Sleeping with the ‘enemy’

By Pushparani Thilaganathan

Rumours are that Angkatan Amanah Merdeka has its own ‘middle’ strategy and it will be Tengku Razaleigh’s hand that will show in a hung parliament post the 13th GE.

There are no real rivals in politics. Reading between the lines in Sabah, you get the impression that everyone’s sharing a room, if not a bed, and the divide merely an illusion.

People and leaders here are hedging their bets – from the grassroots politicos to Chief Minister Musa Aman, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

It’s no longer an issue of loyalty; politics here is all about the right price and “living in the now”.

Take, Anwar for instance. Much was expected of Anwar during his visit to Sabah last weekend. He himself had suggested an “important” announcement.

But none came. June 10, like all other dates previously flagged by Anwar, came and went without a whimper.

The the much-touted “defection” by Upko deputy chairman Wilfred Bumburing and Umno warlord Lajim Ukin did not happen.

Both Bumburing and Lajim are MPs and speculations are that Anwar is aiming to end the current sitting of Parliament with a few more MPs on his side

Bumburing, Lajim and “others” are still likely to jump ship because they have allegedly accepted “gifts” from Anwar.

But a new spin has surfaced in Sabah following Angkatan Amanah Merdeka founder and president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s (Ku Li) visit here on June 3.

Bumburing, who is Tuaran MP, was there when Ku Li, who is Gua Musang MP, spoke to a well- attended crowd at the Kian Kok school hall here.

With Bumburing were Lajim, Maijol Mahap, Osu Sukam, Amir Kahar Tun Mustapha and their respective followers from Upko and Umno Sabah. Also present were grassroots PKR leaders.

‘It’s all a trick’

Everyone said they were there “strictly” on Amanah agenda.

But the point here is that all the Sabah names mentioned have been linked in recent times to Anwar’s shopping cart.

The following weekend on, June 10, Bumburing was in rural Kampung Botung to launch Kamaatan celebrations.

He was to have shared a stage with Anwar, but the weather did not permit such a politically designed “collusion”, and Bumburing was left to launch the event alone.

But Bumburing’s earnest postulation of “I am here as deputy chairman of Amanah” and his detailing of its mission has got people thinking.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) supreme council member Peter Marajin, who attended the event, felt Bumburing’s speech smelt of yet “another trick”.

“He mentioned Malaysia’s founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s assurances to the Borneo people of preserving their rights under the new nation.

“He spoke of Amanah’s aims and goals as espoused by Tengku Razaleigh.

“To me this is another trick to gain support of unthinking Sabahans. Why only now, after 49 long years of discrimination of East Malaysians… suddenly they realise that Sabahans have been unfairly treated by the Malayans.

“Why talk about it and Razaleigh now? He (Razaleigh) was one of the leaders who formulated the policies detrimental to Sabah,” Marajin said.

The key word in Marajin’s statement must surely be “trick”.

Since the June 10 weekend, rumours have surfaced here that Ku Li may be the “invisible layer” of the politics permeating Umno and BN corridors in the peninsula.

According to sources here, even the local opposition parties have welcomed Ku Li’s Amanah agenda.

“It’s not a problem working with Tengku Razaleigh… we have done it before,” said State Reform Party (STAR) Sabah chapter chairman Jeffrey Kitingan yesterday.

He, too, it appears, has heard the rumour and is aware of the current prismatic political climate.

Amanah’s eclectic group of members comprise supporters and opponents of the Umno-BN government.

What is known is that they are all united in a common commitment to see the country placed on the right footing.

Ku Li’s ‘third’ hand

    In Kuala Lumpur, there is a belief that Ku Li may have his own strategy going into the 13th general election.

Talk is that it may in fact be his “cards” that will show up in the event of a hung Parliament.

Ku Li is seen as the “most” acceptable interim prime minister candidate for both Umno-BN and Pakatan Rakyat.

Both sides are anticipating this scenario, with a best-case scenario of 50:50 seat ratio in Parliament.

Anwar, sources here say, is no longer an issue in the country’s political equation. In fact as far back as December 2011, speculations permeating from Umno backrooms suggested that Najib’s emissaries were negotiating with Anwar’s people on a possible end to the endless spew of scandals, police reports and courtroom battles.

At the time, too, Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah’s name was bandied about along the lines of “Anwar must go for Nurul to grow”. But for Nurul to grow, Azmin Ali must go first!

Anwar, like Najib, also has skeletons in his closet and it is unlikely that PAS will find him acceptable as prime minister even if PAS has publicly declared its support.

In which case Ku Li does indeed look like a prime candidate to “bridge” the difference and maybe even raise a new profile for Umno.

According to sources in KL, Ku Li may have his “men” contest under their respective banners – BN and Pakatan. The strategy, it appears, may now have also extended to Sabah and Sarawak.

Ku Li is acceptable in Sabah. He has chalked up points with Sabahans. He is pro-Sabah on the oil royalty and carbotage issue.

He’s also supportive of the Royal Commission of Inquirty (RCI), openly expressing his frustration at the fact that he – a bona fide Malaysian – had to show his passport to immigration on arrival at Kota Kinabalu when illegals with MyKads travelled freely inter-state (from Sabah to Peninsular Malaysia).

The “coup”, for the older Sabahans here, is the re-opening of the Double Six Tragedy which killed chief minister Fuad Stephens and his key Cabinet members.

Ku Li is a living witness to the tragedy and many here believe he has the “truest” story.

Many here deeply believe, too, that it was not an accident and that the incident was closely linked to Stephen’s refusal to sign away Sabah oil and gas rights.

The deal with the federal government was eventually inked by chief minister Harris Salleh, who was immediately promoted from deputy chief minister to succeed Stephens.

‘I spoke to Anwar’

The incident is seen as the beginning of the erosion of Sabah’s rights as detailed in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Meanwhile, Bumburing, as Amanah deputy chairman, may already be privy to Ku Li’s strategy and all this “wait-and-see” gameplan with Anwar could just be a drama-by-design.

Making a point to clarify Anwar’s recent statement that he was indeed talking to Sabah BN leaders, Bumburing said: “I have communicated with Anwar to explain the struggle and philosophy of Amanah.

“I have also got his view of the situation in the country today.

“Amanah promotes a just and equal society. In the course of our activities to promote these objectives, we communicate with all Malaysians on a non-political platform.

“I have also met the Chief Minister [Musa] to explain the objectives of Amanah and he understood it well.”

Interestingly enough, Bumburing’s political boss Bernard Dompok said little on the issue.

Some allege that Bumburing has Dompok’s covert blessings to speak out against the largely corrupt Musa-Najib regime, much like the “buat yang terbaik’ comment Jeffrey received from his elder brother deputy Sabah Chief Minister Joseph Pairin, just after STAR’s launch .

Both Dompok and Pairin are deeply involved with Umno and have lived for far too long in its benevolence. The only route now for them is retirement.

Jeffrey’s largely popular STAR, meanwhile, has already pulled the rug from under Dompok’s Upko, and Pairin’s PBS as well as Joseph Kurup’s PBRS (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) – all native-majority allies of Sabah BN.

Flagging his Borneo Agenda, which incidentally has Ku Li’s support, Jeffrey has made major inroads among the Kadazan Dusun and Murut communities in Sabah so much so that there is a growing confidence that the party could wrest at least 15 state seats in the 13th general election.

All this talk, while not dismissive of rumours that Bumburing and team will jump to PKR, does however offer a fresh take on the politics in Sabah.

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