By : PUSHPARANI THILAGANATHAN
KUALA LUMPUR: With nominations just days away, speculations are rife that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim is engaging Jeffrey Kitingan’s State Reform Party (STAR) in a 11th hour bid to find a solution to what promises to be a crippling election for Pakatan Rakyat if it remains adamant and uncompromising on Sabah seats.
Nomination is set for April 20 and by tomorrow all state Barisan Nasional component parties would have announced their list of candidates.
In Sabah, KadazanDusunMurut (KDM)-based Upko and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) have already announced their candidates. Umno, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are expected to follow suit.
Amidst this, Sabah Pakatan Rakyat is yet to consolidate its list.
A pre-emptive announcement of some candidates by PKR Tuaran division chief Ansari Abdullah earlier this month, which was later rubbished by party deputy president Azmin Ali, has made clear the depth of distrust and angst within PKR members of the PKR central leadership.
As such, these late-in-day “talks” with local parties can only mean that Anwar is troubled.
Barely a week ago, Anwar said he would direct Sabah Pakatan to re-open talks – which he had himself terminated – with Sabah Progressive People’s Party (SAPP).
Anwar had, at one point, ridiculed SAPP when he asked the party to prove its worth. And this too after incessant meetings dating back to 2011 to discuss possible straight fights.
But SAPP sources said today that they have not been approached “as yet and time is running out”.
SAPP is aiming to contest in 20 state and about 10 parliamentary seats.
STAR, meanwhile, is targeting to contest in at least 40 state and up to 20 parliamentary seats.
Word is that STAR, while weak on infrastructure, has a KDM-reach that outruns PKR’s and Anwar knows this.
Thus, this explains the move to reach out to Jeffrey. According to sources, Anwar’s man spoke to Jeffrey late last week and “made him an offer”.
Meanwhile, rippling through the grapevine here are talks that Anwar’s partiality towards Wilfred Bumburing and Lajim Ukin has backfired. Both defected from Barisan Nasional in July last year, pledging their allegiance to Anwar vis-a-vis PKR.
Anwar had left Bumburing to harness the KDMs and Lajim to look into the Muslim votes.
Herein lies the hiccup. Rumours are that Pakatan needs a bulk of KDM votes and that it doesn’t have it yet.
A wily politician
Said a PKR member, who declined to be named: “The situation has changed. The Muslim seats can go anywhere. Lajim has influence over a few Bisaya seats.
“But Wilfred [Bumburing] is in trouble. People don’t trust him. Our members are saying if he [Bumburing] is sincere, then why is he not a PKR member? They will not support any of his candidates.”
Both Bumburing and Lajim are MPs and are likely to defend their Tuaran and Beaufort seats under the PKR banner. Both have also been pushing for their own followers to be given seats and that has not gone down well with members.
But Anwar is going all-out to get Putrajaya and has declared that he needs the numbers from Sabah and Sarawak to cap their quest.
With just days to go before nomination, there is both scepticism and hope in Anwar’s olive branch extended to the Chinese-dominated SAPP and KDM-fuelled STAR.
Anwar is a wily politician who is apt at playing political poker. His is a hand that can either lift or kill you, a fact that both Jeffrey and SAPP president Yong Teck Lee are well aware of.
Both STAR and SAPP have been championing the cause of the Sabahans and the right to determine their own destiny which they alleged the federal government had hijacked decades ago.
Jeffrey, on his part, has been specific with his call to Sabahans to vote local and Pakatan “is not local”.
A political marriage between them, even a temporary one, will as such give Sabahans a fair chance at taking control of the state even if BN decides to plant its “agents” to split the votes.
But thus far there has been no indication that straight fights in Sabah’s 60 state and 25 parliamentary seats are likely.
Sabahans, natives included, are not as mindless as the political folks in Putrajaya wish to believe.
The unprecedented revelations spinning out of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the insidious federal agenda to neutralise Christian natives by legalising thousands of illegal Muslim immigrants to ensure Umno-BN stays in power, the “timing” of the Lahad Datu incursions, the consolidation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) – which houses 11 parliamentary and 30 state seats – and the Petronas “scam” on local contractors have deeply scarred Sabahans.
Looking ahead, the only road left is for Sabahans to reclaim the right to “rule” their state the way they see fit.
The question now is, will Anwar and Pakatan set aside their personal demands and help Sabahans achieve this “right”?
If he does, what will be the price of this tryst?