Friday, October 18

PSB left out in new list of councillors

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KUCHING: Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) has been excluded from the finalised list of more than 700 councillors for the 24 local councils throughout the state.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing said the State Cabinet yesterday approved the list which would now be sent to Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud for endorsement.

“The councillors’ list has been finalised, and it is confirmed there is none from parties outside of GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak).

“It is up to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing to make the announcement on who is in the list. But the procedure is that once the Cabinet approves the list, it will be sent to the TYT (Yang di-Pertua Negeri) for endorsement,” he said when met after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

He added that even if the list is endorsed next month, the term of the new councillors would be backdated to July 1.

Masing also revealed that yesterday’s meeting did not discuss a Cabinet reshuffle, but instead focused on issues regarding the administration of the state.

The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah is the chairman of the special cabinet committee to finalise the councillor appointments.

Meanwhile, PSB president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh yesterday clarified that there was no truth in a claim that he was asked to give up his Cabinet position as Second Finance Minister and Minister of International Trade and E-Commerce, in exchange for inclusion of PSB members in the local councils.

In refuting what a source told The Borneo Post on Wednesday, Wong said there was no meeting on such a scheme.

He also declined to comment on the new list of councillors before leaving the venue of the state cabinet meeting.

With PSB – formerly known as United People’s Party (UPP) – not included, it means the post of Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) will be given to another party.

Before the previous term of councillors ended on June 30 Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King, who is PSB senior vice president, was SMC chairman for 15 years dating back to his days in Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).

Recent reports said the five SUPP branches in Sibu had been lobbying for the SMC chairman post to be given to someone recommended by the party.

In the previous batch of councillors, PSB had two each in Kuching South City Council (MBKS) and Padawan Municipal Council (MPP), one in Miri City Council (MCC) and seven including the chairman’s post in SMC.

The new list means the allocation of councillors is now divided among the four component parties of GPS – Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), SUPP, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

Councillors are political appointees, and they serve a term of two years although this can be extended for a maximum of one year. They can also be reappointed to the next term.

Each local authority in Sarawak has a maximum of 32 councillors. Some of the council chairman posts are given by default to the District Officer appointed by the government, while some are appointed from political parties.

In the case of MBKS, its chairman or mayor is currently Dato James Chan, a non-political appointee, whose tenure expires on Aug 31 this year. Yesterday’s cabinet meeting generated much interest among political observers who wanted to see if PSB would still be included among the political appointees.

This is because inclusion or exclusion of PSB representatives could have a bearing on the political direction of GPS, with the observers also viewing it as an indicator as to whether there will be a cabinet reshuffle soon.