JOHOR BARU: Dr Sahruddin Jamal pledged to carry out his responsibilities “to the best of my abilities” on his appointment as the new mentri besar of Johor today.
But his greatest challenge could well turn out to be how he manages ties with the Johor palace.
He will have to act as the bridge between Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar on one side and the federal government and the prime minister on the other.
The Sultan obviously did not think Sahruddin’s immediate predecessor Datuk Osman Sapain fitted the bill. His disapproval of Osman was made clear last week when crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said the palace had sought Osman’s removal months ago.
“It is not easy to lead Johor ... we all know that,“ Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir told theSun today.
“The welfare of the people and well-being of the state must always be a priority but he must also be a bridge between the palace and the federal government,“ he said.
“Building a harmonious relationship between the two is important because eventually he has to face very strong political influence from the Johor palace,“ he added.
Jeniri said Sahruddin also had to avoid making any controversial statements not in line with the views of Johoreans.
“He has to make good on all the mistakes made by Osman. But with the proper approach and a lot of political wisdom, he can succeed as a leader,“ he added.
In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, Sultan Ibrahim congratulated Sahruddin on his appointed as the new mentri besar.
In the statement, he expressed hope that Sahruddin would shoulder his responsibilities with honesty, sincerity and trust while prioritising the interests of the state rather than political or self interests.
“I also want him to give priority to the issue of river pollution to ensure that raw water resources are always clean and able to survive for a long time,“ he added.
Osman was mentri besar for 11 months, making him the state’s chief executive with the shortest tenure.
While he initiated several development projects and even met the 100-day pledge by PH, he also courted controversy. He was criticised for a work trip to Batam when Johor was grappling with a toxic waste contamination in Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang, which sent thousands to the hospital and eventually chalked up a RM6.4 million clean-up bill.
He very nearly caused a diplomatic row when he visited the MV Pedoman, a vessel of the Malaysian Marine Department. Singapore claimed that the vessel had strayed into the city state’s waters.
His educational credentials also came under scrutiny when checks showed that he did not get his degree from Universiti Putra Malaysia as claimed.
A verbal war between Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the palace eventually ended with Osman’s resignation.
On the choice of Sahruddin for the top job in the state, constitutional law expert Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said he would have had the support of a majority in the state assembly.
He stressed that constitutionally neither the Sultan nor the prime minister picked the mentri besar. “It is the party with the majority in the state assembly that picks the MB,“ he said.
Sahruddin, 43, is only in his first term as state assemblyman. He is expected to announce a new line-up of the state executive council within 14 days.
He promised to continue with the development agenda already put in place by Osman.