BN members still fighting over SAPP seats
The Sepanggar parliamentary seat which BN component parties are tussling over will be an easy win as there are 3,000 registered postal voters.
KOTA KINABALU: Barisan Nasional coalition members are scrambling to claim constituencies won by their former colleague Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) in the last general election.
Leaders of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), United Pasok Mompogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko), Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and BN’s backbone Umno have all thrown their hats in the ring for their members to contest the MP seats of Sepanggar, Tawau and the state seats of Likas and Luyang.
SAPP, now in the opposition holds the two parliamentary seats through party deputy president Eric Majimbun (Sepanggar) and vice president Chua Soon Bui (Tawau) while Liew Teck Chan and Melanie Chia are the state assembly representatives for Likas and Luyang.
All four had won the seats on BN ticket but the party led by former chief minister Yong Teck Lee quit the coalition on Sept 7, 2008.
PBS president Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan has announced that his party has applied to BN chairman, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, to register the mixed constituency of Sepanggar seat under PBS.
Pairin is basing the party’s claim ahead of other BN coalition aspirants on the shaky premise that PBS enjoys huge support in the constituency.
SAPP proved their contention a fallacy in the Nov 9, 1999 election. The constituency was then known as Gaya. Yong defeated PBS candidate Johnny Goh Chin Lok, now the Inanam assemblyman, 15,315 votes to 11,198 votes. Third candidate Hamzah Abdullah of PAS only managed 729 votes.
However, PBS is this time also in a skirmish with Upko head Bernard Dompok, Pairin’s archival for the Kadazandusun political crown.
Dompok who is the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister announced the party’s claim to the Sepanggar also on the basis of enjoying huge support in the constituency.
The last time Upko’s strength was tested was in the March, 1999 election where its candidate Christine Van Houten, a former civil servant, was defeated in the state constituency of Inanam. The constituency together with Karambunai is within the Sepanggar parliamentary constituency.
BN minnows, PBRS, headed by Joseph Kurup and LDP whose president Liew Vui Kiong is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department have also established bases in Sepanggar but unlike PBS, Upko and Umno, they are not active in the area.
Easier seat for BN
Umno, the main party in the the Sabah BN coalition, can be said to have the upper hand in any tussle among coalition members to contest Sepanggar.
Its divisional head Jumat Idris, is seen as a close aide of Chief Minister Musa Aman, the Sabah BN chief. Idris is also the BN chairman for the constituency.
Incumbent Majimbun is rumoured to be all set to move into state politics by contesting in his home constituency of Inanam.
Majimbun, who is SAPP deputy president, however also disclosed that his party would nevertheless field a candidate to defend Sepanggar.
The Sepanggar MP seat is said to be one of the easier seats for the BN to wrest from the opposition irrespective of who in the BN coalition gets the nod to be the candidate.
Political pundits say the electoral balance is tipped against the opposition here given that there are about 3,000 postal votes registered in Sepanggar.
According to them, based on past election results, postal voters by and large have always proved to be ‘government supporters’.
This is more so in Sepanggar where there is a naval base as it has also been seen in the past that constituencies with a large military presence have always elected a BN candidate.
In the last general election, BN contested in all the 25 MP and 60 state seats. It was a landslide victory for the coalition who only lost the Kota Kinabalu parliamentary and Sri Tanjong state seat to DAP.
However a series of subsequent defections right up to a month ago has allowed the opposition to make further in-roads in the BN’s ‘fixed-deposit’ state.
Meanwhile, apart from the seats now held by SAPP, seat allocation for the Sabah BN members has almost been settled, according to Dompok.
Opening Upko Beaufort division delegate conference over the weekend, he said there was no more problem in seats allocation as all the component parties had been informed of the seats they will be contesting in the elections.