KOTA KINABALU: The main Opposition alliance in Sabah is in a quandary as there are parties within Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) that are fielding independents against its allies.
Senior political leaders of GRS, consisting of Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), are not sure if their partners are working against them or with them in their bid to capture the Sabah government from Warisan Plus led by Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
A national online portal reported that as the 14-day campaign progresses, a Sabah Umno leader said that their boss, state Barisan Nasional chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, was caught in fighting two enemies – Warisan Plus and “unseen” opponents from within GRS.
“Facing Shafie is a straightforward fight, even facing GRS partners in direct collision with our candidates is not as worrying as those running as independents and claiming that they were Perikatan-friendly,” a senior Umno source was said to have told the Star.
The Umno source said since former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman was dropped as Sungai Sibuga candidate, at least 15 independents aligned to him have emerged and some are openly claiming that they were Perikatan-friendly.
The main opposition alliance, GRS, is also in direct competition with partners in 17 seats mainly in Kadazandusun, Murut, Rungus and Chinese constituencies.
“Bung has taken a stand to go all out to fight for all the 41 seats Barisan has fielded candidates and is not taking any chances of any internal sabotage. He wants to ensure Barisan is focused on its candidates to win, ” said the source, who showed pictures of independents with banners “Mesra Perikatan Nasional (Perikatan Nasional friendly)”.
One such case involved incumbent Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman, who is contesting as an independent and was friendly to Perikatan.
On Nomination Day, Saddi claimed that he was contesting in support of Musa.
Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s Sabah STAR confirmed that it had “adopted” incumbent Inanam assemblyman Kenny Chua as a Perikatan-friendly Independent for the seat but denied his party had “adopted” incumbent Datuk Anita Baranting who is contesting as independent in Tandek.
However, Dr Jeffrey said some independents would be joining Perikatan if they win their seats.
“So, they want clear support from us,” he added.
The situation on the ground in the various seats is intriguing and hard to read, political observers said.
They said these independent “warlords” and at least nine parties including heavyweights like Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat and Tan Sri Pandikar Amin, are plunging into the electoral battles that could make or break Warisan Plus and GRS.
Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the split in GRS was centred on their inability to achieve a consensus on the chief minister candidate.
“If there are attempts of sabotage, it would probably come from disgruntled grassroots leaders,” he added.
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak senior political lecturer Dr Arnold Puyok said the internal struggle among the opposition parties would be a disadvantage in their efforts to retake the government from Warisan Plus.
“They look united on the surface but deep within, there’s a lot of misgivings among them,” he added.