By THE BORNEOTODAY TEAM
SANDAKAN: The two-day working visit to Sabah by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has got tongues wagging that the Premier wants to see for himself how prepared the Sabah Barisan Nasional is, since they want early elections.
The Prime Minister got into town here at 9.05 Friday night, accompanied by his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
They were welcomed by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, his deputy Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan and several state ministers.
Political pundits say that despite reports and briefings by various personnel and agencies, the Prime Minister wants to assess the situation for himself, and he has scheduled at least one meeting with Sabah Umno leaders.
“Officially he is on a working visit to launch some projects and do a walk-about in Sandakan and Putatan, but he is really here to get his own feedback on early polls sought by the Chief Minister,” a well-connected source said.
“There are some loose ends that he wants tied up first before he gives the green light,” added the source who claimed that while Musa wants elections based on the current 60 seats, there are others who want the additional 13 new seats incorporated first before polls should be held.
MUSA MUST HAVE HIS REASONS FOR EARLY POLLS
The 13 new seats that are proposed are Bengkoka (parliamentary constituency of Kudat), Manggaris (Kota Marudu), Pintasan (Kota Belud), Pantai Dalit (Tuaran), Darau (Sepanggar), Tanjung Dumpil (Putatan), Limbahau (Papar), Tulid (Pensiangan), Telupid (Beluran), Sungai Manila (Libaran), Lamag (Kinabatangan), Segama (Silam) and Kukusan (Kalabakan).
Earlier this week, a Sabah Umno team is understood to have briefed the national leaders as to why early polls would benefit the State BN, with the ruling coalition confident that given the current scenario (of a disjointed opposition) they could win 55 – 57 seats (out of 60).
Although Musa himself had previously rubbished snap polls as a media fiction, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, on a recent visit to Sabah let the cat out of the bag when he remarked.
“I am sure that the Sabah Chief Minister has strong reasons to make such a proposal (for early polls),” though he added that an official study as well as an in-depth analysis must be conducted on the feasibility of early state elections before any decision is made on the matter.
Zahid had also then said that the issue will be discussed in detail with Najib Razak, who is chairman of the BN.
Sabah had previously gone along with general elections which is not due till the third quarter of 2018, though there has been talk that GE14 could be held later this year.
On Friday, Najib is scheduled to officiate the Hardcore Poor Housing Programme in Lupak Meluas here, before joining the congregation at the Lupak Meluas Wasatiyyah Mosque for prayers.
SABAH STATE ASSEMBLY TO MEET APRIL 6 – 13
In the afternoon, the prime minister will go on a walkabout at the Sandakan Harbour Square before heading to Kota Kinabalu.
On Saturday, Najib is scheduled to launch the Pan Borneo Sabah at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sindumin, Sipitang and go on another walkabout at Tamu Putatan before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.
When met at a function in Kota Kinabalu, Parti Bersatu Sabah secretary-general, Datuk Johnny Mositun, who Sabah Assembly deputy speaker, told reporters that the Sabah state assembly will meet for six days between April 6 and April 13.
He however declined to entertain speculations on whether it would be last session before dissolution of assembly saying that it was up to the Chief Minister and Barisan leadership to decide on such matters.
Although several dates for the dissolution of the Sabah State Assembly have been given previously, the latest date being mentioned is April 13.
Pundits say the Election Commission is likely to hold Nomination Day on April 21 with polls to be held on May 5.
They say these days are the most ideal as it would avoid several key events taking place at this time.
Christians in particular, have begun their holy month of Lent, with Easter falling on April 16. Good Friday is on April 14 and in Sabah it is a public holiday.
May 1 will see the launch of the 2017 Kaamatan celebrations, while fasting for Muslims in the month of Ramadan is expected to begin towards the end of May.
Elections are normally scheduled for during the school holidays as a number of schools are usually used as polling centres, but the suggested polling day of May 5 is a Saturday.