Talk of Taib preparing to pass the baton picked up momentum in April last year after his wife, Puan Sri Laila Taib, his pillar of support during his political career, passed away.
Thus, the focus of interest as successor is now on the senior leaders — deputy president I Tan Sri Dr Alfred Jabu, deputy president II Abang Johari and senior vice-president Datuk Seri Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.
Jabu, an agricultural graduate and experienced politician, has been tutored by two of Sarawak’s best known politicians — Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakub, the former chief minister and Yang Di-pertua Negeri, and later by Taib himself.
Since having been elected as state assemblyman for Layar in 1974, he has been appointed to various ministerial posts, including deputy chief minister under Rahman and, since March 1981, under Taib.
Another chief ministerial candidate is Abang Johari, who comes from an illustrious family. His father, Tun Abang Openg, was the first governor of Sarawak.
Holding an MBA degree from a British university, Abang Johari is said to have shown his capability as industrial development minister before being moved to the tourism ministry.
In the recent state cabinet reshuffle, he was tasked with looking after the state Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abdul Taib, Taib’s younger son who recently resigned as deputy Federal tourism minister, has been mentioned as another possible candidate as there is speculation that his father wants him to return to Sarawak and be “trained to take over”.
Political observers who have closely monitored Sarawak politics said that although Sulaiman had not offered to contest any position in the party’s election, it did not mean that he would not be picked as a candidate in the state elections.
Another aspirant for chief minister is Awang Tengah, the minister of public utilities and the second minister of planning and resource management, which is considered by some to be the most powerful ministerial position after Taib in the state cabinet.
There is also talk that Taib has sought the views of people close to him, including some Dayak and Chinese ministers, regarding his possible successor.
So, who will succeed Taib? The guessing game continues.
Even naive Sarawak political observers would exclude Jabu as successor to Taib in PBB – which is the ticket to Sarawak Chief Minister post.