13 years and Dato Sri Ahmad Tarmizi is still counting

Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Petra Jaya houses the Chief Minister's Office (file pic)


The commentary titled ‘Mirror mirror on the wall, who will be the next SS amongst them all’ published by DayakDaily has grabbed the attention of many Sarawakians with some readers giving us their personal point of view via the DayakDaily Facebook page and Facebook Messenger.

While there are some who disagree that the post of State Secretary should be allocated based on rotation between races, others are convinced that the rotation system will ensure all races have their fair share of leading the civil service administration. While pointing out the ‘kulitfication’ versus ‘qualification’ aspect of the matter, another inevitable question cropped up — does appointing a Dayak State Secretary reflect a genuine sharing of power between races (in this case, between Malays and Dayaks)?

One particular reader pointed out that there was never a practice of ‘rotation’ based on understanding between the Dayaks and the Malays for the position of State Secretary. The first Dayak appointed as State Secretary was Tan Sri Grunsin Lembat. What ensued was continuous streams of Malay State Secretaries until the most recent Dayak State Secretary, Datuk Amar Wilson Baya who was appointed in 2007. If indeed there is any understanding of rotation at all, the understanding was not implemented continuously.

Due to this, the reader concluded that the appointment of a Dayak State Secretary was ‘a coincidence’ and should not be mistaken as the beginning of some sort of a rotation system.

Sarawak State Secretaries and years in office

Nonetheless, many Dayak readers are of the opinion that the so far sole Dayak State Secretary is a seat warmer. They questioned the sincerity of appointing a Dayak State Secretary who was in the position only for two years and seven months compared to previous State Secretaries who served a minimum of six years (note: the present State Secretary is moving onto his ninth year in office!)

To some readers, if another Dayak is appointed this time round, then he/she should be allocated a longer period to perform his/her duty as State Secretary to avoid being seen as a seat warmer. Concerning the question of retirement age, they opined that retirement age is a matter of ‘aye’ or ‘nay’. The renewal of contract beyond age of retirement for a State Secretary is not uncommon. The present State Secretary who would be 62-years-old this year is a case in point.

While still on the same topic, one reader pointed out that the Chinese have been accorded fair treatment under the rotation of the State Financial Secretary (SFS) post. Dato T’en Kuen Poh, was the first local SFS to be appointed after his British predecessors. For this position, the Malay and Chinese would always take turns. The same reader however, pointed out that the numbers of years served by Chinese SFS is getting shorter with each rotation.

Sarawak State Financial Secretaries and years in office.

The reader questioned the need to preserve the post for Dato Sri Ahmad Tarmizi Sulaiman who is moving onto his 13th year in office as SFS. Although 56 is not a ripe age for retirement, the fact that Ahmad Tarmizi has served for 13 years is good enough reason for him to be reassigned to other posts befitting his vast financial experience.

For this particular reader, one more year for Ahmad Tarmizi is one year less for the next Chinese SFS waiting in line.

While admitting that although the Chinese have never been used as a ‘seat warmer’ for the SFS post as a so-called reasonable number of years have been allocated to each of them to serve in the office, the reader however hoped that the ‘preservation’ of Ahmad Tarmizi in office will not lead to the beginning of an era where the Chinese become ‘seat warmers’. — DayakDaily