The only reason Kuala Lumpur is hesitant to approve the registration of a new Usno is because it will mean the death of Umno in Sabah, claims its pro tem leader.
Joseph Bingkasan, FMT
KOTA KINABALU: Is the acronym Usno and its equally colourful founder Datu Mustapha Datu Harun so powerfully etched in the minds of Sabahans that Umno fears its resurrection before the 13th general election?
Is this “fear” the reason why the Umno-led federal government has kept former members of United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) waiting in the wings for approval of their party?
Two years on, ex-members of Usno are fuming over the choke-hold grip the federal government and Umno have on Sabah and its future.
The once all-powerful and controversial Sabah party is – naively, perhaps – relying on the goodwill of Umno, which it helped set root in Sabah in 1991 by dissolving its own moribund party and joining en masse the Peninsular Malaysia-based party.
That goodwill has not been reciprocated, but that has not prevented the “pro tem committee” of the new Usno from anxiously waiting in the wings.
The party’s stop-gap vice-president until it can be registered, Abdullah Sani Abdul Salleh, sees no reason for the delay in registering his party apart from Umno fearing for its own survival.
He said the party wants to field candidates in the 13th general election but is having difficulty getting the consent of the federal-controlled Registrar of Societies (ROS).
Abdullah Sani senses that this reluctance to approve Usno’s revival stems from Umno’s growing insecurity in the state which the Barisan Nasional coalition government of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak calls its “fixed deposit”.
The new Usno, if approved, is a far cry from the old.
The Usno established by Mustapha in Kampong Ayer, Kudat, on Oct 26, 1961 and dissolved in 1991 to allow all its leaders and members to join Umno en bloc is of a different era.
In the years after Usno’s dissolution even Mustapha and his old party colleagues regretted leaving it by the wayside for Umno, which they had always considered a party bearing no association whatsoever to Sabah.
Now a group of born-again Usno supporters headed by his younger brother, Abdul Salam Datu Harun, believe the time is right for the return of the political party.
The first step was to register the new Usno as an NGO and when that failed, sent in an application to register it as a political party with Mustapha’s fourth son Datu Badaruddin as pro tem head on Oct 26, 2010.
In the party’s Merdeka Day message, the new Usno indicated that it is moving ahead with plans to contest the coming general election in Muslim-majority constituencies in Sabah.
Usno has already joined hands with Jeffrey Kitingan’s Sabah State Reform Party (STAR) with Badaruddin and Jeffrey signing an election pact termed “Semporna Declaration” in February .
“Umno fears the combined political strength of Usno and STAR,” Abdullah Sani said, adding that Usno still commanded respect and loyalty in the state although it was dissolved a long time ago.
This respect and loyalty, he said, was what Umno feared the most and was stalling their bid to get registered as a party.
He believes that Umno, instead of being thankful to Usno for making way for the Peninsula-based party to spread its wings to Sabah, was acting strangely by blocking the party’s return to the state’s political stage.
“There is no other reason for the delay [in registering Usno as a political party].
“If Makkal Sakti’s application for registration was approved within 60 days, why is the ROS sitting on Usno’s application?” he asked.