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By Lian Cheng
The Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) triennial delegates’ conference, better known as the PBB convention will be held next February.
The event has always been considered one of the biggest political assemblies and a very significant one where even the air would tingle with a sense of importance.
Of the many PBB conventions so far, this coming one deserves special attention from Sarawakians because it will be one that will shed light on who will be the chief minister after current Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and his successor-in-waiting Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
It will be one of the most interesting episodes to follow, probably as intriguing as “Game of Thrones” or even more exciting as this is a real life story while the popular TV drama series is only fictitious. Let me tell you why.
To make things simpler here, we will only confine the discussion to the political movement and manoeuvring of the Bumiputera wing while the Pesaka wing will not be touched on.
Let us start with January 2017, when Sarawak’s much loved and respected fifth Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, who was also then PBB president, passed on. Following his passing, there were shifts and changes in the leadership chart within PBB.
According to the PBB hierarchy, whoever is the deputy president will be the successor of the presidential post which in wider terms means also be next in line to inherit the chief ministership of the state.
First of all, as the identified successor, then deputy president Abang Johari assumed the position of acting party president.
With Abang Johari moving up a notch to be the acting president (acting because he was not elected by the party), his deputy president seat is vacant.
The next in line, Awang Tengah, was then elevated as he took over the vacated post to be the acting party deputy president.
To seal the deal and to make the new leadership constitutional, a special PBB convention was called on May 6, 2017.
There was no fuss, no quarrel — only a smooth transition of power. And that is why PBB has been so strong. For PBB, strict discipline needs to be adhered and any bidding for any post has to be endorsed by its top leadership.
For example, in the 2010 PBB convention, supreme council member Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah was ready to contend against Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof for the post of youth chief. At the last minute however, Abdul Karim was told not to do so and thus, all was quiet on the frontlines during that convention.
For the upcoming PBB convention in February next year, arguably the most intriguing question will be who will vie for the vacated seat left by Awang Tengah — the senior vice-president post?
This is a crucial question to ask because as mentioned earlier, PBB operates based on hierarchy and strict discipline. Unless necessary and urgent, the hierarchical line-up will be respected where everyone moves up according to the chart.
In such circumstances, whoever take up the senior vice-president post is actually two steps away from chief ministership while of course, the deputy president is only a step away.
Presently, Fadillah is already one of the party’s six vice-presidents due to the virtue of his position as youth chief, while Abdul Karim is only a supreme council member — both still quite a few steps away from the chief ministership, although Fadillah seems to be slightly nearer.
Both are upcoming ambitious young leaders with their own supporters, where Abdul Karim known to be popular while Fadillah is known to have strong financial backing.
With these high stakes at hand, there is a strong possibility that both might vie for the post as both know that this will be the crucial move to make, to pave their way to the Chief Minister post.
If it happens, it would mean the two young PBB leaders who are both seen as potential chief minister material will finally have to face off, which should have taken place in 2010.
According to a reliable source, Abang Johari said that he would take helm of the state for only two terms after which he will step down and hand over the leadership to the next in line — Awang Tengah.
Should there be a face off for the senior vice-president post, assuming that there is no drastic political movement or changes that will shake up Sarawak’s political landscape, it would mean that the winner of that contention for the senior vice-president post will most likely be the person to be Sarawak Chief Minister after Awang Tengah.