KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor is set to reshuffle his Cabinet with speculation brewing that his deputy Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin will be sacked.

“There will be a state Cabinet reshuffle. Details will be disclosed soon,” Hajiji said in a brief two-line statement yesterday.

Talk has been rife that Sabah Barisan Nasional will withdraw its support for the Hajiji-led Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) state government.

Bung Moktar, who is a Deputy Chief Minister, and state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Arifin are said to face the axe with Hajiji pushing to strengthen his grip on the state administration.

Jafry is Sabah Umno secretary.

However, Hajiji is expected to keep another Umno man – Community Development and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Shahelmey Yahya – and several others not seen to be aligned with Bung Moktar.

Hajiji’s move to reshuffle his Cabinet came after an alleged bid by Warisan and Barisan to topple the GRS government on Thursday.

Hajiji has gained the support of Sabah Pakatan Harapan amid talk that Sabah Umno with 17 assemblymen are split over the move to support Warisan led by Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

Bung Moktar has yet to respond to claims that Barisan was plotting with Warisan to topple GRS.

For now, Sabah’s political situation is fluid amid fresh talk about plans to make Bung Moktar the chief minister instead of Shafie.

UiTM senior lecturer Tony Paridi Bagang said the situation could lead to a change in government or Sabah assembly being dissolved.

Local political observers felt it was important for Bung Moktar and Hajiji to resolve their differences to prevent political instability.

Earlier yesterday, Sabah’s lone PAS assemblyman Dr Aliakbar Gulasan made clear his backing for Hajiji.

“We are still supportive of GRS and remain friendly with GRS. We support Hajiji,” the nominated assemblyman said when contacted.

He said Sabah’s political dynamics were different from Peninsular Malaysia where PAS, being part of Perikatan Nasional, is in the opposition bench at the federal level.

“The working relations here is different,” Aliakbar added.

On Thursday, Hajiji posted a photograph on Facebook showing a group of people whom he described as “friends of the state government” and that he hoped to give better service to Sabah folk in 2023.

Aliakbar was seen in the photo, along with most of the GRS and Sabah Pakatan Harapan assemblymen.

Asked what the meeting with Hajiji and other GRS and Sabah Pakatan leaders was about, he said: “It was just the usual political stuff.”

However, he said the objective of the meeting should be easily guessed by now.

PAS was with the then Sabah Perikatan coalition that toppled the Warisan-led state government.

PAS, which became GRS-friendly after the 2020 Sabah state election, was however not invited to join GRS after the coalition was formed in September that year.

The current 79-seat state assembly comprises 29 GRS members – 15 ex-Bersatu, seven from Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), six from Sabah STAR and one from SAPP, Barisan with 17 assemblymen, Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Rakyat (three), PAS (one), Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah (one), Parti Bangsa Malaysia (one) and an Independent.

Warisan has 19 assemblymen while Pakatan has seven – four from DAP, PKR (two) and Upko (one).

Meanwhile, Upko president-elect Datuk Ewon Benedick said political stability is needed in Sabah to ensure development and implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Thus, he said any attempt to unseat Hajiji as chief minister will only disrupt development plans.

Benedick said the Thursday meeting with Hajiji had made clear that the political and development momentum should be kept up.

The Sabah Pakatan assemblymen had also agreed not to back the formation of any backdoor government, he said.

Instead, they would maintain their support for the GRS-led state government, he added.

He said they had also agreed to support Hajiji as the chief minister until his term ends.