JOHOR BARU, May 25 ― Having been in politics for 44 years, Datuk Osman Sapian never dreamed that someday he would become Johor mentri besar.
For three terms from 1999 to 2013, he was Kempas assemblyman as a Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate.
Having left Umno and contesting under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) banner at the 2018 general election, Osman caused a shock when he was elected Johor mentri besar following BN’s shocking loss in the southern state.
Osman, however, resigned as the new Johor mentri besar after 11 months holding the position.
“During the GE14, I did not want to contest although I was the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) secretary,” he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama recently.
“(At that time),I wanted to make sure Pakatan Harapan could win seats and possibly change the state and the federal government.
“But, we were a relatively new party and was lacking in leaders with calibre, experience and somewhat influential, so I was asked to choose a seat to contest,” he said.
He thought, if PH were to win the Federal level, it would be up to the top brass to put him anywhere they saw fit.
“At the very least, I would have accepted a post in any GLCs or a general consulate, you know as a gesture of appreciation,” said Osman.
In his early days, Osman harboured hopes of becoming a general consulate that is based overseas due to his keen interest in bilateral relations.
“Despite being a state assemblyman for three terms with Umno previously, I never dreamed of being given the mentri besar post. In fact, I had never held a post in the state exco,” he said.
He explained that after joining Bersatu, he focused mainly on getting the party grass roots to prepare for the GE14.
“It is no mean feat for a new coalition without solid financial support to go up against Umno and Barisan Nasional which have had a stronghold of the state but we did it,” he said.
His next challenge was to lead an exco with no previous experience whatsoever in the state.
“Most of our exco members had no experience, if anything most of them were assemblymen when they were the Opposition.
“They never had the experience to work as assemblymen for the government so to change their mindset was very challenging,” said Osman who held several posts in Johor GLCs.
“Therefore it was my duty to teach them and show how it is done so that they would understand their job better after all it is a brand new government,” Osman explained.
Despite being the shortest-serving Johor MB in the history of the state, Osman has achieved quite a lot in the 11 months.
As MB, Osman has helped strengthen the state's financial position through various plans with the support and cooperation of the state's public administration.
He also achieved 10 of the 100-day promise of Pakatan Harapan Johor and continued the initiative by drawing up a long-term development plan for Johor (Johor's Sustainable Development Plan 2019-2030).
He was also responsible for disposing of bad debts of the state government to the Federation by RM187 million or 57 per cent of the total.
“In 100 days, I managed to implement the PH manifesto. I also paid visits, bringing along Exco members to the districts to meet the district officers to help facilitate their work, besides looking at PH course of direction in the state.
“In the meantime, the pile of work left by the previous government had to be resolved. For a year they did not come to office because they were busy campaigning so I had to manage the backlog.
“All kinds of files were left unattended to for a year of changing conditions, changing land titles, buying land, buying homes it was equivalent to 17 months pile of work.
Asked about his resignation on April 8, the former mentri besar said he had taken a week to consider his decision to resign.
Refusing to divulge specifically on the reasons for doing so, Osman said,” (Resigning) That was the best thing for me to do. Otherwise, it would have tarnished my personal reputation and the political scenario in Johor.”
While he was grateful to have been given the chance on the “hot seat”, the Kempas assemblyman hoped his successor Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal would carry out his duty the best he could. ― Bernama