Hajiji to appoint five more ministers in Sabah Cabinet

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor (pic) is expected to appoint the five remaining members of his 11-member state Cabinet soon.

Sources said the five new Cabinet ministers are expected to be sworn in by Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin on Thursday (Oct 8).

Hajiji is also expected to name and also swear in 18 state assistant ministers either on Thursday or Friday.

He is seeking the appointment of six nominated assemblymen by Juhar over the next few days as well, the sources said.

Hajiji, who took over as Sabah's 16th Chief Minister on Sept 28, has been walking a tightrope to balance the demands of his coalition partners in Gabungan Rakyat Sabah.

The coalition has 41 seats with Sabah Umno (14 seats), Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (11), Parti Bersatu Sabah (7) and Sabah STAR (6), while three independent assemblymen gave their support for the coalition which overthrew the Warisan Plus led state government of Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal that managed to win 32 seats in the Sept 26 state elections.

The Sabah Bersatu chairman had immediately appointed Sabah Umno chief Datuk Bung Moktar Radin as Deputy Chief Minister (I), Sabah STAR president Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan as Deputy Chief Minister (II) while PBS vice president Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam as Deputy Chief Minister (III).

Bung was also made the Infrastructure Development Minister and Jeffrey was given the Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry,while Joachim holds the Trade and Industry portfolio.

Also appointed last week was Sabah Bersatu deputy chairman Datuk Masidi Manjun as Local Government and Housing Minister cum second Finance Minister and PBS secretary general Datuk Jahid Jahim as Rural Development Minister.

The sources said the remaining five ministerial positions were likely to be shared between Sabah Umno, Sabah Bersatu and Sabah STAR.

Sabah Umno may get three more Cabinet positions as a trade-off for letting go the Chief Minister position that initially saw a brief tussle between Umno and Bersatu.

Bung is expected to push for news faces, namely Sabah Umno deputy chief Datuk Yacob Khan, Sukau assemblyman Datuk Jaffry Ariffin and Tanjung Karamat assemblyman Shahelmy Yahya, the sources said.

The sources said it was unlikely that former chief minister Datuk Mohd Salleh Tun Said would be proposed by Umno to be included in the Cabinet.

The sources speculate that Hajiji was likely to appoint Membakut assemblyman Datuk Ariffin Ariff as a more possible choice for the third slot while they expect Sabah STAR’s Bingkor assemblyman Datuk Robert Tawik to be another choice.

However, other sources do not rule out a woman minister in the Cabinet that could possibly see PBS's Matunggong assemblyman Julita Mojungki or Sabah STAR's Tulid assemblyman Flovia Ng appointed.

The five vacant ministerial portfolios are - Tourism, Culture and Environment; Health and People’s Wellbeing; Law and Native Affairs; Youth and Sports; and the Education and Innovation ministry that could be restructured and renamed by Hajiji.

Political observers are also watching if Hajiji would be able to accommodate a Chinese leader into the Cabinet by getting a leader of the community nominated as an assemblyman.

GRS’ partners PBS, Sabah MCA, and Sabah Progressive Party failed to secure any of the eight Chinese seats they contested in during the state election.

For the first time in 35 years, one of the three DCM positions was not given to a Chinese leader.

The three DCM positions are traditionally held by a leader of Sabah’s main communities; Muslim bumiputra, non-Muslim bumiputra and Chinese.

PAS, who is a member of Perikatan Nasional, stayed out of the state polls but some expect the party's Sabah representative to be made a nominated assemblyman.

Political observers said that Hajiji's final Cabinet will have to reflect a fair balance between the coalition parties that has to strengthen its trust among its parties in the face of a strong Warisan Plus opposition.

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