Osman Sapian’s 11 Months of Failure 

Azni Humaira Mohd Husni

There were many failures that we saw during Pakatan Harapan’s 22-month bumbling reign, but none stood out as much as former Johor Menteri Besar, Osman Sapian’s tenure at the office.

Which is surprising given that not many Malaysians, even those from Johor, may remember him today, but I am confident some may recall his short 11-month as Johor’s Menteri Besar when he appeared in the news again recently. 

Osman has been getting some flak recently for his support of the Slim River by-election’s independent candidate, and was also recorded giving speeches about how Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia has deviated from its original course. PPBM, being a component party of Perikatan Nasional that fielded a Barisan Nasional candidate, has no reason to be okay with what he did. 

Given his failure as MB of Johor, it is highly ironic that Osman is still presenting himself as a credible statesman and politician. The recent issue no doubt reminded the people of his unremarkable tenure. 

Let’s revisit some of his highlights that led to his downfall as MB.

The one thing that stood out the most during his reign of failure was the Kim Kim river pollution crisis in Pasir Gudang that stretched from for months in 2019 – where around 6,000 people were directly affected by the toxic fumes from illegal waste disposal, including more than 100 school children.  More than 450 schools and learning institutions, as well as thousands of businesses were forced to close during the crisis, affecting lives and livelihood of the people in Pasir Gudang.

While the crisis was unfolding, Osman Sapian was actually in Batam, Riau, Indonesia for a three-day “work” visit – to prepare for the Visit Johor 2020 campaign meant to boost local tourism. While the work visit was indeed cut short, the media were quick and diligent to report what Osman Sapian actually did there: playing golf at one of Batam’s numerous golf courses. 

Here we have a “leader” – who not only was incapable in ensuring smooth governance by the state on businesses dealing with toxic wastes and having adequate mitigating measures, he also seemed detached from actually leading the state. While people in Pasir Gudang were suffering by the thousands, the only thing that went on Osman Sapian’s mind was how far he can hit the ball with a 5-iron golf club. Osman Sapian never even offered an apology when the truth came to light.

From time to time he has shown the people of Johor his true colours. From falsifying his education pedigree (Osman Sapian was listed as a graduate of Universiti Putra Malaysia, but backtracked later claiming he did not know who listed it after it was revealed that he dropped out) to getting one of his wives to officiate a state government event in lieu of him, Osman Sapian is frankly an embarrassment to the august state of Johor. 

His failures even managed to make its way down the causeway too. In the bilateral hiccup with Singapore over the sea border with Malaysia, Osman Sapian was reported to have crossed the border to “visit” our naval assets without proper documentation and permission from the federal Government. More embarrassingly, this incident was even discussed during a Parliamentary session in Singapore!

Being incompetent is one thing, but Osman Sapian goes beyond that. What we have here is a man who is shrewd enough to sweet talk even the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir himself, which culminated in an episode of uneasiness between the Palace of Johor and Tun Dr Mahathir over Osman’s performance as the state’s Menteri Besar – and a timely demise to his tenure. 

And the Palace had every right to be concerned. Osman has shown Malaysians many times that he is willing to betray his principles for political power. Prior to being an MB, Osman was a state assemblyman for Kempas from 1999 up until 2013, more than a decade of position and power riding on the shoulders of Barisan Nasional – which no doubt was more than willing to help with his campaign machinery. Probably due to his incompetence, Osman was dropped in the 2013 General Election, upon which he bided his time and rejoined back in the arena on Pakatan Harapan’s ticket in 2018.

It is not surprising then, that he would campaign for an opposition candidate in the recent by-election – probably for favours and a sweet return to power. His comrades in Bersatu are probably sick at this point that a disciplinary report was lodged to the party against him.

Johoreans and Malaysians would do well to do the same – limit his thirst of power (and incompetence) when the time comes for us to go to the polls again.