Sabah desertions pushing PKR to electoral doom

(The Malaysian Insider) – PKR’s unresolved Sabah crisis appears to have thwarted its plans to crack the Barisan Nasional  (BN) stronghold and the party could end up without a single seat there in the next general election.

A succession of five leaders since 2006 — including the latest Sabah PKR chief, Pajudin Nordin who defected to Umno over the weekend — is expected to ensure the state chapter will continue to remain in shambles.

Pajudin told The Malaysian Insider that he was “confident” his former party would repeat its 2008 electoral disaster in Sabah and fail to capture a single seat, whether state or parliamentary, come the next polls.

“DAP has a chance. But PKR, none. It will not even secure one seat. I am confident that PKR cannot win anything in Sabah,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Pajudin blamed his bleak prediction on the central leadership’s continued refusal to listen to local Sabah leaders and its insistence on “interfering” in state matters.

Even the party’s new presidential council, formed on Sunday by president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, was in disarray, he claimed.

“For your information, they have already named the members of the council but they did not announce it in the media as many Sabah division chiefs are unhappy with the line-up.

“So mark my words — today, they want the council to lead Sabah; tomorrow, they will decide again to appoint a new Sabah chief and then the crisis continues,” he said.

Dr Wan Azizah had announced the formation of the 11-member council on Sunday to replace Pajudin’s leadership in the state, leading to the latter’s shock defection to Umno.

Pajudin had earlier helmed the state chapter since January 9 but his appointment, made by the central leadership, had reportedly been rejected by 18 of the 25 divisions in Sabah PKR.

Dr Wan Azizah heads the council that will lead Sabah PKR. — file pic

The divisional leaders had voiced doubt over Pajudin’s impartiality and his ability to unite both the warring factions in Sabah as he was accused of being a proxy to Ansari Abdullah, a leader of one camp.

Despite this, the 42-year-old religious scholar insisted that the party leadership should have stood by his appointment instead of caving in and deciding to take over Sabah PKR.

The move, he complained, was lopsided and biased as other state chiefs appointed by the PKR leadership did not command the majority support of their respective state division leaders.

As an example, Pajudin cited Perak and Johor.

In Johor, he claimed, PKR vice-president Chua Jui Meng was only supported by two of the state’s 26 divisions while in Perak, Dr Muhd Nur Manuty was only supported by 10 of the 24 divisions.

“But still, the president appointed them as state leaders and did not intervene in their matters.

“Now, they want to interfere in Sabah… they are using Sabah as a kind of testing ground so that they can create such councils in every state in the future,” he said.

Pajudin added that the leadership’s repeated flip-flop on such crucial decisions for several years now had only widened rifts in the warring factions in Sabah PKR, hampering any of the party’s plan to prepare for the coming polls.

“Looking at things now, the general election seems to be drawing near. Probably in June or July. But in the present situation, they cannot face the polls. They are not ready in Sabah as they are too busy fighting,” he said.

He revealed that the state had no machinery for the polls or any idea over who should stand as candidates.

“I have been there for 12 long years so I know what has been going on,” he pointed out.

It has been one rough patch after another for the troubled PKR chapter of Sabah since 2006 and the state leadership has seen a total of five different leaders.

Following the departure of Awang Tengah Amin as state chief in 2006, every other successor has failed to command enough support to unite the feuding factions.

First to follow was Ansari, today PKR’s Tuaran division chief, but his appointment came under strong opposition from former vice-president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.

Next, PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s right-hand man Azmin Ali was made state chief, resulting in an even louder chorus of disapproval from state leaders.

In 2009, Ahmad Thamrin Jaini was roped in to lead the state but this was yet again rejected as the appointment had not been based on consensus from local leaders.

Supporters of Thamrin’s greatest enemy, Ansari, then began to rally for the former’s removal, leading to the shocking appointment of Pajudin, whose name had never been on the list of potential candidates.

Since then, Jeffrey and a group of other members have left to form their the United Borneo Front (UBF), leaving behind both Ansari and Thamrin’s factions to continue their bickering.

“The thing is that Anwar once promised autonomy for Sabah leaders but this has not been seen for a long time now.

“We have always insisted that we should have a local leader to lead the pack but when I was selected, they refused to back me. How fair is that?” said Pajudin.

He insisted that it had been “untrue” that he had failed to unite the state’s factions and convene state leadership meetings since his appointment on January 9.

“I managed to convene a meeting with the attendance of 13 state division leaders at the party’s headquarters on January 24 — the same day that (PKR vice-president) Fuziah Salleh came to meet with the leaders.

“With 13 in attendance, I had the quorum and we proceeded with the meeting,” he said.

On January 24, Fuziah announced at a press conference that 18 of the state’s 25 divisional leaders had agreed to sign a resolution calling for Pajudin’s removal and for Dr Wan Azizah to take over as interim leader.

“I was with the leaders but suddenly they were called to go to a hotel to meet with Fuziah and then I heard that she announced that I no longer had support and I should be removed.

“How could this decision have been made without me?” he said.