THREATENED......Jeffrey Kitingan has threatened legal action against those spreading rumours that his party Star is being financed by Umno to split the opposition vote.
By : LUKE RINTOD
KOTA KINABALU: If politicians and supporters are holding out for a pre-election pact between the State Reform Party (Star) and the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), they best forget it.
Both parties’ words and actions point to it being a lost cause. But leaders on either side are nonetheless keeping alive the ‘line’ that they are working on a deal which opposition supporters in the state and are hopeful of hammering it out in time.
They have been maneuvering for this since the beginning of the year and if nothing else, their periodic shout outs for a deal has proved they are no closer to it since they first indicated they wanted one.
It is an indecisiveness that has allowed non-local parties to inject themselves into state politics since 1963 and determine the state’s direction. SAPP can only win seats if it allies itself with another party or group of politicians, which explains it’s need to reach out to DAP, PKR and Sabah Star.
On its own, SAPP would find itself in a difficult position if it also had to fight on two fronts.
Star may be in a favourable position if supporting crowds can be translated into real votes. Based on their sources they believe they could win in poverty-stricken Kadazandusun areas.
The numbers put forward is up to 10 of the 60 state seats and more than five of 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah and one Labuan.
Realistically, observers say, Star and SAPP must work together with remnant supporters of Usno under the United Borneo Alliance (UBF) concept of Borneo leaders taking charge of their political destiny.
SAPP can say they are close to hammering out a deal with the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, but Star Sabah is looking at these dealings with discomfort and a hint of alarm.
SAPP for all intents and purposes is already within Pakatan while Star is adamant that it is independent of both the opposition and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalitions.
Star had said it would only ally itself with state-based political parties before the election.
But talk is also beginning to surface that Star is being financed by Umno to split the opposition vote and that Jeffrey has been given RM100 million.
For his part, the Star chairman has denounced the rumour and has threatened legal action to stop it.
“I requests Sabah Star members, should you hear of any such talks, to jot down the name of the person saying that, the date, time and place so that we can sue the individual in court.
“To be sponsored by BN is akin to the coalition saying “here take this knife and kill me with it … isn’t that stupid?” asked Jeffrey.
“We are here to topple BN-Umno so it does not make sense that Sabah Star is sponsored by the coalition,” he said after officiating Sabah Star’s Wiranita (Women) Wing convention here on Wednesday.
Jeffrey also accused fellow opposition parties of spreading the rumours to stop Star’s rising popularity.
Party officials claim its membership has risen to about 200,000 members since its inception here 10 months ago and is the envy of other parties.
“They are scared that their members will join Star which is growing in strength and gathering force as time passes. This shows that Star is strong and they are scared of the party.
“It also reflects their desperation because when an individual starts to bad mouth a friend, it shows that the person either has a problem or is desperate. In this case, it is the opposition parties that are desperate to reduce the support and influence of Sabah Star,” said Jeffrey.
No truth in rumours
Speaking to reporters after officiating the conference, Jeffrey in brushing away the party’s alleged Umno link, also said the another rumour was also going around.
“It said Star was paid RM20 billion – RM1 billion for each of the 20 Points of the special powers it is fighting to have restored to Sabah,” said Jeffrey.
Making it known that he does not trust SAPP, he called on its party leaders to declare if it would be working with the peninsular-based opposition parties or with local parties like Star.
“SAPP needs to make a decision whether they want to be with Borneo Alliance or PR (Pakatan) so that the issue of a straight fight against BN can be resolved.
“By making public its allegiance, the issue of seats allocation between Star and SAPP can be resolved,” said Jeffrey.
He was commenting on Yong’s recent statement that Pakatan and SAPP were discussing seats distribution and the party would hold talks with Sabah Star on the same matter soon.
Yong said the two parties were expected to meet in “two to three weeks” time to “fine tune” their election stand.
“We want to close the door for discussion with any party,” he told local reporters last week when asked about the outcome the negotiations between SAPP and fellow oppositions parties in the Sabah.
However, Jeffrey yesterday shot down chances of talks, saying: “If they (SAPP) decide to join Pakatan then we do not have to worry about the seats allocation anymore because they will decide among themselves and we can plan our own strategy.”
“We have to discuss and finalise the seats distribution but the problem at the moment is that we are not sure where SAPP stands.
“Are they negotiating with Pakatan, or are they with the Borneo Alliance? If they decide to work with Pakatan then SAPP will be part of the Malaya Agenda as we see BN and PR (Pakatan) as the Malaya Agenda while we see ourselves as Agenda Borneo,” he said.
SAPP must choose
Acknowledging that both Star and SAPP have been keeping in touch with each other as both have a common ground, which is fighting for the state’s autonomy, Jeffrey however said that both seem to to differ in approach.
“We want to work with PR but at a different level. We do not want them to bully us or to control us.
“We want to work together as equal partners not as subservient partners. We have talked with SAPP about seats but we have yet to finalise anything,” he said.
While Star sees this election as Malaya Agenda versus Borneo Agenda, SAPP has a more politically practical strategy.
As Jeffrey himself said yesterday, only if the 13th general election returns a ‘hung’ parliament, would Star work with Pakatan because “we want change and before we commit anything we will make our demands first and that is the realisation of the Borneo Agenda.”
But the enigmatic Jeffrey also said that if BN won Putrajaya hands down and if Star won in the state election, his party would work with BN instead as “it has no choice”.
So while Star is open to any partner, SAPP’s position, however, is clear cut support for Pakatan. But one must also remember that SAPP won its few seats in 2008 because of Umno’s help, while it was in BN.