Who will replace Soon Koh as next second finance minister?

Abang Johari being welcomed by Awang Tengah upon the former’s arrival at PBB headquarters along Jalan Bako in the presence of from left: Tiong, Uggah and Dr Sim before he chaired the GPS Supreme Leadership Council AGM.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, August 19: The State Cabinet reshuffle is now imminent to fill the posts left vacant by former Second Minister of Finance and Minister of International Trade and E-Commerce Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh who resigned from the Cabinet on July 15.

According to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, it was his prerogative to appoint someone to fill the posts.

“The effective date of (Dato Sri Wong) Soon Koh’s resignation is on August 15. It (The Cabinet reshuffle) is the prerogative of the Chief Minister.  I will let you know,” Abang Johari told the media after chairing the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) Supreme Leadership Council Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) headquarters here today.

Traditionally, the finance minister’s post was allocated to a Chinese from Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).

Before Soon Koh was appointed to the post, the Finance portfolio was held by former SUPP president Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam from 1991-2004.

In 2004, the then Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, assumed the Finance Minister post in a Cabinet reshuffle and created a Second Finance Minister where he appointed Soon Koh, who was then with SUPP, to fill the post.

Soon Koh retained the post despite leaving SUPP in 2014 following a leadership crisis, and formed United People’s Party (UPP) which was later renamed as Parti Sarawak Bersatu, early this year.

The question now is, who will be the person to take up the Second Finance Minister’s post.

SUPP’s current state representatives include its president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian who is Minister of Local Government and Housing, Assistant Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin, Assistant Minister of Community Well-Being Datuk Francis Harden, Piasau Assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, Batu Kitang Assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang who is also Padawan Municipal Council Chairman, and Sarikei branch chairman Datuk Seri Huang Tiong Sii.

Among them, Dr Sim is a cardiologist; Lee, a Social Science graduate; Ting, a lawyer; Lo is an engineer and Huang, a businessman.

If indeed Chief Minister Datuk Pattingi Abang Johari Tun Openg would prefer to keep the so-called ‘tradition’ to appoint a Chinese for the post to replace Wong, then, most probably it would be Lee, who has been an assistant minister since 2004. But if Abang Johari prefers to appoint someone according to the hierarchy in SUPP, then Ting might get the nod.

When asked for his comment, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said the Chief Minister would normally consult each leader of the component parties before an appointment would be made.

“It is the Chief Minister’s prerogative. I’m sure he will announced it in due time.

“From my experience being involved in politics in the past 37 years, the Chief Minister will consult others. It will not be done in a group discussion like this. He will call us individually. But whether he has called me or not, it’s not for you to know,” said Masing.

Meanwhile, Abang Johari described the meeting this afternoon as a ‘normal meeting’ for GPS top leaders.

“We just discussed the political situation at the moment and also, I briefed them on our development programme. What we are going to plan for our next budget. What is important is the consolidation among ourselves. That’s all,” he said.

15 GPS top leadersip attended the meeting consisted of GPS’s the presidents, deputy presidents and secretary generals from GPS four component parties consisting of PBB, SUPP, PRS and PDP.

From PBB, those attended the meeting were the party’s deputy presidents Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan. From PRS, besides Masing, were its deputy president Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum and its secretary-general Dato Janang Bungsu.  From SUPP, there were Dr Sim, SUPP deputy president Dato Sri Richard Riot Jaem, Ting and from Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) were its president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, deputy president Datuk Anthony Nogeh and its secretary-general Datuk Nelson Balang Rining.— DayakDaily