FORMER-MINISTER-TURNED opposition leader Shafie Apdal predicts that Barisan Nasional will be voted out of Sabah in the next general election, citing the pragmatism of Sabahans who have previously voted out two ruling parties.

“Sabahans have made up their mind and are ready for a change of government,” Shafie told The Malaysian Insight at his Taman Golf View home in Kota Kinabalu recently.

The Parti Warisan Sabah president said Sabah Umno would soon follow the path of United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) and Berjaya, two ruling parties voted out by the people.

Shafie, a former Umno vice-president, said Sabahans, whom he termed as “pragmatic” people, have never shied away from using their votes to express dissatisfaction with a ruling party.

“Sabahans have made up their mind and are ready for a change of government,” he said.

“Unlike voters in Sarawak where BN has inculcated fear in them, Sabahans are risk-takers. They are saying: ‘Don’t take us for granted’.

“Sabah has always been noted for changing its government.”

Usno came into power in 1967 but was defeated by Berjaya, a party founded by Usno dissenters, in the 1976 state election.

Berjaya was then defeated by Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), a party formed by Berjaya dissenters, in 1985.

His prediction of BN’s losses in the state come the next general election was based on the overwhelming support his new party, Parti Warisan Sabah, has been enjoying in Sabah’s eastern coastal towns.

“If you look at a newly born party like Warisan, which is hardly known to many people in Sabah, we have done quite well,” said Shafie during the breakfast interview.

Shafie launched “Seri Jelajah Parti Warisan” in October last year, where he embarked on a meet-the-people tour. The tour, which ended last weekend in Penampang, revealed a great tide of dissatisfaction among Sabah folk, said Shafie.

“I realised that I had to make the people aware of why we needed a change because it’s not purely about changing the leadership, from one chief minister to another, from one prime minister to another prime minister.

“It is a need for us to make structural changes in the system, changes for the betterment of the people.”

Shafie also spoke in detail about issues and challenges facing Sabahans, why he believes there will be a wave of voters turning away from BN in GE14, and his thoughts on whether Warisan will eventually form an opposition alliance in Sabah.

Below are excerpts of that interview.

Q. You’ve come to the end of your jelajah tour with last weekend’s session in Penampang. Do you think you have convinced the grassroots that Warisan is the way to go?

A. Well, I must say in our engagement with the people, we have been able to conclude that a tsunami is coming to Sabah these elections.

Every day, our party members are going to the ground to increase the number of members. It’s non-stop.

I’m quite sure by now, the people know better what their position is, their rights (under the Malaysia Agreement 1963) and what they really want.

This time, Sabahans know what they will do in the elections.

Q: What are the challenges in making inroads into Sabah politics with a new party? How much of an influence has Warisan made so far?

A: They (rural electorate) are not so sure which group of people, figure or party they should follow because there are so many parties in Sabah.

They have so many choices because there are so many parties from the interior.

They have so many leaders from their community, people like Pairin (Deputy Chief Minister and Parti Bersatu Sabah president Joseph Pairin Kitingan), people like Dompok (president of the United Pasokmomogun Kadazan Dusun Murut Organisation, Bernard Dompok), people like Jeffery (president of Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku, Jeffery Kitingan), people like Bumburing (Parti Cinta Sabah president, Wilfred Bumburing) to choose from.

So how do I attract these people, entice them and make sure they are on board with us?

We spell out our plan, like mapping out what it is going to be in the future, what the administration will do when we are empowered. We talk about employment, how we are going to do that.

We talk about security, we talk about state-federal relations, we talk about race relations in Sabah which are crucial.

When we organise functions, we don’t provide money. To an extent, some provide their own transport to come from far to join us, and they come in numbers, big numbers, so that is something pleasing to see. The people don’t just come because they want to listen to me. I believe they come because they want to know more.

Q. You also spoke a lot about the independence of the chief minister and why Sabah does not need a chief minister who’s twiddled like a puppet on a string from Putrajaya.

A. That’s the reality. That’s what the people really want. For Sabahans, they do not want someone who can be dictated to, whether from KL or from businessmen.

That is why I have also clearly said, whoever wants to be a candidate of this party should not be involved in business.

We know politicians need money but they should not be bogged down, competing with business people and the business community. It is very dangerous. You can hardly move because you are dictated by these business people, people who have been sponsoring you. The new deal for Sabahans is to have a line-up of people who are not tied up.

Q. You don’t seem keen to form alliances with opposition parties in trying to topple Umno in Sabah. What then, are your chances of toppling Umno or BN?

A. To topple the government, if you look at history, right from day one of Usno, Berjaya, PBS, it is not because of the formation of alliances. It is the united force of the people.

That is why “Jelajah” was done. It is the people’s unity that is paramount. It is not Jeffery Kitingan, it is not (SAPP president) Yong Teck Lee, it is not Wilfred Bumburing, it is not (Prime Minister) Najib (Razak) or (Chief Minister) Musa Aman who will decide who will be the next government. It is the people.

If I were to go on the formula of forming alliances, I know these guys… Jeffery, Lajim. I’m not accusing them of anything, but the possibility of these guys being tied up is there. Why take the risk with the trust that the people have given us?

We want to change, but at the end of the day, we probably could be changed by an alliance. We will probably see people “jumping” because they had been bought over by money.

We might regret it (not forming an alliance) but it is better to regret now than later. It is a lot easier to get support from the people rather than say, Yong Teck Lee. Also, if we were to form an alliance, there is the complexity, the demands of the parties involved. Going straight to the people is easier. They know better who they want.

I wouldn’t say there would unlikely be an alliance. I wouldn’t say that I am closing the door or shutting them out. Politics is very dynamic. What is important and the first thing on my mind is winning the elections. I cannot be so stuck up to say that we should go alone.

At the end of the day, what is the point fighting alone and the people not getting what they want.

Q. Can you comment on the presence of DAP, PCS and PKR leaders at your jelajah events?

A. Well, they want to know and hear our objectives. We welcome everyone who wants to come and attend our functions. They are Sabahans anyway.

Let’s have an open mind. What’s important is we all want to topple BN, our common objective.

The elections are about how we can topple BN.

Q. You’ve talked about the large number of people becoming members of Warisan. Do you have any numbers?

A. I have not counted them but we have printed more than 300,000 membership forms. We have distributed them and some members have even printed their own forms.

So, you can imagine it’s more than 300,000 that we have already registered as members.

New members are not only from other opposition parties, they are also from BN parties – Umno, PBS and Upko.

Q. What now after jelajah?

A. The end of the jelajah in Penampang does not mean it’s the end of our drive to reach the people. We will continue our efforts to reach out to as many as possible, wherever they are, to make sure that we can connect with them and show them we know how strong their support is towards the party.

We will have town hall concept meetings where we can have a dialogue.

We want to give these people an opportunity to ask any questions, air their grievances, their fears and even listen to suggestions on what we should do when we form the government.

Q. Will the general election be called early?

A. I’m not too sure but I know Najib, and he’s a person who does not like to take risks. It’s a risk for him if he’s to call an early election. Whatever it is, whether he calls it now or tomorrow, the people have already decided.

Not yesterday, not last month. If he calls for the elections tomorrow, they already know who they want.

Q. Do you expect more personal attacks?

A. That’s normal. When I was in the government, they say “this guy is good”. All of a sudden, when you are out of the government, you become the “lanun” (pirate).

These are the pirates, gangsters, spoilers, opportunists. That’s how the system functions.

What really counts at the end of the day is that we are not really judged by our speeches. We are judged by our deeds. People will trust us by how we do things. – April 2, 2017.