Perhaps time is ripe to institutionalise appointment of non-political Yang di-Pertua Negeri a.k.a. governor

IT was recently reported in the media that Tan Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar who has relinquished his post as Dewan Negara president has been nominated as a possible replacement for the Sarawak Governor’s post.

For all intents and purposes, the former policeman-turned-politician, checks all the boxes in filling up the post. An experienced politician at the Federal and Sarawak level, he is known for being down-to-earth and did not court any major controversies in his 34-year political career.

But Wan Junaidi comes with one handicap: he is a career politician. While there is no restrictions in appointing retired politicians to hold the top post in states (or in Sarawak’s case, regions) that do not have a sultan, it is perhaps time that we re-look into this practice.

It is true that many Governors are – or had traditionally been picked – from the pool of career politicians. In Malacca, Tun Mohd Ali Rustam was the state’s Menteri Besar as is the current Sarawak seventh Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Tan Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar

Their Sabah’s counterpart, Tun Juhar Mahiruddin, too, had led an illustrious political career, including being a speaker of the Sabah State Assembly and deputy Dewan Rakyat speaker during his tenure as the Kinabatangan MP.

The only exception is Penang whose Governor Tun Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak was a career diplomat.

Tun Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak (Pic credit: Buletin Mutiara)

So, what is the advantage of having governors who do not have political backgrounds? For one, it does enhance public perception that the holder of the post is truly impartial and apolitical.

During crises, monarchs (in states where there are sultans) and governors (in states without sultans), play a crucial role in diffusing tension and seeking a quick resolution.

Some examples include how the current Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) decided on the appointment of the Prime Minister after the 15th General Election (GE15) or when the late Sultan of Perak diffused the constitutional crisis in the state in 2009.

Under such circumstances, a governor without any past political affiliation is more likely to come across as independent and objective than one who has although fairly speaking, there has been no recorded public outcry over past and present governors being clouded by their historical associations in their judgment.

Besides, it is also time that we stop treating such appointments as political rewards. In this regard, SAPA (Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations) publicity chief Peter John Jaban has even called for a review in the process of appointing the state’s Yang di-Pertua Negeri.

“We need to set a better example in transparency and in our representative processes. This was the context for the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and should be the context for the future of Sarawak,” he pointed out in a recent media statement.

While the appointment of the governors falls under the jurisdiction of the Agong after consulting the Chief Ministers, it is perhaps timely for the four state governments to consider nominating only those who do not have any past political affiliations in line with the Madani principle of transparency and good governance. – Jan 26, 2024

Main pic credit: Dayak Daily

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