Intrigue within Sabah Umno

(FMT) – Politics in Sabah is never boring and it is again taking on the air of a soap opera complete with prima donnas, villains, scoundrels and clowns waiting in the wings before going centre stage in the second biggest state in Malaysia.

Come Feb 16, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will be in Sabah again for specific programmes in Sipitang, Tawau, and of course in the state capital where he will get the chance to meet all Barisan Nasional leaders.

But, insiders claimed, it is not always the public functions that matter, but what goes on away from the spotlight and in the shadows where such skulduggery belongs.

Sabah has only 25 parliamentary seats, a mere fraction of the 222 nationwide, but it has a crucial power that can make or break the BN and Najib.

Apart from being one of the three richest states in term of natural oil and gas resources and contributing a major chunk to the federal coffers, Sabah is considered a BN “fixed deposit” and if it falls so will Putrajaya.

BN currently has nearly total control in Sabah, having lost only the state capital seat to DAP in 2008 and then later another two in Tawau and Sepanggar when one-time Umno ally, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), left the coalition soon after the last general election.

SAPP had tried to use a revolt against former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to call for the overthrow of the BN, but the move fizzled and hastened Najib’s ascendance to power.

Rivalry within Sabah Umno

Many believe it will be smooth-sailing for the BN again in Sabah. On the surface yes, but a deeper study shows that there could also be disaster ahead for the BN if Najib mishandles Sabah in the coming polls.

Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR, many observers believe, mishandled Sabah matters on the approach of the last general election, which resulted in Sabahans, especially Christians, deserting the opposition camp.

BN’s current concerns in Sabah are the sizeable native Kadazandusun population who control a substantial number of parliamentary seats and could be shifting support to the State Reform Party or STAR brought in by former PKR leader Jeffrey Kitingan.

If the Kadazandusuns move en masse to the opposition it could spell trouble for the ruling coalition.

Najib’s other concern is the “rivalry” within Sabah Umno.

Political analysts and insiders said the issue involves Chief Minister Musa Aman, Umno vice- president Shafie Apdal and, to a certain extent, State Legislative Assembly Speaker, Salleh Said Keruak.

“Musa, buoyed by solid support from peers like Salleh, still wants to serve as chief minister but Shafie, having been elected Umno vice-president, also wants to show his ability to develop the vast state,” said one analyst.

Another analyst, who also requested anonymity, added: “Mind you, Shafie is the envy of Musa and others as his Rural and Regional Development Ministry carries no less than RM4 billion yearly worth of development funds and he is quite independent in disbursing some of the funds in Sabah.”

Thrown into this mix is Umno stalwart Lajim Ukin, who is rumoured to be moving to another small Sabah political party.

 …read more on Lajim matter settled, Rosmah factor, and It’s a gamble in Sabah