PKR risks irrelevance in Sabah and Sarawak

By Joe Fernandez, Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: No matter how one looks at the political situation in Sabah and Sarawak, PKR risks irrelevance there. Its continuing spin on Pakatan Rakyat’s agenda for change and reform will never work in the two states because it excludes the Borneo Agenda.

Sabah and Sarawak do not fit into the “Malay, Chinese, Indian” mould of Peninsular Malaysia. (Read “natives” for “Indians” for the two states.) Neither are the Sabah and Sarawak natives like the unfortunate Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia. They cannot be wished away from the political mainstream.

Newly appointed Sabah PKR chief Pajudin Nordin’s departure from the party to sign up with Umno tells it all.

Pajudin, in a harsh statement, expressed disappointment in de facto party chief Anwar Ibrahim and the latter’s wife and party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. He accused Anwar, in particular, of “making fools of Sabahans” and “not serious” about handling issues in the state.

Ironically, Pajudin was picked for the post by Anwar himself over the strenuous objections of the overwhelming majority of the 26 division chiefs in Sabah and Labuan. They felt that Pajudin’s appointment would be against the seniority ranking in the Sabah chapter. Besides, it raised issues of breach of protocol.

Kota Kinabalu division chief Christina Liew tried to reason with Anwar during the party’s pre-Chinese New Year supreme council meet in Kuala Lumpur. She suggested that Wan Azizah take over as the Sabah chief until the general election.

Anwar, reportedly, was adamantly against his wife taking over. He pointed out that there were many factions in Sabah PKR, a point which Liew conceded. Still, that did not explain why the state chief could not be elected by peers or, failing that, why the party president could not hold the post temporarily.

Anwar himself was Sabah PKR chief for two months in 2009 before handing the job over to then vice-president Azmin Ali who had to leave, also after two months, under somewhat unhappy circumstances. To add insult to injury, Azmin was accused of flogging Ketuanan Melayu in Sabah, where only the illegal immigrants with MyKads are classified as Malays.

Peace plan

Again, as in late 2010, Anwar could have defused the crisis in Sabah in late 2009 by allowing the divisions chiefs to elect their own leader. Instead, Jeffrey Kitingan’s election was rejected by Anwar – “no way in hell will I have Jeffrey Kitingan, a Christian, as the party chief in Sabah” – and Libaran division chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini was appointed instead as the state chief.

The so-called Sabah peace plan that was drawn up by four party stalwarts – Tian  Chua, Chua Jui Meng, David Yeoh and Michael Bong – managed to buy some time for the party by getting Jeffrey to accept the rejection of his quit letter and winning Thamrin an uneasy peace.

Save for Liew’s appointment as state deputy chief, the rest of the Sabah peace plan was never honoured by Anwar himself. This was one reason why Jeffrey recently quit the party for the second time.

Pajudin was the same mistake that Anwar made with Thamrin. The difference is that Anwar can no longer flog another peace plan in the state after having reneged on the one in late 2009.

There was no alternative, late last month, but for the party headquarters to ask Pajudin to relinquish his post. Anyone in the newly appointed state chief’s position would have felt utterly small and humiliated. So, he struck back in the only way that he could – defect to Umno and, in the process, dredge up PKR’s unsavoury past in Sabah.

PKR is living on borrowed time in Sabah and Sarawak. This issue must be considered seriously by DAP and PAS, PKR’s allies in the opposition alliance, along with SNAP.