PUTRAJAYA - Datuk Osman Sapian has tendered his resignation as Johor's Menteri Besar, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the media on Tuesday (April 9).
Tun Dr Mahathir said Mr Osman, 67, submitted his letter to him when the pair met in Putrajaya on Monday.
"The Johor MB (menteri besar) resigned yesterday (April 8) via a letter to me and I will send the letter to the Johor Sultan," he told reporters at a news conference at the lobby of Parliament on Tuesday, as quoted by The Star online news.
Asked about Mr Osman's replacement, Dr Mahathir said there are three to four potential candidates. He added that the new chief minister must hail from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), which he leads, and is one of the four member parties of the Pakatan Harapan alliance that governs Malaysiathe party.
"For now, Johor has no menteri besar," he added.
Mr Osman was sworn in as chief minister 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 was the party's stronghold state until the May 9 General Election last year.
Earlier on Tuesday, speculation mounted over Mr Osman's political future after his absence from the Singapore-Malaysia 9th bilateral 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 instead found that another top Johor official, Dr Sahruddin Jamal, was listed as part of the state delegation, Malay Mail online news reported.
Dr Sahruddin, Johor's Cabinet minister 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.
Mr Osman's absence from the retreat, Malaysian media reported, was noted because he was in Putrajaya on Monday evening to meet Dr Mahathir.
Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim on Tuesday 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 Star online news said it was understood that the Johor ruler was dissatisfied with the way Mr Osman had handled the Sungai Kim Kim chemical spill, which saw the closure of 111 schools in Pasir Gudang and hundreds of people affected by the toxic gas caused by the spill.