KOTA KINABALU: Pakatan Harapan emerged as the biggest winners as Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor strengthened his hold on his 27-month old Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government.Sabah Pakatan chairman Datuk Christina Liew, whose political fortunes were waning, made a comeback to the state Cabinet along with Sabah DAP secretary Phoong Jin Zhe as new ministers.
Liew, who lost her Tawau parliamentary seat in GE15 and was replaced as Sabah PKR chairman, was appointed Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister while Phoong was appointed Industrial Development Minister.
Both Liew and Phoong were Sabah Cabinet ministers in the Warisan-Pakatan state government from 2018 to 2020 before they were ousted by the combined political force of GRS-Barisan Nasional after the snap election in September 2020.
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Sabah Pakatan, with its seven seats, allowed Hajiji to regain majority support in the 79-member assembly.
This came after Sabah Barisan, led by Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, pulled out from the previous GRS-Barisan state government on Jan 5.
However, five of the 18 Barisan-Umno assemblymen rebelled against Bung’s decision, aligning with Hajiji.
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Two of them, Datuk Shahelmey Yahya (Tanjung Keramat) and Datuk James Ratib (Sugud), were rewarded with Cabinet positions.Shahelmey was made Deputy Chief Minister III and Works Minister, positions previously held by Bung.
Ratib was given the Community Development and People’s Well-being Ministry, held by Shahelmey before.
Hajiji also relinquished the Finance Minister position to allow Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, who was state Local Government and Housing and Finance Minister II, to take full control of the portfolio.
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Masidi is also GRS secretary-general.
Meanwhile, Parti Bersatu Sabah deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam was elevated to the Deputy Chief Minister II position while taking over the Local Government and Housing Ministry.
Sabah STAR president Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan was elevated to Deputy Chief Minister I and retained his Agriculture and Fisheries portfolio.
PBS deputy president Datuk Jahid Jahim was retained as the Rural Development Minister.
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Former Special Tasks Minister Datuk Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif, who is from Bersatu, was appointed Technology and Innovation Minister.
Sabah STAR’s Datuk Ellron Angin retained his Youth and Sports portfolio.
Hajiji, in a statement, said the Cabinet reshuffle was necessary to consolidate the present state government.
“It is important for the state government under my leadership to function as a cohesive team who share the same aspirations built on mutual trust and respect,” he said.
“To do that, we need a strong team.
“Mindful of the need to form an inclusive administration, I have included assemblymen from Pakatan Harapan into the Cabinet, in addition to representatives from Barisan-Umno and GRS,” he said.Hajiji said the state government was determined to have like-minded leaders who recognised the need to ensure efforts to develop the state run smoothly and uninterrupted.
He said political stability was crucial to achieve this and that elected representatives must forge ahead for development and fulfil election pledges.
“With a strong team, we can ensure the state’s investment dynamics are maintained, hence further growing investors’ confidence and attracting more to come to Sabah,” he said.
Liew, Phoong and Ratib were sworn in by Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin.
There are 11 ministers in the state Cabinet.