Sarawak chief minister ‘shortlists 3 successors’

KUCHING, Sarawak - Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud (left) has reportedly shortlisted three names to succeed him to lead the East Malaysian state, as the veteran politician appeared to be inching towards retirement from politics.

The media reports have added to speculation that the Sarawak strongman will step down before the end of his current term in 2016, after more than 30 years at the helm. The issue of Tan Sri Taib's retirement gained further traction after Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday expressed gratitude and appreciation for his services to Sarawak. 

At a closed-door meeting of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu's (PBB) supreme council yesterday, Mr Taib reportedly shortlisted the party's deputy president, vice-president and information chief to succeed him, The Star newspaper said, quoting sources. However, an official announcement will be made in two days, Mr Taib had said before the five-hour meeting started yesterday. 

"Whoever is nominated by (Taib) will receive unanimous support from the party," PBB's permanent chairman, Datuk Amar Asfia Awang Nassar, said. "The new man will be the one leading the state Barisan Nasional in the next state election," he said.

Asked whether this meant Mr Taib would step down soon, Mr Asfia said he did not rule out that possibility, The Star reported.

The 77-year-old Mr Taib has ruled Sarawak since 1981. Activists and environmentalists have accused him and his family of enriching themselves at the people's expense. His party is the second-largest in the ruling BN after Umno, and has 14 MPs in the coalition. 

Reports of Mr Taib being edged out have been floating since 2011 but analysts said he remained too powerful - and too important for the BN - to be moved. 

However, this time the possibility seems high, with Bernama news agency saying party leaders have deemed him fit to be state governor after stepping down. 

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.