Muhyiddin's pick Hajiji Mohd Noor sworn in as Sabah Chief Minister

Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor (left) being sworn in by Sabah Governor Juhar Mahiruddin yesterday. Mr Hajiji's appointment notched up another big win for Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is facing a leadership challenge in Parliament from
Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor (left) being sworn in by Sabah Governor Juhar Mahiruddin yesterday. Mr Hajiji's appointment notched up another big win for Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is facing a leadership challenge in Parliament from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.PHOTO: BERNAMA

A leader from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition was sworn in as Sabah's Chief Minister yesterday, three days after Tan Sri Muhyiddin's loose alliance managed to wrest control of the state administration in intense state polls.

Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, 65, is the 16th Chief Minister of Malaysia's eastern-most state, after his swearing-in by Governor Juhar Mahiruddin. The politician is the Sabah chief for both PN and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Mr Muhyiddin's party.

Mr Hajiji was chosen as the chief minister candidate by the Gabungan Rakyat Bersatu (GRS) alliance after intense negotiations that lasted 36 hours because another GRS faction, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN), wanted its own candidate to take up the post.

In the end, Mr Hajiji managed to get the support of 41 out of 73 Sabah lawmakers elected last Saturday - 38 from GRS and three independent winners.

Mr Hajiji's appointment notched up another big win for Mr Muhyiddin, who is facing a leadership challenge in Parliament from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Despite GRS members clashing with one another in 17 seats and being unable to agree on a chief minister candidate, Mr Muhyiddin managed to steer GRS to a win.

The impasse over the chief minister's post had threatened to undo GRS' victory, opening the door for rival Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) to try and form the state government. But GRS on Monday unanimously agreed to go with Mr Muhyiddin's personal pick.

Mr Hajiji, who was elected as the assemblyman for Sulaman ward for an eighth term last Saturday, was previously a Sabah state minister and an Umno chieftain.

Bung Moktar Radin, the Sabah Umno leader who was to be its chief minister's candidate, was instead made one of three Sabah Deputy Chief Ministers and also Works Minister for the state. The other two Deputy CMs are Jeffrey Kitingan, president of the Star party, and Joachim Gunsalam, vice-president of Parti Bersatu Sabah.

The Sabah election was called when former chief minister Musa Aman attempted to form a new state government in late July, after securing 13 defections from the Warisan administration.

However, Governor Juhar opted instead to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh polls.

After the 2018 election produced a hung assembly, Tan Sri Musa initially secured a thin majority and was sworn in, before Mr Shafie secured a bigger tranche of defections and was subsequently sworn in two days later.

It remains to be seen if the state can see some political stability after the turmoil of the past two years.

With 38 seats on their side to Warisan's 32, GRS and its allies do not have a huge margin, and it remains to be seen what the working relationship between PN and Umno-led BN in Sabah will be.

The tensions between PN and BN were palpable on election night, with both parties celebrating the win at different command centres.

Ironically, BN is part of the PN federal government in Putrajaya.

Since Mr Hajiji's selection, top BN leaders have made public statements saying they were reluctant in giving up the post to PN and indicated that they would not continue to be accommodating to PN's chief party Bersatu, which is led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin.

The conflict is playing out even as Datuk Seri Anwar last week claimed that he had secured enough defections to topple Mr Muhyiddin's federal government.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2020, with the headline 'Muhyiddin's pick Hajiji Mohd Noor sworn in as Sabah Chief Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe