No contest against Taib

By Stephen Then, NST

MIRI: Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud is set to lead the Sarawak Barisan Nasional into the next state elections, following the move by Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) to declare a no-contest for its top posts.

Over the past month, a flurry of PBB division meetings have been taking place all over the state with delegates pledging their undivided support for Taib to continue to lead the party.

These party activities culminated with the announcement by its two deputy presidents, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu anak Numpang and Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Abang Openg, that there would be no contest for top party posts and that grassroots members had agreed Taib was still needed to helm the party and the state.

PBB permanent chairman Datuk Seri Awang Asfia Awang Nassar later confirmed the stand when he said it was the party’s tradition not to force the president to step down.

Johari, who is also State Housing Minister, had told grassroots leaders during a division meeting in Kuching that the PBB divisions had agreed to maintain the current party line-up at the very top levels, so there were to be no contests for the posts of president, deputy president and senior vice-president in the party’s triennial delegates’ conference early next year.

PBB branches are currently holding their meetings at the various divisions statewide.

PBB is the biggest Barisan component party in Sarawak and the backbone of the coalition.

The PBB president is also the Sarawak Chief Minister by tradition. The chief minister is also the state Barisan chairman.

The latest development in PBB means that Taib, who has been PBB president since 1981, will hold the record as the longest-serving president of any Barisan component party.

Taib will also set the record as the longest-serving chief minister in the country – 30 years in all – by the time the next state election is held. The next state poll is due in May 2011.

Political observers told The Star yesterday that the other Sarawak Barisan component parties – the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) – were expected to follow in the footsteps of the PBB leaders and pledge their support for Taib to continue to lead the state.

SUPP is led by Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, who is also State Deputy Chief Minister 1, State Industrial Development Minister and State Agriculture Modernisation Minister.

PRS is led by Datuk Seri James Jemut Masing, who is State Land Development Minister, while SPDP is led by Datuk Seri William Mawan Ikom who is State Minister for Social Development.