ANALYSIS Now that outgoing Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has personally picked Adenan Satem as his successor, the next question being asked by the public is who Adenan will pick as deputy chief minister (DCM).
Could it be Abang Johari Openg (left), deputy PBB president and tourism and housing minister, or Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) President James Masing who is a senior minister and minister of Land Development? Or could it be both of them?
Currently there is a vacancy for the DCM post after former Sarawak United People’s Party President George Chan lost his seat of Piasau in the 2011 state election. Taib did not appoint anyone from SUPP as it had lost all the Chinese-majority seats except two.
Speculation is rife that Adenan will appoint Abang Johari in order to appease him, his supporters and the Malays who have felt slighted by Taib’s choice of Adenan over Abang Johari as the new CM.
Like Adenan, Abang Johari has been loyal to Taib since he became chief minister in March 1981 and experience-wise, Abang Johari is also not lacking. But Abang Johari is said to have an advantage over Adenan as he has solid grassroot support among the Malays as well as among the Dayaks.
But why did Taib pick Adenan? It is said that he trusts Adenan more than he trusts Abang Johari. Although as former brothers-in-law, the family ties between Taib and Adenan are still there and have remained strong. Moreover, Taib needs Adenan to protect his vast empire of businesses, which are estimated to be worth several billions of ringgit in Sarawak alone.
As for Abang Johari, Taib (right), it is said, do not trust him as much because he believes, firstly, Abang Johari has links to Umno leaders who have been trying to extend its reach into Sarawak, and secondly, he considers Abang Johari too weak to be a leader.
“I think Adenan will have to appoint Abang Johari as one of the deputy chief ministers, not only to appease the Malays, but also to strengthen his political grip on Sarawak’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” said a political observer.
“He may be weak as a leader, but he has strong grassroots support. But the problem is that PBB will then have two DCMs including Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang (below).
“Should this happen, Adenan’s administration would appear to be lopsided,” the observer said, pointing out that other BN component parties, especially PRS will be most unhappy.
Such frustration would not be conducive to Adenan’s administration. Previously, there were instances when Sarawak had three DCMs, one each from SUPP, PBB and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak.
Is Adenan going to appoint PRS President James Masing who is a senior minister and minister for land development to be the third DCM? That is the hope of PRS members.
In fact, it is learnt that PRS has submitted Masing’s name for consideration by Adenan. The letter to Adenan was signed by PRS Deputy President Joseph Entulu Blaun and Senate Deputy Speaker Doris Sophie Brodie.
The observer said: “It will be a blow to Masing if he is not appointed as one of the DCMs, especially when his party with eight state seats and six parliamentary seats is the largest party after PBB.
“It is now or never for Masing,” he said.
“But to ignore Masing, it may be suicidal for Adenan as PRS has strong support from the Dayak community,” he said.
Even among Dayak members of PBB, PRS has some influence.
The Dayaks, especially the Ibans, do not trust Adenan after he allegedly not only belittled and looked down on Iban leaders, but had also poked fun at them over native customary rights (NCR) issues at Balai Ringin.
Adenan’s famous phrase that “the worst of the Malays is still better than the best of the Ibans” is still ringing in their ears.
So it may be to Adenan’s advantage if Masing (right) is appointed as one of the DCMs not only to please the Ibans, but also if he is to be an effective chief minister, especially when he said that he is ‘the chief minister of all races’.
Adenan must also consider the party’s election in 2016 when he and Abang Johari may have to face each other for the party’s top post as whoever wins the PBB presidency is going to be Sarawak’s chief minister.
On account of Malay and Dayak support, Abang Johari should have no problem winning the top post.
But if Adenan is a political strategist, he would retain Alfred Jabu as DCM and appoints Masing as one of the three DCMs. Besides appointing Masing as DCM, Adenan should also give him an important ministry, such as the Minister of Communications and Works.
Currently, under Taib’s government, Masing’s ministry of Land Development is seen by many as mere window-dressing as it is not even accorded any budget for land development.
Land matters is actually controlled by Taib as minister of resource planning and Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, second minister of resource planning and environment.