Johor Baru— Rumour has it that the Chief Minister of Johor is about to be replaced and that a larger state cabinet reshuffle is on the cards.
Datuk Osman Sapian is scheduled to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad on Monday, April 8, at his office at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya. Afterward, Mr Osman may be announcing his resignation.
As Chief Minister of Johor, Mr Osman is in charge of the natural resources of the state, as well as all matters pertaining to finance, planning, economic development and administration.
The New Straits Times reports a source telling them that talk of Mr Osman’s resignation has gained momentum as of late. “His resignation will undoubtedly strengthen the state government and the Johor Civil Service (JCS) and Bersatu in the state. It is the right thing to do and he has conceded to it.”
The source denied the rumours that the Chief Minister was being forced to resign because the Royal family was dissatisfied with him. “Such a scenario is unlikely as Osman has a good relationship with the palace… even from before he was appointed as menteri besar.”
However, the source mentioned that leaders from the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) have not been happy with how Mr Osman has managed Johor. “There were occasions where he made announcements about decisions without discussing them in the state executive councillors’ meeting. The party is concerned about how he has been handling land transactions in the state.”
A controversial figure
The Chief Minister has been unafraid of being in the spotlight. A few months ago he made headlines when he visited the Marine vessel MV Pedoman, one of the vessels thought to be encroaching on Singapore’s territorial waters. His visit was perceived to add to the already heated tensions between the two countries.
Moreover, his visit occurred one day after a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, wherein both parties entered an agreement to form a bilateral working group to study the maritime dispute for the purpose of further discussions and negotiations on the issue.
Osman’s unsanctioned visit to the Pedoman led to the postponement of a bilateral meeting scheduled for last Monday, January 14, of joint ministerial committee talks on Iskandar Malaysia.
But the Chief Minister of Johor spoke up to defend his actions, saying that his visit was supported by grassroots leaders.
The Malay Mail reports Osman as saying, “In fact, I received a few messages and a video via Whatsapp from several Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia division leaders and ketua kampungs (village chiefs) that gave their support to me.
Recently, Mr Osman’s academic credentials have also been in the spotlight.
Will he step down?
While Mr Osman has yet to make an official statement concerning his alleged upcoming resignation, his press secretary Abdul Hakim Ab Rahman has downplayed rumours that Mr Osman’s April 8 meeting with Dr Mahathir means that he is stepping down soon.
Mr Abdul merely said that this was a “scheduled meeting” with the Prime Minister.
“The Menteri Besar wanted to meet the Prime Minister as he wanted to discuss preparations for a major meeting,” Mr Abdul told the press on Sunday, April 7. “There will be a pre-council meeting for the delegation and dinner in conjunction with the ninth leaders’ retreat between Malaysia and Singapore.”
Here are the possible replacements for Mr Osman: Johor Health, Environment, and Agriculture Committee chairman Sahruddin Jamal from Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s state Youth, Sports and Culture Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar.
The Malaysian Insight reports that the top contender for the post is Sahruddin Jamal, who is also the Bukit Kepong state assemblyman. It also reports that Mr Osman is making way for a fellow member of Bersatu. The Chief Minister of Johor holds a special significance for Singapore, given Johor’s strategic location for both countries.
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