KOTA KINABALU: Hours after reshuffling his state Cabinet, Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor went right back to work, moving away from the political crisis that gripped Sabah for about a week.

On Wednesday, he was at a dinner reception hosted by the Consul General of China, which was his first official appearance in days, having sent representatives to attend events on his behalf earlier on.

Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin was guest of honour at the event hosted by the Chinese official, Huang Shi-Fang, at the Sabah International Convention Centre here.

Also present were Hajiji’s newly minted Cabinet members, namely Sabah Pakatan Harapan chief Datuk Christina Liew, who was appointed State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, and Sabah DAP secretary Phoong Jin Zhe who is the new Industrial Development Minister.

Besides the Pakatan duo, Hajiji also installed Datuk Shahelmey Yahya as his new Deputy Chief Minister III and State Works Minister, effectively replacing Sabah Barisan Nasional-Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin.

Bung Moktar severed ties with the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government on Jan 6, triggering a potential collapse of Hajiji’s 27-month-old administration.

But Shahelmey, the former State Community Development and People’s Wellbeing Minister, and four other Umno assemblymen revolted and pledged support for Hajiji to stay on as Chief Minister.

As a result of the support from the five as well as seven members from Sabah Pakatan, GRS and friendly reps, Hajiji was able to cling to power after getting the backing of 44 assemblymen, four more than the 40 needed for a simple majority in the 79-member state assembly.

As he clocked in at the Sabah Works Ministry building here yesterday, Shahelmey did his best to distance himself from the lingering political talk.

“I will focus on my work by getting briefings from the ministry and relevant departments for a better understanding of their roles,” he told reporters.

Asked about Bung Moktar’s remarks that the appointment of the Sabah Umno dissidents in Hajiji’s Cabinet was not recognised by Sabah Umno, Shahelmey said the former was free to air his views.

“We will leave this to the central Umno leadership to handle this matter. The Cabinet appointment is the prerogative of the Chief Minister according to the Sabah Constitution. How can he question this … from what angle?” he said.

Another Umno dissident, Datuk James Ratib, was also elevated to full minister from his previous assistant minister’s position.

Liew, who issued a statement hours after being sworn in as minister, said she would focus on tourism-related work.

Restored to the portfolio she held under the Warisan-led state administration from 2018 to 2020, the Api-Api assemblyman said her mission was to woo more tourists to Sabah.

“I look forward to a busy, exciting and challenging year for the tourism industry in Sabah,” she said.

Phoong, the Luyang assemblyman, acknowledged the challenges ahead.

“I have to work doubly hard to bring changes. I hope to get the help and support of everyone,” he added.