BN feigning unity in Sabah
Sabah Umno, which already has a giant share of the state and parliamentary seats, is greedy and wants more.
KOTA KINABALU: As the countdown to the 13th general election edges towards a fixed date, the ruling coalition is showing signs of strain with bigger parties attempting to muscle in on the turf of their smaller partners.
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) joined the queue lobbying to take over candidacy for the Pensiangan MP seat or one of the two state seats – Nabawan and Sook – in the parliamentary constituency.
The problem is, the Pensiangan MP seat is now held by federal Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Joseph Kurup who helms Barisan Nasional coalition partner Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS).
It is well known that there is little love lost between PBS and PBRS and now the frayed threads that hold the Umno-led ruling coalition are being exposed once again as they always are before an election.
To gain a higher profile in the state assembly, PBS headed by Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan is also laying claim to another state seat that comes under the Keningau parliamentary constituency.
Pairin is Keningau MP as well as Tambunan state assembly representative. The two other state seats within his parliamentary constituency, Liawan and Bingkor, are shared by Umno and PBS spin-off, the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko).
Sairin Karno of Umno is the Liawan representative and Upko’s Justin Guka sits in Bingkor so based on the coalition’s power structure, Guka’s seat is the target as PBS plays second fiddle to Umno in any realignment of seat allocation in that parliamentary constituency.
Over in Pensiangan, the state seats of Nabawan and Sook are held by Bobby Ah Fang Suan of Upko and Ellron Angin of PBRS respectively. Here PBRS is in PBS crosshairs.
The problem is Kurup who won the MP seat uncontested in the 2008 election is the sole MP from the party while Angin is the only assemblyman for the party in the 60-members State Legislative Assembly.
PBS’s demand for the extra seats came during the annual general meetings of the PBS divisions of Pensiangan, Sook, Bingkor and Liawan recently.
The calls were made with the full support of Pairin, and the motions were quickly endorsed by him as logical as he said the constituencies were traditionally the stronghold of his party
since it was formed in 1985.
In fact PBS controlled almost all the state and parliamentary seats until Pairin’s government, then in the opposition, was toppled by the BN in 1994 when it won just 25 of the 48 state assembly seats.
Umno showing claws
The party’s elected representatives, seeing the writing on the wall, jumped ship as a matter of political survival.
Kurup was among them. He ditched PBS to form PBRS. Other formed new political or joined Umno.
PBS delegates of the Pensiangan and Sook divisions under the leadership of former MP Bernard Maraat have long memories and want the party to be given at least one of the two seats in the next election.
However, another shark in the form of Umno is circling.
The main component in the ruling coalition which already has the giant share of state and parliamentary seats in Sabah, registered its intention to make a bid to takeover the Pensiangan constituency or one of the state seats under its jurisdiction.
Kurup responded to the implied threat that should he be dropped, BN could expect an exodus of PBRS members out to support the opposition in the election.
Maraat, on the other hand announced that if the seat was given to Umno to contest, he would offer to contest as a BN-friendly independent candidate.
Bingkor PBS division chief Peter Jino Allion has claimed that the party is far more established in the constituency compared with other BN component parties whose weakness was demonstrated by a decline in votes in the past two elections.
He said the BN leadership should not underestimate the opposition in Bingkor.
However, he was careful to be respectful to Umno saying: “Bingkor PBS will support any BN candidate who contested and would ensure the victory of the candidate.”
He suggested that the BN leadership appoint party leaders in Bingkor and Liawan – who are not selected as candidates – as a senator or an appointed member of the state legislative assembly to strengthen PBS under Pairin’s leadership.
His proposal however is all nonsense according to political pundits familiar with Sabah’s post-1994 election tactics and the cut-throat world of Sabah politics.
“They (party leaders) are trying to keep every one in line by promising them rewards if they don’t get to contest seats in the election.
“They have to keep making way for others and everyone knows an elected position is a money-spinner. They all want their share of the pie,” said one former BN supporter who requested anonymity
PBS, whose traditional support-base is shaky is also worried that BN’s much hyped ‘Janji Ditepati’ (Promises Fulfilled) slogan has not gone down well in Sabah.
Allion said as much when he asked that all projects approved by the government be implemented before the 13th general election.
Such is the fear that the party and the BN may not do as well in the coming election.
Party leaders have also called on their members to quit NGOs that have criticised the government and coalition leaders.
“Members of the party and BN must defend their leaders by leaving these NGOs and struggle alongside their parties,” Allion said recently.
With Pairin’s image tarnished since rejoining the BN and Umno (his once bitter foe) even his position as PBS president has come under attack and senior party leaders who know they lack credibility without the community’s Huguan Siou (Paramaount Chief) are running scared.
Meanwhile, Liawan PBS division deputy head, Zachary Kinsik, has proposed the tried and tested BN candidate quota system be scrapped altogether, a suggestion first made by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
He also said that the number of seats held by Umno should be reduced as recommended by former premier Mahathir Mohamed and that the distribution of seats and power sharing should be fair and transparent.