December 9, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – The winds of change are blowing again in the Land Below the Wind with Bersatu’s grip on Sabah looking set to come to an end.
Its key leaders in the state are expected to ditch the party, with even Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor leaving to become a “direct” member of the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition before the new Parliament meets on Dec 19.
Sabah Bersatu currently has 15 assemblymen and four MPs.
Sources said the move was aimed at making GRS a totally local-based coalition group without any national parties, similar to Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
The state government is helmed by a GRS-Barisan Nasional partnership.
The sources said the move is aimed at solving the dilemma Sabah Bersatu is facing with GRS’ support for the unity government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The federal Bersatu leadership, led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is opposing Anwar’s government along with its Perikatan Nasional partners.
Sabah does not have an anti-hopping law and this will allow the assemblymen, who won on a Perikatan ticket in the September 2020 state election, to quit and become GRS members.
“The MPs also will not be affected as they contested on the GRS symbol during the just concluded national elections,” sources said.
The sources said the GRS constitution allows for the coalition to also operate as a political party although its membership now consists only of political parties.
Apart from Sabah Bersatu, the other political parties in GRS are Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Sabah STAR, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and Usno.
There has also been talk that the state Bersatu members will join Usno en bloc but this has been denied by GRS secretary-general Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.
“The Usno rumour is absolutely not true. Give us a few more days on direct membership of GRS,” he said.
However, he did not want to comment on any possible move by Sabah Bersatu assemblymen and MPs.Any such move by the Sabah Bersatu elected representatives is not likely to affect Hajiji’s position as Chief Minister.
“Basically, the assemblymen will remain with GRS but no longer as members of Bersatu,” said a source.
Such a decision will also strengthen the Bersatu assemblymen’s position in the state amid speculation that Sabah Barisan, led by Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, might team up with Parti Warisan led by Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and Sabah Pakatan Harapan.
Barisan with 17 assemblymen, Warisan with 19 and Sabah Pakatan with seven can cobble together a simple 43-seat majority in the 79-member assembly.
Bung Moktar has so far given an assurance that Sabah Barisan will continue to work with GRS.
Following last month’s general election, Warisan, GRS and Barisan have all thrown their support behind Anwar’s unity government.
Another GRS component, Sabah STAR led by Keningau MP Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, has left Perikatan to be with the national unity government.
Only SAPP led by Datuk Yong Teck Lee remains a member of Perikatan.
PBS, led by Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili, is not with Perikatan but remains a GRS member.
In the general election, GRS and Barisan had an electoral pact which saw GRS winning six of the 13 parliamentary seats it contested while Barisan won seven of the 12 seats allocated to it.
Perikatan fielded Bersatu vice-president Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee as its sole candidate in Beluran.
Kiandee retained the seat but was dropped by GRS for standing in a seat allocated to Barisan.