Sarawak abuzz over Chief Minster's future

KUCHING - For many Sarawakians, there is nothing new in the latest speculation of Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud calling it quits soon.

To them, it is just a rumour that has been circulating over the past four years.

The only difference this time was that the rumour was given a degree of credence with the tenure of Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng due to expire at the end of the month.

Talk of Taib taking over as the new Yang Dipertua Negeri is rife as the 93-year-old Abang Muhammad Salahuddin has been in office since 2001 and will not extend his tenure.

Almost all Malaysian political pundits are expecting a major announcement at the state Barisan Nasional meeting on Sunday.

Taib, who served as chief minister for the past 33 years since 1981, had been hinting on this since 2011, the year the last Sarawak state election was held.

At that time, Taib said he would retire in "two or three years" and leave "mid-term" without mentioning any specific dates.

But that plan may have got into a twist as the 78-year-old chief minister led the state BN to a convincing win in GE13 , with Taib's Parti Bumiputera Bersatu Sarawak winning all 14 parliament seats it contested and forming the bulk of the 25 BN parliament seats in the state.

Taib's brand of leadership, which focuses on politics of development and power-sharing among the ethnic groups, was credited as the main driving force for BN's electoral success in the state.

Three names has been bandied as Taib's possible replacement since the last state election.

They are Special Affairs Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem who is also PBB information chief, Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg and Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan who is also PBB senior deputy president.

When contacted, Johari who is also PBB vice-president, declined comment.

PBB will hold a special supreme council meeting on Saturday before the state BN's meeting on Sunday.

Leaders of PBB and other state BN component parties are keeping mum about the agenda of both meetings.

Regardless of the outcome of the speculation, Taib's success in leading Sarawak over the years was evident in its rapid growth since the expansion of its economic potential particularly in the industrial sector.

Since the start of the Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy initiative five years ago, the state's economy had grown to be the third largest in the country with a real gross domestic product of RM71.9 billion (S$27.5 billion), which accounted for 10 per cent of the national GDP.