All clear for Sarawak chief minister Taib to step down

KUCHING - The way has been cleared for Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to step down as Sarawak Chief Minister and become head of state.

The PBB supreme council gave him the mandate to choose his successor at a teary meeting, which ended with Taib hugging everyone present.

The council also unanimously expressed the view that the country's longest serving politician should be made the next head of state, taking over from Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Muhammad Salahuddin whose term ends on Feb 28.

Taib, who spoke briefly to a large crowd of media members before leaving, said he would make an "overall statement" in two days as he needed time to reflect.

PBB permanent chairman Datuk Amar Asfia Awang Nassar said that no time frame was given for Taib to choose his successor, but it would be done "within a reasonable time".

However, PBB secretary-general Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi said that Taib would step down soon.

"As of today, it's open-ended, but I think very soon you'll get the answer," he said.

Asfia said whoever Taib chose would have the unanimous support of the council and the party caucus, comprising elected representatives and senators.

"As the chief executive of Sara­wak, the new man will be leading the state Barisan Nasional in the coming election. Whoever he is, he needs a solid team and backing of the party," he said.

Asfia also said: "In appreciation of the contributions he (Taib) has made to the state and the nation, the supreme council is of the view that Sarawak should bestow on him the honour of being the next head of state."

Meanwhile, PBB supreme council member Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the participants agreed among themselves to give Taib the mandate to choose his successor.

He said the meeting was supposed to discuss the question of succession after the lunch break.

"But during lunch, we talked among ourselves and decided to give him the mandate. That was unanimously agreed.

"When Taib came back, we announced it to him and he was happy to hear it," he said.

The resolution to give Taib the mandate was proposed by Information chief Tan Sri Adenan Satem and seconded by senior vice-president Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.