship with federal leaders in Kuala Lumpur.
Toyad, who is from Mukah, has been with the PBB supreme council for many years.
He may be groomed to play a bigger role in state politics.
With Adenan and Toyad out of the Federal Cabinet, Miri MP Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, who is Minister for Plantation Enterprises and Commodities, is now representing Sarawak at the highest level.
He stressed that Sarawak's representation has not been diluted at the federal level.
“The Prime Minister has always been very fair to Sarawak in terms of federal post allocation,” he said.
For political analysts and observers, one thing is for sure – this reshuffle has helped spice up Sarawak politics.