Surprises in Sabah politics again

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 02 Aug 2012

Sabah MPs Datuk Wilfred Bumburing (Tuaran) and Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin (Beaufort) have openly declared their support for the opposition. The question now is, how effective is their rebellion?

SABAH seems to have a penchant for surprises whenever a general election is near.

On Sunday, two of its MPs - Datuk Wilfred Bumburing (Tuaran) and Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin (Beaufort) announced their decision to support the opposition through a new political platform called the Sabah Reform Front.

Bumburing left as deputy president of the Kadazandusun-Murut based Upko, while Lajim was an Umno supreme council member and a Federal housing and local government deputy minister.

On Tuesday, Yang di Pertuan Agung Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah stripped Lajim of his deputy minister's post.

Both are veteran politicians who came together with Tan Sri Pairin Kitingan in 1984 to form PBS, which went on to defeat the then ruling Berjaya party and chief minister Tun Harris Salleh.

In 1994, Bumburing left PBS to be part of the new Upko party, which he founded with Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

In the same year, Lajim joined Umno and became a key leader who helped to expand the party to Sabah.

It was said he “opened the way” for leaders from the once-powerful Usno party such as Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, Tan Sri Sakaran Dandai and Datuk Seri Osu Sukam - to enter and grow in Umno.

Briefly between 2002 and 2003, Lajim was a deputy chief minister.

Now, some 18 years later, he and Bumburing are on the move again with the hope of ri-ding into Putrajaya with their new benefactor actually their old nemesis Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Pakatan Rakyat de facto head is hoping the defection of the two men would make a big dent in the Barisan Nasional's chances in Sabah.

Admittedly, both, in their own and limited way, can damage the Barisan's chances but not in the way Anwar is hoping.

Anwar needs the Muslim and Kadazandusun votes if he wants to win Sabah and its 25 parliamentary seats. Lajim is there to convince the Muslims while Bumburing is to do the same for the Kadazandusun.

The question now is, how effective is their rebellion?

Can they make significant gains in the state for Pakatan and for the ethnic groups they lead? Can they deliver the state to Anwar and help him march to Putrajaya?

While both might have clout in their own respective areas, they have little traction across Sabah and across its multi- ethnic people.

Bumburing was slated to be dropped as a candidate and the Tuaran seat given to Wilfred Madius Tangau, the Upko secretary general who was said to have been persuaded to “loan” it to Bumburing in 2008. Lajim too is reportedly being dropped.

Two emotive issues are being exploited illegal immigrants in Sabah and the state's share of oil royalties.

At his departure function from Upko and the Barisan on Sunday, Bumburing said of the illegal immigrants issue: “This is the mother of all problems.”

In a delayed video broadcast on the TV Merdeka Rakyat website, he said there had been a 390% increase in illegal immigrants in Sabah since 1985.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced a royal commission of inquiry would be formed to look into the issue but he has yet to announce its terms of reference and the members.

Lajim is a leader of the Muslim Bisaya indigenous group of Sabah, centered around Beaufort, but unlike Bumburing he is not speaking out against the illegal immigrants.

He is vague on why he is resigning from all posts in Umno and the Barisan but the story is that he has been promised the chief minister's post if Pakatan takes the state.

For Bumburing, it is an uphill task to do what Pairin did in 1985 unite the disparate ethnic groups and topple the state government.

Pairin was the Huguan Siou (paramount chief of the Kadazans) and justice was on his side because Harris had misused his authority and angered the people.

Bumburing has none of these happening for him and is clearly opportunistic.

The passage of time might have jaded Pairin and he might have lost touch with a new generation of Kadazandusun, but he remains their paramount chief.

Nobody has yet acquired enough clout to replace him.

Yes, the winds are blowing but not strong enough to sweep away the state government or win for Anwar the bulk of the parliamentary seats. He will find it tough to march into Putrajaya.

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GE13 , Sabah , Wilfred Bumburing , Lajim Ukin , Tuaran , Beaufort , Upko , Umno


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