A New Year, A New Vehicle And A New Harapan For Lajim

Lajim with his wife, Datin Seri Panglima Hajah Normilah Siong, in this file photo taken during a ‘buka puasa’ event at his Beaufort residence earlier this year.
Lajim with his wife, Datin Seri Panglima Hajah Normilah Siong, in this file photo taken during a ‘buka puasa’ event at his Beaufort residence earlier this year.

By THOMAS THAM
COMMENT: Awal Muharram (also called Maal Hijrah) celebrates the beginning of the Islamic New Year. Harapan means hope. Perhaps PKR Sabah chief, Datuk Seri Lajim Haji Ukin finds Sunday an auspicious occasion to announce his future in politics. It is the worst kept secret that Lajim, the state lawmaker for Klias, will be quitting the national opposition party which he headed since 2013.

Today, Lajim is expected to officially announce that he would be leaving PKR; whether on his own or with others is left to be seen. But whether he will announce his new vehicle, which many of his aides and rivals think will be Party Harapan Sabah, is not yet clear. Lajim has been known to change his mind at the snap of his fingers. He has been eluding the media for some time now, promising to meet up with reporters, but not turning up as promised.

One thing is clear though – he will not be following in the footsteps of his one-time, young ally, Penampang MP Darell Leiking. Darell quit PKR in late September to team up with former Umno vice president, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, for a ‘under-process’ Sabah-based, multi racial party. But that is a separate story.

Apparently, Lajim had had a few words with Shafie and even discussed the possibility of teaming up with the Semporna MP under one party. Nothing favourable to Lajim worked out as Shafie had hinted that he would prefer fresh faces in his new party, and that Lajim had overstayed in his political career. Lajim seems to think that he would fare better with a Sabah-based party as the winds of change gather momentum, hence his setting up his own party.

Lajim however, does not have much clout statewide. Even as PKR Sabah chief, he was unable to galvanise the party. He is fairly strong in Klias, his home base, as well as in the Beaufort parliamentary constituency. Other than that, the veteran politician who was previously in PBS, before switching to Umno in 1994, and later to PKR, is a nonetity. Retaining Klias is not a foregone conclusion anymore. In fact in 2013, he went past the post by a whisker.

Who tags along with Lajim is left to be seen. Only Api Api Assemblyperson, Christina Liew, is still undecided. Will she team up with Shafie and Darell, or carry on with Lajim, can only be answered by herself. She is holding her cards very close to her chest.

But Lajim can forget about having Terence Siambun, who won in Moyog in 2013, and Roland Chia, of Inanam. Siambun is very much a Leiking man, and it is only a matter of time before he joins the MP.

As for Roland, he will not budge from PKR, as being an Azmin Ali (PKR deputy president) ally, he will have more to lose than gain. Ironically, the departure of the other elected lawmakers from Sabah PKR boils down to Chia, who is said to be very tight-fisted with party funds as far his his colleagues are concerned.

As such, PKR Sabah will not close shop as widely speculated. There will be many YB-wannabes who think that with the departure of the elected representatives, now is the chance for them to step into the vacant shoes.

The bigger picture is whether PKR Sabah will still have a role to play in GE14. With the setting up of Shafie’s party, and a Sabah based opposition coalition, the federal-based opposition parties could be told to take a hike. That’s left to be seen though.

Coming back to Lajim, there is talk too that he is being sponsored by a wealthy Barisan Nasional chief, to be the spoiler in the Sabah opposition. Whether this is true or not, you can come to your own conclusion. Setting up a state-wide party is not a cheap affair. It will require millions of Ringgit and whether Lajim has that sort of funding remains a doubt.

Whatever it is, Lajim will be facing the media at 2.00pm at a Sembulan hotel, so read a Whatsapp message from his trusted ally, Taufick Ruschi. The invite was also extended to all loyalists of the Klias strongman (he first won the seat in 1986 on a PBS ticket).

It will be curious to see who sits at the same table with Lajim, but expect the same old tired faces. No surprises will be in store.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer.