POLITICS: No honeymoon for Hajiji, as he steps into the hot seat of Sabah CM


Covid-19 spreading in Sabah, floods and landslides in the Land Below the Wind, slower economic growth in the state and Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin in the Sabah cabinet.

Those are some of the challenges newly-appointed Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor (pic) faces.

The 65-year-old politician was sworn in to the hot seat on Sept 29, three days after Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) defeated Warisan Plus in the state polls.

Minutes after becoming Chief Minister, Hajiji had his first storm in a teacup when Lamag assemblyman Bung Moktar was unhappy that he got the state Local Government and Housing Minister post and not what he coveted – the post of the state Public Works Minister.

The chief minister diffused Bung Moktar's storm with soft, deft political touches. There were bigger issues to focus on - Covid-19, floods and the economy.

The soft-spoken Hajiji has the qualifications to deal with such issues. He is an experienced politician and a seasoned administrator.

He has been the assemblyman for 30 years in Sulaman, a state seat in the Tuaran parliamentary constituency. He was the state Local Government and Housing Minister from 2004 to 2018 during the Barisan Nasional rule.

He has a down-to-earth political style to deal with politicians who are like a bull in a china shop;

he is Mr Nice Guy.

"He is a nice and approachable person," said an opposition politician.Hopefully, he will work closely with Putrajaya and get the necessary support to solve the perennial problems faced by Sabah and, of course, bring development to the state as promised."

The opposition politician said one of Hajiji's most significant challenges was creating an environment for vibrant economic activities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The positive cases are spiking in the state, which held a snap election during the pandemic.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer Dr Zaini Othman argued that Hajiji had to embrace the image of a leader who represents and protects the interests of Sabahans.

"This is crucial and of utmost importance to him. What more protecting and representing the interests of Sabahans (regardless of their ethnic, culture, religion or sub-region background) were the prime promises of GRS during its campaign," he said.

"Above all, his leadership must act upon many policies and actions that the majority Sabahans feel that the post-Warisan Plus government is far better and much efficient."

Zaini pointed out that Hajiji's most significant political challenge was managing the GRS government. He noted that the chief minister had to make his alliance partners "feel happy".

There's also no honeymoon for the chief minister.

Hajiji is facing a relentless and aggressive opposition that is quick to pounce on any perceived mistake his government commits.

The attacks are compounded by an urban, opposition-minded electorate which overwhelmingly voted for Warisan Plus.

The media-shy Hajiji needs to tackle the public relations challenges forcefully and immediately. If not the opposition - and not him - will define his chief ministership.

To win the hearts and minds of Sabahans, Mr Nice Guy must improve their lives.

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Politics , Sabah , Chief Minister , Hajiji Noor

   

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