KOTA MARUDU, Aug 12 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) welcomed today another senior Barisan Nasional (BN) leader into the Sabah opposition front - Senator Datuk Maijol Mahap - in yet another sign of a brewing revolt against the ruling pact in its east Malaysian fortress.
Mahap, a vice-president in BN's Sabah-based United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO), formally confirmed his decision to leave the ruling pact at a function held at his house in Kampung Kokobuan, Kota Marudu, some 100km from Kota Kinabalu this afternoon.
The senator had officially quit from UPKO two weeks ago, following in the footsteps of his party's deputy president Datuk Seri Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing, who quit from BN on July 29.
Speaking at the function attended by over a thousand people here, Mahap expressed his dissatisfaction with the BN government for allegedly failing to resolve the decades of woes raised by Sabah's over three million population, primarily its problem with illegal immigrants.
His reasons for quitting BN were similar with those of Bumburing's and another senior Sabah BN lawmaker - Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin, who had left BN along with Bumburing last month.
"There are so many problems facing with the Kadazandusun and Murut communities and all Sabahans.
"I have fought in UPKO for 14 years and voiced out these issues through various forums.
"But I see that the government is non-committal and not serious in resolving these problems," Mahap said in his speech.
"Therefore, I no longer have any confidence in the BN government to resolve the problems of Sabah and Malaysia.
"With this, my friends and I in Kota Marudu have decided to leave BN and together form this new political platform called 'Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS)' to help Pakatan Rakyat win the 13th general election," he said.
The APS is headed by Bumburing and was launched on June 29, together with another political platform called the Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPS), headed by Lajim.
Today's function was attended by top national and state opposition leaders, including PR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution, PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang, DAP's Kota Kinabalu MP Hiew King Cheu, Sabah DAP chairman Jimmy Wong and Amanah deputy Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Syeikh Fadzir.
The Kota Marudu parliamentary constituency is currently held by federal minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili, who is also the deputy president of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), UPKO's ally in Sabah BN.
In his speech, Mahap also pre-empted an imminent shift in Sabah and Malaysia's political landscape, pointing to the results of Election 2008 when BN lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority.
"To me, all this happened and has continued to occur because of one factor and that factor is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
"He has created a new spirit for change in Malaysia and these changes will lead to a new political system for the country - a two-party system and I support this," he said.
Mahap added that despite his decision to leave BN, he still harboured great respect for UPKO's president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and the party's "corporate culture".
He said he would relinquish all his government posts, including his position as Saham Sabah Berhad chairman, and continue his political struggle through the APS movement.
Speaking at a press conference later, Mahap confirmed that he would hold on to his post as senator, on advice from Anwar and PR leaders.
This, he said, was to enable him to raise the woes of Sabahans in the next Senate sitting from December 3 to 8, this time as an opposition leader. Mahap's term will expire in December.
Defending the decision, Anwar said the leader should stay a senator in order for him to put on record his reasons for leaving BN, which include the government's alleged inaction in paying attention to Sabah's problems.
"My advice was that, and of course it was still up to him to decide, he can explain, make demands in Senate for Sabah. Do not think that it is because he is so desperate to retain his post," he said.
When Bumburing and Lajim announced their crossovers last month, both men had cited their dissatisfaction over the government's delay in setting up the long-awaited Royal of Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Sabah's illegal immigrants problem.
Just days after the duo's departures, however, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told a press conference after meeting with Umno leaders in Kuala Lumpur that he would announce the RCI's terms of reference on August 11, ending the six-month wait following Cabinet's decision on February 8 to form the panel.
The prime minister revealed an eight-point terms of reference in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, after meeting with state BN leaders.