Batu Sapi tussle a cloak-and-dagger game

(FREE MALAYSIA TODAY ANALYSIS) The Nov 4 parliamentary by-election in Batu Sapi is shaping up to be a one-on-one “friendly fight” between the Barisan Nasional (BN), if not the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), with Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), which broke away from PBS in 1994 and then plotted with Umno to bring down the Joseph Pairin Kitingan government.

PKR, the only other contender in the fray, has been pushed to one side in the increasingly bitter war of words between SAPP candidate Yong Teck Lee, the president, and PBS assisted by the former’s political foes.

SAPP insiders are already claiming that “win or lose”, Yong stands to benefit from his outing in Batu Sapi. Otherwise, they remain tight-lipped.

The other 23 nomination forms taken by aspiring candidates, the grapevine goes, were sold to the contending parties for anything between RM5,000 and RM50,000 each. This is a favourite tactic in Sabah and Sarawak among those who simply want to kacau (disturb) the serious contenders. The latter are forced to pay up and retrieve the forms –for destruction – along with the MyKad of the form-holder temporarily until the nomination process is over.

PKR which is fielding Kota Kinabalu lawyer Ansari Abdullah in Batu Sapi, appears to be out of the reckoning, by all accounts. Sabah Umno veteran Karim Ghani, who left his party recently in a huff, rates Ansari’s chances at 45% at best.

Karim does not think the Tuaran PKR division chief will “lose his deposit”, as predicted by many. He hopes to garner at least 1,000 Muslim votes from ex-United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) members in Sekong, one of the two state seats in Batu Sapi, for Ansari.

Karim’s strategy is to use the 1,000 votes as a bargaining chip to negotiate his way into PKR. He has had two rounds of promising talks recently with de facto PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim in Kota Kinabalu.

The most optimistic predictions for PKR see the majority of the Muslim votes going to BN despite “30% to 40% of the Umno members, led by four Umno warlords, campaigning for SAPP”. The Umno warlords, all pacified – as erroneously thought – with key posts, want to see a SAPP win in Batu Sapi as part of their plan to bring about leadership changes in Sabah BN.