KOTA KINABALU: Three new assistant ministers have been added to the Sabah Cabinet, taking their oaths before Head of State Tun Juhar Mahiruddin at Istana Seri Kinabalu here on Thursday (Jan 26).
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said a reshuffle of assistant minister portfolios was done in conjunction with the new appointments.
"It is part of a continuing effort to consolidate and strengthen the state administration,” he said in a statement.
The new appointments were also to fill two positions left vacant by Datuk James Ratib, formerly the assistant agriculture and fisheries assistant minister who is now Community Development and People's Wellbeing Minister; and Datuk Jasnih Daya, who relinquished the assistant finance minister post to make way for others.
"To build a strong team, I have appointed Datuk Ruslan Muharam (pic) from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) as Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister,” Hajiji said.
Inanam assemblyman Peto Galim was appointed Assistant Agriculture and Fisheries Minister while Tan Lee Fatt (Likas) took over Jasnih's post. Both Peto and Tan are from Pakatan Harapan.
Four current assistant ministers involved in the exchange of portfolios are Datuk Seri Dr Ruddy Awah (Rural Development), Datuk Harun Durabi (Science, Technology and Innovation), Datuk Fairuz Renddan (Youth and Sports) and Datuk Andi Suryady Bandy (Industrial Development).
Ruddy and Fairuz are from Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) while Harun and Andi Suryady are from Sabah Barisan Nasional-Umno.
"I have stressed the importance for the state government under my leadership to function as a cohesive team sharing the same aspirations built on mutual trust and respect.
"We need a strong team to push our development momentum and fulfil our election pledges to the people and state," Hajiji said.
On Jan 11, three new ministers – Ratib (Community Development and People’s Well-being), Datuk Christina Liew (Tourism, Culture and Environment) and Phoong Jin Zhe (Industrial Development) – were sworn in.
This came after a political crisis triggered when Sabah Barisan withdrew support for the GRS government on Jan 6.
There was a possibility then that Parti Warisan, with 19 assemblymen, and the 17 Sabah Barisan reps together with smaller parties could have unseated the Hajiji-led government.
However, GRS managed to muster the support of 44 assemblymen.
These include five Sabah Umno dissidents, who went against the move by Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, and seven Sabah Pakatan representatives.
This enabled Hajiji, the GRS chairman, to remain as Chief Minister after garnering a simple majority in the 79-member state assembly.
Hajiji subsequently began reshuffling the state Cabinet by appointing the new ministers and promoting two of the Sabah Umno dissidents, Ratib and Datuk Shahelmey Yahya (who was made Deputy Chief Minister III and state Works Minister).