Sabah Umno MP says defection a rumour, but keeps exit door open

(The Malaysian Insider) – Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin dismissed talk today that he was part of a Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) crossover to PKR, but insisted “nothing is impossible in politics”, adding that he will make a switch if desired by his constituents.

Although the Beaufort MP told reporters that the speculation was likely because “I speak like I am in opposition” but that he has made “no decision to leave and no offer has been made.”

“This is just speculation because I speak like I am in opposition. But it is not because I am against the government but I want improvements to my constituency. We have faced problems like flooding for over 15 years.

“But nothing is impossible in politics. If the public wants me to go, I will go, if they want me to stay, I will stay,” he said.

Lajim (picture) also said that because of his independent stance, “the speculation could have started internally with the intention to sideline me from BN.”

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s visit to Sabah yesterday and recent claim that a “surprise” would shift the state’s political landscape had triggered speculation BN leaders led by Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing would join PKR.

Besides the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO) deputy president and Lajim, who have both been very vocal on local issues such as flood mitigation and a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) on the problem of illegal immigrants, the list also included a senator and three political veterans.

But Bumburing’s move, expected during at afternoon event in Kota Belud, did not materialise despite both PKR and UPKO leaders telling The Malaysian Insider his defection was imminent.

Even the Tuaran MP added to the speculation last night by playing coy when questioned by The Malaysian Insider on the matter, saying: “Nothing happened now, I will let you know when it happens.”

“I have to be careful with what I say in front of reporters,” he added, laughing.

Other individuals named as potential defectors were former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Osu Sukam, UPKO vice-president Senator Datuk Maijol Mahap, former Banggi assemblyman Datuk Amir Kahar Mustapha and former federal minister Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam.

Last week, a confident Anwar had claimed during a dinner function of a marked improvement in support for the opposition in Sabah, a known BN fortress.

The opposition leader, when predicting that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would take its seat in Putrajaya after the 13th general election with a “comfortable majority” win, had also hinted of a “surprise” to be announced soon in Sabah.

The “surprise”, he claimed, would change the entire political landscape of the state where in Election 2008 BN had swept 59 out of 60 state seats and 24 out of 25 parliamentary seats.

Federal seats in east Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak are expected to be PR’s focal point come the elections as both states, including the federal territory of Labuan, make up a whopping 57 seats, or 25 per cent of the 222 parliamentary seats available.

In Election 2008, BN retained power over the Putrajaya administrative capital largely due to wins in east Malaysia and Labuan, where it made a near-clean sweep, winning 55 seats against PR’s two.

But the ruling pact lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority after only securing a five-seat margin ahead of PR in the peninsula, winning in just 85 constituencies while PR secured 80 seats.

In Sabah, the deep-seated issue of illegal immigrants will likely be used as a key campaign issue in the coming polls, with the Najib administration holding the trump card for having finally agreed to investigate the issue by forming a RCI.