Sarawak cabinet: Will Dr Sim be appointed DCM and Tiong, a full minister?

Dr Sim (left) and Tiong.

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By Lian Cheng

After an election, the next big thing is the selection of a cabinet.

Following the 12th Sarawak Election which polled on Dec 18, 2021, a new cabinet will soon be formed. Can it still be called a “new” cabinet if most of its members are retained?

Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg who is known to be stickler for Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) tradition and hierarchy, is expected to form a cabinet which will have minor changes to the one handed over to him by former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.

The biggest “change” perhaps, may be the appointment of a Chinese deputy chief minister (DCM), most likely to be Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian following Sarawak United Peoples’ Party’s (SUPP) recent success in wresting back the Opar seat from Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and five Chinese-majority seats which were in Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) hands which are Tanjong Batu, Pelawan, Bukit Assek, Kota Sentosa and Pujut.

After retaining all its seven seats won in the 2016 Sarawak Election and wresting back six seats, SUPP returned to its place as the second largest party represented in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) with a total of 13 seats, after losing that status for more than a decade, which had also caused it to lose the chance of having a Chinese deputy chief minister appointed from among its ranks in the cabinet.

With SUPP’s improved performance in the recent election, Dr Sim is predicted to be appointed as the DCM to take over the vacancy left by the late Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing when he passed away on Oct 31.

SUPP which now holds 13 seats is expected to have a DCM, a full minister and two assistant minister appointed from among its ranks.

Apart from Dr Sim, PBB deputy president Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas (from the Pesaka wing) and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan (from the Bumiputera wing) are expected to retain their positions as DCMs in Abang Johari’s cabinet.

If the DCM position is taken away from PRS, it is speculated that PRS will be given a full minister portfolio. The position could be filled by elevating one of its assistant ministers such as Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Datuk Dr Malcolm Mussen Lamoh or Datuk Liwan Lagang, or it may be taken up by a new face in Sarawak’s politics, with a senator appointment paving the way.

PRS which defended all 11 seats it contested is likely to be given a minister and four assistant minister portfolios.

Following the retirement of former Tebedu assemblyman Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong who was a full minister representing the Bidayuh community in the cabinet, it is expected that a Bidayuh assistant minister may be promoted to take over Manyin’s position.

The two Bidayuh assistant ministers in the former cabinet namely Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn and Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, both from PBB, are seen to stand a better chance than Tasik Biru assemblyman Datuk Henry Harry Jerip of Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) who may be appointed as an assistant minster, if PDP president Dato Sri Tiong King Sing turns down a full minister position.

As the president of PDP, a component party of GPS, Tiong is expected to be appointed a full minister. However, the current whispers on the grapevine is that Tiong who is also wearing the hats of the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, Bintulu MP and now Dudong assemblyman, may turn down the minister appointment.

Of course, there is also the possibility that it is his plan to return to Sarawak full time, by not contesting in the next parliamentary election which presently is rumoured to be held in June 2022. If this is the situation, he definitely will fight for a full minister portfolio in the Sarawak cabinet which will be unveiled by Abang Johari soon.

PDP won five out of the six seats it was allocated to contest. Previously when the party held only three seats, Marudi assemblyman Datu Penguang Manggil was the sole assistant minister from PDP. It is speculated that with five seats, PDP will fight for at least two assistant minister positions or one assistant minister and one full minister position in the cabinet.

In summary, it is predicted that there will be three DCMs namely, Uggah, Dr Sim and Awang Tengah.

In terms of full ministers, it predicted there will be four from PBB, Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin from SUPP, a full minister from PRS, a Bidayuh minister (either Dr Jerip or Roland Sagah) and a minister appointed from among PDP assemblymen, most likely Tiong himself if the weight of wearing too many hats do not wear him down. — DayakDaily