Slighted by Anwar, SAPP out in the cold

Anwar Ibrahim’s ‘new warlords’ Lajim Ukin and Wilfred Bumburing together with their ‘parties’ appear set to assume Pakatan’s role in Sabah.

Luke Rintod, FMT

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) appears to have parted ways with Pakatan Rakyat after initially showing signs of building ties with the peninsula-based opposition coalition.

The fallout stems from PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim informing SAPP president Yong Teck Lee that Pakatan was now bringing in Lajim Ukin and Wilfred Bumburing as his new trusted warlords in Sabah.

That decision was made known last month in a meeting room at a hotel here when Anwar met Yong and Jeffrey Kitingan, the Sabah chapter chairman of Sarawak-based State Reform Party (STAR).

Since then, Yong has not appeared at Pakatan functions unlike in the past when he made an effort to attend nor has he sent senior members to represent the party at such events.

His latest snub of a Pakatan function was the Sept 15 gathering in Tuaran of Pakatan’s top leaders to mark the 49th anniversary of Malaysia Day.

In the past Yong would have been loath to miss an event like that since the Sept 16, 1963 date of the formation of Malaysia has been was high on SAPP’s agenda. However he did not even send a junior party leader to the function hosted by Lajim and Bumburing in the grounds of a restaurant.

The event was staged to show Sabahans that Pakatan leaders empathised with them about how Sabah and Sarawak were equal partners with Malaya in the formation of Malaysia but had since been reduced in status equivalent to those of the peninsula states.

Yong would not have wanted to ignore this gesture as among those present with Anwar were PAS president Hadi Awang, Penang CM and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim along with senior Pakatan component party leaders Tian Chua, Mohamad Sabu, Mustaffa Ali, Husam Musa and many others.

The fracturing of ties can be traced to the closed-door meeting last month as soon after the brief meeting with Anwar, Yong left with his waiting SAPP colleagues to his residence near here and not long after issued a statement that his party was interested in contesting in Sepanggar, Penampang and Kota Kinabalu.

He specifically mentioned the three parliamentary seats that Pakatan component DAP is eyeing as a direct challenge to the coalition’s influence in the state.

Anwar’s new warlords

DAP is the incumbent in Kota Kinabalu through Hiew King Chew, a former SAPP man himself who quit to join DAP.

According to the political grapevine, Yong and Kitingan are irked by the inclusion of Lajim and Bumburing in the opposition equation and Anwar’s declaration that Pakatan now has five components with APS (Angkatan Perubahan Sabah) and PPS (Pakatan Perubahan Sabah) joining PKR, DAP and PAS.

APS is headed by Bumburing while PPS by Lajim. The two were in the meeting room with “guests” Yong and Kitingan along with PKR vice president Tian Chua and DAP MP Teresa Kok and Anwar’s aides. No one from PKR Sabah was present.

Yong and Kitingan were accompanied by senior leaders from their parties but they were not included in the meeting with Anwar.

According to those familiar with discussions, Anwar signaled that APS and PPS would be the main players in Sabah even duplicating some of PKR Sabah’s role and the message to Yong and Kitingan was “we now have them, so are you coming in or not?” or more bluntly “we can do without you”.

The meeting lasted only 20 minutes, according to insiders who said that Yong was also irked by Lajim’s condescending tone after the meeting when he allegedly told the SAPP president that he could help deliver Lahad Datu constituency to SAPP.

The assumption that Yong and his party would need outside help in his own hometown was seen as a slight, according to party insiders.

Two days after the meeting with Anwar, Yong and his men turned up at the United Borneo Alliance (UBA) fourth meeting to meet Kitingan.

Some have taken that as a signal that SAPP could be working with Kitingan’s STAR instead to counter the Pakatan-Lajim-Bumburing tie-up.