Friday, August 19, 2022

On the Iban and the Sarawak State Cabinet

Secara Rawak

There are going to be some individuals or some groups that will not be happy with the composition of the cabinet. From the personal’s perspectives, some ministers may not be happy because they are given a lesser or a less important or a less significant portfolio. Some groups may not be happy because their leaders are not given the more glamourous cabinet positions.

The power to hire and fire is the prerogative of the Head of the Cabinet or the Head of the Government or the Chief Minister, if we talk about Sarawak.

The Chief Minister can appoint anyone to his cabinet, but in order to ensure stability in his administration he needs to take into considerations many factors before he makes the final decision on his cabinet line-up.

The issue of seniority in the party cannot be ignored, but there are other issues that come into the equation when deciding the composition of the cabinet. Issue like regional sensitivity, ethnicity, and so on must be foremost in the mind of the Chief Minister in order to have unity and harmony in his cabinet and in his party.

The minister is the manager for his ministry. In this respect, the Chief Minister cannot avoid taking into account the capability and the quality of the person he is going to appoint as members of his cabinet.

There is also such thing as promotion and demotion in the cabinet. A promotion is when a minister is a given a senior portfolio, which is judged from the size of the ministry in terms of the number of agencies or departments and the number of staff under his control, and also from the size of its annual budget. A senior portfolio is often referred to as a ‘money’ ministry, where the minister has a substantial power in disbursing the state resources.

A demotion is when a minister that has held a senior portfolio is given a less significant one. A minister may resign if he is not happy with the decision made by the state CEO or the Head of the Cabinet.

In the latest Sarawak State cabinet line-up, it is sufficed to say that Dato Sri Michael Manyin has been demoted as he is allocated the less significant, though not least important, the Youth, Sports and Solidarity portfolio.

With regards to how the term ‘power’ is implied and used, the Iban community should be happier than the Bidayuh community. The Iban may have taken the 2 deputy chief minister posts, but more importantly the community has been given the more powerful and influential portfolios.

Deputy Chief Minister I, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah is taking charge of the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy. This is a critical portfolio for the Iban, as well as for the Bidayuh and the Orang Ulu communities, as the Dayaks constitute – by far – the biggest farming community in the state. The Dayaks improved standards of living would help the state tremendously as their agriculture products such as rubber, pepper and oil palm contribute to the state’s annual revenue.

As he has held 2 senior portfolios in the federal cabinet, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah will bring experience, knowledge and expertise to the processes of policy-making and decision-making at the state cabinet level.

Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing is also a very experienced politician who will no doubt use his position, as a Deputy Chief Minister II, wisely for the good of the Dayak community and for the state of Sarawak as a whole. As the state minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation, I am certain that his main priority is to ensure the completion of the Sibu-Kapit road to be on time and with the highest quality possible.

Datuk Stephen Rundi’s public utilities portfolio is certainly well accepted by the Dayak community as the public facilities are still not available in many rural areas in the state. Electricity supply, treated water supply, telecommunication capability, for instance, needs to be improved significantly so that the people in the rural areas can enjoy these facilities and in the process can have an improved and a better social well-being.

The 3 Iban ministers represent 3 different regions of the Iban community. It is appropriate that the composition of the cabinet recognises the regional diversity and sensitivity among the people in the state.

The Iban are certainly quite happy with the portfolios allocated to them. But it could be better. The ‘power’ portfolios of Resource Planning and Environment, and Finance, in particular, have been the elusive portfolios for the community.

Having 2 Iban deputy chief ministers is good for the community. But do really know why we have the 2 of them in the first place?  

Are they there because Tan Sri Adenan wants to make Datuk Amar Abang Johari, the Deputy President of PBB, as one of his 3 deputy chief ministers?

With the appointment of Abang Johari, or Abang Jo, as he is affectionately known, as the Deputy Chief Minister, this is the first time since the merger of Bumiputera and Pesaka in 1973 that the Bumiputera wing of PBB held both the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister posts.

Is the appointment of Abang Johari as the Deputy Chief Minister an indication of what the future may bring? Is Tan Sri Adenan preparing Abang Jo to take over from him before the next state election in 2021, as he has said that he won’t go beyond the 5 years that he has asked the people of Sarawak to give him?

Back to the Iban. Despite still losing Krian (N. 39) to the PKR, the Iban have shown that they are with the BN. All other 20 Iban constituencies, except for one, have obtained a much improved majority in the just concluded 11th Sarawak State election.

After the absence of about 2 decades, are the 2 deputy chief minister posts a just reward to the community for sticking with the BN? –

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