PETALING JAYA (June 17, 2008): By Kong See Hoh
Several Barisan Nasional (BN) top guns, including Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, are in Sabah to pre-empt a domino effect in case a component party quits the coalition as rumoured.
Word that three, and not just one, as hinted by Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, BN component parties from the state may abandon ship have the BN leaders making a beeline for the Land Below the Wind to prevent a shift in political landscape.
According to a report in Oriental Daily News today, aside from the Datuk Yong Teck Lee-led Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), speculation is rife that Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which is headed by Kadazandusun paramount leader Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitinggan, and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok's Upko (United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation) may also leave the coalition.
Upko has four MPs, whereas PBS and SAPP have three and two MPs respectively.
BN controls all 25 parliamentary seats in the state except Kota Kinabalu which went to DAP in the March 8 general election.
If the three parties indeed leave the coalition but opt not to join the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), BN will still have 131 MPs (49 more than PR's) and not under any threat of being toppled, but such a development will serve to boost the Opposition's morale at the crucial time and allow PR to up the ante against BN.
A Sabah Umno man told the daily that Sabahans know the rules of the game well as far as party-hopping is concern.
"(In Sabah) You've to try your best to be both the 'peg' and the 'hole' and you don't rule out any possibility."
Apart from the rumoured rendezvous with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Hongkong and the Philippines, some leaders of Sabah BN component parties are said to have met Tengku Razaleigh, who is eying the Umno No. 1 post, for possible cooperation should the Umno veteran win in the party election.
Anwar, being the one-time Umno leader tasked with Sabah affairs, knows the in and out of Sabah politics, and with the help of PKR state chief, he can create a political storm in the state. The BN top leadership is trying its best to keep the situation under control.
Apart from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who flew into the state today, Khairy Jamaluddin (Umno youth vice-chief) has been in Kota Kinabalu for the past days, and Tengku Adnan (BN secretary-general) arrived in the state on Monday.
Also in the state are Rural and Regional Development Minister Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib and Nor Mohamed (second finance minister).
The report said Nor Mohamed posed the sensitive question of party-hopping during his meeting with Pairin on Sunday but did not get a reply.
It is understood that Sabah parties are asking for the 5% oil royalty to be increased to 20% and want a solution to the problem of illegal immigrants in the state.
Sources told the daily that although several BN component parties in the state are considering quitting the coalition, they have no intention of joining PR yet.
This is seen as a tactical move to keep their bargaining power.
But this will no doubt lend credence to PR's plan to take control of the federal government by Sept 16, or Malaysia Day.
A poll being carried out by SAPP (http://sapphq.blogspot.com) showed 42% of the respondents believe the party should leave the BN, 47% say it should join PR and only 9% want it to remain with the coalition.
The report said the three parties have different reasons for wanting to leave the BN – from grudges with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to 'sibling' rivalry.
It is understood that SAPP was not happy that it was not given the Kota Kinabalu seat to contest, and Yong felt he was denied the chance to contest the election as a result.
Rubbing salt to his wound was the fact that after the election the Liberal Democratic Party's only MP, party president Datuk V.K. Liew, was named deputy minister of international trade and industry, when his SAPP, which has two MPs, did not get any post.
Upko's Dompok cannot see eye to eye with the federal government on certain religious issues.
There is also talk that Dompok is also not happy that he was given only the post of Minister in the Prime Minister's Department whereas PBS No. 2 Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili is holding the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister's post.
It is also an open secret that Dompok is not on good terms with Musa.
On the other hand, PBS has made no secrets of its anti-illegal immigrant sentiments and its resentment that the federal government is not doing very much to overcome the problem.