KUALA LUMPUR • Datuk Osman Sapian has tendered his resignation as Johor's Menteri Besar, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the media yesterday.
Tun Dr Mahathir said Mr Osman, 67, submitted his resignation letter to him when the pair met in Putrajaya on Monday.
"The Johor MB (Menteri Besar) resigned yesterday (Monday) via a letter to me and I will send the letter to the Johor Sultan," he was quoted by The Star online news as telling reporters at a news conference.
Asked about Mr Osman's replacement, Dr Mahathir said there are three to four potential candidates. He said the new Menteri Besar or chief minister must hail from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), which is led by the Prime Minister.
"For now, Johor has no Menteri Besar," he added.
Mr Osman was sworn in as Menteri Besar of the southern Malaysian state 11 months ago, becoming the first non-Umno Menteri Besar for Johor. Umno was born in Johor and the state had been the party's stronghold until the May 9 general election last year.
Earlier yesterday, speculation mounted over Mr Osman's political future following his absence from the 9th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat in Putrajaya. Top officials from Johor, the state neighbouring Singapore, routinely attend such key meetings involving the Republic.
Reporters had noted Mr Osman's absence at the meeting, and found that another top Johor official, Dr Sahruddin Jamal, was listed as part of the state delegation instead, Malay Mail online news reported.
Dr Sahruddin, Johor's state executive councillor for health, environment and agriculture, is widely reported by local media as a front runner to replace Mr Osman.
Both are from Dr Mahathir's PPBM - one of the four member parties of the Pakatan Harapan alliance that governs Malaysia.
Mr Osman's absence from the retreat, Malaysian media reported, was noted because he was in Putrajaya on Monday evening to meet Dr Mahathir.
The Johor Crown Prince, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, yesterday tweeted that his father, the Johor ruler, had wanted to replace Mr Osman for some months.
In a later tweet, Tunku Ismail, who has a running joust with Dr Mahathir, wrote: "I hope the new Menteri Besar is not a 'yes man' of Putrajaya. The welfare of the people and well-being of the state must always be a priority."
The Menteris Besar of the nine Malaysian states with hereditary Malay rulers often play a tough role of balancing demands from the state palaces with fulfilling their mission as mandated by voters. The other four states - Penang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak - have governors appointed as titular heads of state.
It was understood that the Johor ruler was dissatisfied with the way Mr Osman handled the Sungai Kim Kim chemical spill last month, Malaysia media reports say. The incident saw 111 schools shut in Pasir Gudang and hundreds of people affected by toxic gas.