KOTA KINABALU: A slight “shift” appears to be taking place among several Sabah Umno leaders as the 25 state divisions begin their meetings over two weeks from this Thursday.
Although at least 15 division leaders are expected to return unopposed, keen contests are likely for the others' posts although observers expect some last-minute trading to take place, which may mean even fewer contests.
One of those expected to make way is former chief minister Datuk Mohd Salleh Mohd Said, who despite getting the most nominations from the branches to remain as Kota Belud division chief, has voiced his intention not to defend his chairman’s post.
“I have said it before, I will not contest the division post but I will defend my supreme council post,” said Mohd Salleh, whose move paves the way for a contest between his deputy Musbah Jamli and veteran politician Datuk Yahya Lampong.
Former federal minister Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who was expected to retain his Kota Marudu division post unchallenged, is now facing old-timer Saidi Suari.
In Papar, however, the air of uncertainty ended with state Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail deciding not to take on pro-tem division chairman and former chief minister Datuk Osu Sukam although he had mustered more than enough nominations to do so.
“I had actually submitted my acceptance letter to contest the post but after consultations with party members and some advice from the top leadership, I agreed that there was indeed justification to preserve the status quo,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Osu, a nominated supreme council member, was dropped as assemblyman and MP in the elections earlier this year.
Other areas where contests are expected are Sipitang where deputy Speaker of Parliament Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob is set to take on state assistant minister Datuk Sapawi Ahmad for the chairman’s post and Tenom where former parliamentary secretary Datuk Rizalman Abdullah is being challenged by former state minister Datuk Rubin Balang.
In the usually hot division of Silam, a keen contest is seen for the chairman's post between businessman Yusof Apdal and lawyer Datu Nasron Datu Mansor.
The division’s incumbent pro tem chairman, Entrepreneur Development and Co-operative Ministry parliamentary secretary, Samsu Baharun Abdul Rahman, has decided to defend his deputy post against former assemblyman Datuk Yusof Jamlee who is making a return after being suspended as division head for the last three years.
Meanwhile, Sabah Puteri Umno, during its monthly meeting here on Friday, decided to unanimously support the wing’s national vice-chairman Noraini Ahmad's fight for the Puteri chief post.
It also voiced support for state chief Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin who will vie for the Puteri Umno’s vice-chief post.