KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s visit to Sabah today and recent claim that a “surprise” would shift the state’s political landscape have triggered speculation that Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders there are joining PKR, including at least one MP, a senator and three political veterans.
Leading the list is Tuaran MP and UPKO (United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation) deputy president Datuk Seri Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing, whom rumourmongers have claimed is almost certain to shift to the opposition party by this afternoon.
A local PKR leader told The Malaysian Insider last night that Bumburing is expected to launch the Kadazandusun’s annual Kaamatan festival today in Kota Belud, an Umno-held federal seat, and Anwar may grace the event at 3.30pm to make the highly-anticipated announcement.
“Bumburing will launch Kaamatan and Anwar will be there around 3.30pm. He (Anwar) arrives (in Kota Kinabalu) at 1.40pm,” the leader said.
If everything goes according to plan, the leader said, more political conversions may be announced by tonight during a party function at the Star City Convention Hall in Kota Kinabalu.
“But no... it will not be a mass crossover. Very unlikely. We do not want to pre-empt anything big now,” the leader said.
“We are most certain about Tuaran (MP). I believe that he has joined our fight, believes in our struggle. The rest... still dangerous to say.”
Apart from Bumburing, the name of Beaufort MP and Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin, who is said to be growing increasingly disenchanted with his party leadership, has also been bandied about of late in the media and within local political circles.
But the PKR source told The Malaysian Insider that there have been much haggling and counteroffers thrown from across the South China Sea as Umno’s top leadership in the peninsula struggle to turn the tide against the opposition in the “land below the wind”.
“So many counteroffers being done since this afternoon. Even as we speak, there are offers being thrown around,” the source said.
The source added that with Anwar’s failed September 16 takeover still hanging over the leader’s head, no one in the party dares to trumpet today’s rumoured mass political conversions, which some have already referred to as “106” (June 10).
“Still dangerous to pre-empt. Four or five? Unlikely. But let’s keep in touch. We will see by the afternoon,” the source told this news portal.
But on micro-blogging site Twitter all yesterday afternoon, talk of the possible crossovers was rife with former Sabah chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee openly naming four individuals who may announce their PKR memberships tonight.
“Just name them lah — Osu (the ex-CM), Sen. Maijol (UPKO), Amir Kahar (the son) and Kasitah (ex-minister). Will it happen?” he posted in reply to journalist Philip Golingai (@PhilipGolingai).
Yong, who leads local opposition party Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), was responding to an earlier tweet from Golingai claiming that “a former Sabah chief minister, a senator, a son of Tun Mustapha, an ex federal minister are on the list of mass political conversion”.
The four individuals named by Yong were former Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Osu Sukam, UPKO vice-president Senator Datuk Maijol Mahap, former Banggi assemblyman Datuk Amir Kahar Mustapha and former federal minister Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam.
Osu, who was chief minister from 1999 to 2011, resigned from Umno in 2005 following allegations that he had accumulated gambling debts of up to RM7.14 million from a London casino.
So many counteroffers being done since this afternoon. Even as we speak, there are offers being thrown around. — PKR source
Amir Kahar, the son of one of Sabah’s founding fathers Tun Mustapha Harun, had previously held the Banggi seat for 22 years before he was axed from Umno’s candidates list for Election 2008.
Kasitah was the former land and co-operative development minister who was charged with two counts of corruption in 2004 but was acquitted in 2009.
“For now, it starts with the Tuaran MP. The others may not... they could still be in for the counteroffers. We cannot say for certain what will happen,” the PKR source told The Malaysian Insider.
Earlier this week, a confident Anwar had claimed during a dinner function of a marked improvement in support for the opposition in Sabah, a known BN fortress.
The opposition leader, when predicting that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would take its seat in Putrajaya after the 13th general election with a “comfortable majority” win, had also hinted of a “surprise” to be announced soon in Sabah.
The “surprise”, he claimed, would change the entire political landscape of the state where in Election 2008, BN had swept up 59 out of 60 state seats and 24 out of 25 parliamentary seats.
Federal seats in east Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak are expected to be PR’s focal point come the elections as both states, including the federal territory of Labuan, make up a whopping 57 seats, or 25 per cent of the 222 Parliamentary seats available.
In Election 2008, BN retained power over the Putrajaya administrative capital largely due to wins in east Malaysia and Labuan, where it made a near-clean sweep, winning 55 seats against PR’s two.
But the ruling pact lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority after only securing a five-seat margin ahead of PR in the peninsula, winning in just 85 constituencies while PR secured 80 seats.
In Sabah, the deep-seated issue of illegal immigrants will likely be used as a key campaign issue in the coming polls, with the Najib administration holding the trump card for having finally agreed to investigate the issue by forming a royal commission of inquiry (RCI).