THERE is a growing debate in Sabah whether Shafie Apdal’s arrest for corruption will unite the opposition front and benefit Parti Warisan Sabah in the coming GE14. The man on the street sees him as a victim of dark politics, needing to be taken out due to perceived threats to UMNO rule in Sabah.
Those who want a change in government see it as an opportunity for voters in Sabah to rally behind the fallen man. Whether Shafie’s arrest will make him a martyr and translate into sympathy votes remains to be seen.
To wrest the fixed deposit state of Sabah is no easy task. Despite hiccups now and again, Sabah chief minister Musa Aman is a shrewd politician who has managed to keep peace with all the state BN component parties and get on with the state’s development agenda unhindered.
Whenever there is a Warisan gathering, Shafie has managed to draw big crowds and on the surface, it appears that support for Warisan is swelling. But the political situation has changed since Shafie came back to state politics. Many see Shafie as a threat who comes from the east coast of Sabah, a predominantly Bajau Suluk community.
Shafie’s Warisan can only succeeded in wresting the state from BN control if he can strike a deal with the other state opposition parties, especially the factional Kadazandusun opposition parties led by recalcitrant and uncompromising warlords.
Many Sabahans have commented that the likes of Dr Jeffrey Kitingan of Sabah STAR, Lajim Ukin of PHRS, Yong Teck Lee of SAPP, and Wilfred Bomburing of PCS are way past their shelf life. These party leaders have failed to bring young blood and rejuvenate their own parties’ fortunes, preferring to contest among themselves for supremacy.
The local opposition parties have not learnt the lesson from the last state election where they could have won more seats had they not contested against one another. Although the 2013 election results represented a significant swing towards the opposition, it did not result in seat gains.
There have been attempts to put a cohesive opposition front by forming the five-party Gabungan Sabah or United Sabah Alliance. This has failed miserably as PCS led by Wilfred Bomburing have pulled out of the alliance, and may work directly with Warisan and national parties PKR and DAP. If Gabungan remains intact as an alliance going into GE14, they will have to work with Warisan, PCS and national parties DAP and PKR.
The Sabah parties have also been unwelcoming to national parties like DAP and Pakatan Harapan, preferring them to stay out of the next election. DAP stands a good chance in the urban areas where there are large Chinese populations but Pakatan Harapan has credibility problems due to leadership defection over the years. It seems that DAP and Pakatan are also vying for the same seats, making the situation more difficult.
Shafie has been working very hard crisscrossing the state to test the waters and Warisan appears to be the only party at this stage capable of upsetting UMNO’s fixed deposit state. Shafie has refused to work with or join Gabungan Sabah and hinted in his speeches across the state that he does not trust Sabah Star and SAPP leaders.
All eyes are now on Shafie since he has announced that he will reveal Musa’s “dirty secrets” in the current Parliament sitting. If he does, it’s a double-edged sword for Shafie. Even if he reveals the dirty secrets of Musa Aman in a parliamentary privilege, would the dirt stick? Every prominent politician may have a secret file of his or her misconduct, but it does not mean that the person accused in Parliament will be brought before the law.
He may dent Musa Aman’s image, and that’s about all. The election contest will be in the constituencies and not in the comfort of Parliament grounds.
It may also backfire on Shafie as more dirty secrets will be revealed about him and further damage his standing. Not all Sabahans sympathise with Shafie as they see him as part and parcel of the tainted regime.
With the grim scenario of opposition fighting over seats allocation, the social media chatter is very much gloom and doom. Sabahans may be fired up wanting a change of government but the mood of defeatism cannot be concealed.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT