Do away with political appointments in IDS, says Sabah political analyst

Johan Ariffin (left) receiving his appointment letter from IDS chairman Simon Sipaun in November 2018. (IDS pic)

KOTA KINABALU: A political analyst finds it saddening that an important institution like the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) Sabah is embroiled in a boardroom tussle which saw the eventual removal of its CEO.

Speaking to FMT today, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) academic Arnold Puyok said it is even more depressing that the tussle has dragged Chief Minister Shafie Apdal in as both warring sides are battling for the chief minister’s favour.

“Eventually, the chief minister was forced to intervene at a time when he was supposed to face more important issues like fixing the economy and improving the state governance,” he said.

The IDS board of directors voted 6 to 5 against the motion to confirm provisional CEO Johan Ariffin Samad in the post on May 29.

IDS chairman Simon Sipaun, who confirmed this, said Johan was only on probation and it was the board’s decision not to confirm him and what the chief minister had to say on the issue was a different matter.

Johan met Shafie on June 3 and said Shafie wanted him to stay put in IDS as the CEO. Shafie later said he planned to speak with IDS chairman Simon Sipaun.

However, the IDS office issued an official statement on Friday announcing the departure of Johan as the interim CEO.

Shafie eventually announced that Sipaun will remain the IDS chairman while Johan will be given a different role in the institute.

Puyok said the whole problem could have been avoided if there were no political appointments as such a practice always brought in people with political baggage into an institution.

“The post should be advertised to let individuals with the best minds vie for it. Whoever becomes the CEO must be given some amount of independence to choose his team,” he said.

Puyok said the new CEO, who will be appointed by Shafie, must be someone who understands how policy based on research works.

He said it did not matter whether the new CEO is a Sabahan or not but he or she should know how to gather the best ideas to solve complex policy problems for the benefit of Sabah and its people.

Meanwhile, a source from within the IDS revealed that some of the directors are looking for ways to remove Sipaun, whom they claimed is the cause of the whole problem, as a director and the chairman.

However, they would need a two-thirds majority to do so and even they admitted it would be difficult to do so unless they could get some of the directors, who are seen to be in Sipaun’s camp, to switch sides.

The IDS chairman post is a political appointment by the chief minister.

IDS is an autonomous research body assisting the Sabah state government to tap ideas and opinions, and also to analyse public policy proposals before they are implemented.