Bersatu not welcome in Sabah, says Shafie

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Sabah CM Shafie Apdal (left) says his party Warisan supports PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bersatu and will only cooperate with the peninsula-based party.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 – The door is closed to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) in Sabah, with Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) President Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal confirming that his party has decided not to allow Bersatu to spread its wings to the state.

At a Christmas and New Year celebration in Kadamaian, near Kota Belud, yesterday, the chief minister however, confirmed his full support for Bersatu, saying that cooperation with the party at the federal level and the prime minister will be maintained, Bernama reported.

“Warisan has established cooperation with Bersatu since the 14th General Election last year and had from the beginning, stated its support for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister,” he was quoted as saying by the national news agency.

He made no mention of Pakatan Harapan nor any of the other component parties in the ruling federal government.

Shafie also said he wanted Warisan to focus on administering the state well.

“I had also experienced including serving for 30 years in several federal ministries during the previous government administration, so let me have the opportunity to administer Sabah which has been for seven months so far,” he said, according to Bernama.

Ex-Sabah Umno MPs, state reps keen on Bersatu

The issue of Bersatu going to Sabah, after its entry into Sarawak in November, was raised after nine out of the 10 state assemblymen and four out of the six MPs from Sabah Umno left the party early last month, declaring themselves as independent lawmakers for now. Most of the Sabah Umno division chiefs also announced that they had quit the party in the same press conference.

Speculation has not stopped since then on these former Sabah Umno leaders and grassroots joining Bersatu, with even Dr Mahathir recently commenting that they could join Bersatu even if the party was not in Sabah.

Unwritten understanding between Warisan, Bersatu

In response last month, Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking, who is the federal International Trade and Industry Minister, said Dr Mahathir had promised prior to GE14 that Bersatu will not step foot into Sabah.

He added that he was confident Bersatu President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will also take the same approach to honour the understanding even though it was not written.

According to Leiking, the unwritten understanding remains as the basis of the good relation between Warisan and Bersatu.

“I want to stress that there is an understanding between Warisan and Bersatu which is not written but the matter had been raised by Tun Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin before GE14.

“We would like to maintain the understanding. Warisan will continue with the party’s struggle independently but will support and cooperate with PH until the take over of the government on May 12 and since then our relations with PH has been cordial,” he was quoted as saying.

Bersatu not a minnow anymore

Regardless of Bersatu entering Sabah or not, the status of Bersatu as the minnows in Pakatan Harapan has been drastically changed with the departure of so many Sabah MPs, state assemblymen and division chiefs from Sabah Umno, and pledging their allegiance to Dr Mahathir.

With the nine Warisan MPs and the four who have left Sabah Umno, the total support for Mahathir and Bersatu increases to 35 MPs. That will give it more leverage against PKR (50) and DAP (42) in the Dewan Rakyat.

Some have argued that Mahathir is willing to accept these ex-Umno lawmakers in order to strengthen PH’s position by getting a two-thirds majority in Dewan Rakyat.

With the 10 seats – Sabah (4) and peninsula (6) – the total MPs from PH, Warisan and Upko (Sabah) and those friendly to PH now totals 139. That is still nine short of the 148 needed to hold a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

– NMT