‘Resignation of Sabah Bersatu leaders for political survival’

The en masse resignation by Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) leaders on Saturday was to provide stability and prevent Sabah from becoming an opposition state, say analysts.

(NST) – Dr Firdausi Suffian said Sabah “could not afford” to be an opposition state, therefore the move to resign from Sabah Bersatu was vital to ensure cordial relationship between the state and federal governments.

“It has to do with political survival, because if they don’t quit Sabah Bersatu, then where is their stand? They are part of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) (which is in support of the unity government), but at the same time, Bersatu at the federal level is the opposition.

“In Sabah, we cannot afford to be an opposition state, because the government function is very centralised. It could put a strain on the state if ever the federal government decides to flex its muscles,” he told the New Straits Times.

The political economist from Universiti Teknologi Mara Sabah also said the exodus would not have any impact on the Dec 19 vote of confidence for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“Technically, Anwar has enough numbers from Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.”

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Dr Azmi Hassan said there would be a difficult relationship if GRS remained as part of Perikatan Nasional (PN).

He said while PN was against supporting Anwar’s government, GRS, however, made the decision to work with Anwar.

“This is the trigger point (which caused Sabah Bersatu leaders to resign).”

He said it was debatable whether Sabah Bersatu could survive in the state, despite a takeover from veteran politician Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee.

“Sabah Bersatu has always been about Bersatu in the peninsula. Similarly to Sarawak, any party heavily related to a party in the west, will find it very difficult to survive.”

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Dr Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, disagreed that the move was merely for political survival.

The political analyst said there was a “bigger aspiration” ahead that the leaders wanted to achieve, which was the formation of the Borneo Bloc.

“GRS and GPS have many similarities, especially in fighting for Sabah and Sarawak’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and (having) one-third of the parliamentary seats from the two states.

“Today’s federal government is a unity government, so there is no question of Sabah worrying of becoming an opposition state.

“When GRS collaborates with GPS to form the Borneo Bloc, the representation from Borneo will become stronger,” he said.

Last Saturday, Sabah Bersatu leaders, including all of its elected representatives, announced that they would leave the party.

Sabah chief minister and state Bersatu chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the decision was made after taking into consideration the political situation in the country, especially in Sabah.