Galvanising Sabah Opposition Not An Easy Task, Reckons Lecturer

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Shafie, acknowledging the crowd at his homeground Semporna, after he was dropped from the Federal Cabinet last year.
Shafie, acknowledging the crowd at his homeground Semporna, after he was dropped from the Federal Cabinet last year.

KOTA KINABALU: A political analyst reckons that Sabah’s fractured opposition will continue to remain divided even with former Umno vice president, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal offering a new game.

Unimas (University Malaysia Sarawak) lecturer, Dr Arnold Puyok observed that Shafie is unlikely to spark off a united opposition front despite early signs of warming up to his entry in to state politics.

“In electoral terms, as for now, it is going to be Barisan Nasional versus all the warring parties that includes Shafie’s (yet to be named and launched) party, Datuk Wilfred Bumburing (Parti Cinta Sabah), Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan (STAR Sabah), Datuk Lajim Ukin (Sabah PKR) and to some extent, Datuk Yong Teck Lee (Sabah Progressive Party).

Dr Arnold Puyok
Dr Arnold Puyok

“Without fresh leaders with more pragmatic alternative policies, the so-called local opposition alliance will only be good at splitting the votes but not at giving an alternative voice to Sabahans,’’ Dr Puyok suggested.

He reckoned that Shafie who is teaming up with former PKR vice president Darell Leiking to lead the new local based party will face a “tall order” in cobbling together the divided local and national opposition in the state.

“If the new local party wants to win support along the issues of state rights, what difference can they make as the Barisan is also taking on local issues like never before,’’ he said.

He also felt that both opposition PKR and DAP were still relevant in Sabah politics as they had won more seats in the last general elections as compared to the local based parties.

“The fact that the DAP and PKR managed to win seats in the last elections shows that Sabahans are willing to vote beyond local parties. It is lack of vision to develop Sabah within the federation of Malaysia and poor leadership that cause the DAP and PKR to lose popularity,’’ he added.

Several PKR and DAP assemblymen are widely speculated to join Shafie’s party that is to be launched sometime next month.

Dr Puyok also opined that Shafie himself lacked the alternative vision for Sabah and there was a general apprehension about his agenda in returning to state politics that will see many watching him but remain non-committal.

The current opposition big-wigs - Yong Teck Lee, second from left, Bumburing, Datuk Mohd Noor Mansor, a former Berjaya minister, Jeffrey and former Bersih Sabah chief, Jannie Lasimbang, left. Shafie is in touch with this group that calls itself the United Sabah Alliance.
The current opposition big-wigs – Yong Teck Lee, second from left, Bumburing, Datuk Mohd Noor Mansor, a former Berjaya minister, Jeffrey and former Bersih Sabah chief, Jannie Lasimbang, left. Shafie is in touch with this group that calls itself the United Sabah Alliance.

“So far, we have not heard anything new from Shafie as far as the fight for Sabah is concerned.

“Shafie was a former pro-federal leader with little grassroots influence in Sabah. Shafie’s sudden u-turn will put him in an awkward position among Sabah regional champions,’’ he added.

He said issues of who is going to lead the new Sabah-based opposition coalition and whether the local opposition would be willing to contest under a common symbol would be tough to resolve.

A source close to Shafie has disclosed that the Semporna Member of Parliament has been in contact with his fellow opposition leaders, both in Sabah and at federal level, to try and work out an understanding so as to prevent multi-cornered fights in the forthcoming general elections.