SEMPORNA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak went for the jugular as he took on former Umno comrade Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal in the latter’s backyard.
Firing a pre-election salvo in Sabah’s east coast, Najib turned up at the doorstep of the erstwhile Umno leader and received a rousing welcome from a crowd of 10,000.
Speaking for the first time about his fallout with a once close political ally and friend, Najib said Shafie had hurt him deeply by turning his back on the party’s struggle.
“I was disappointed that when certain situations arose, Shafie stabbed me in the back.
“It hurt to my ribs. When I talk about it, I still feel the pain, especially because it was done by a close friend,” Najib said at the launch of the RM200mil Semporna tourism hub yesterday.
Shafie, the five-term Semporna MP and now president of opposition Parti Warisan Sabah, is widely seen as having a strong grip on Semporna and other areas around the east coast.
Najib told the gathering that a leader is only as strong as the support he gets from his party, and a party can only be strong if there is loyalty to its leader.
“It’s okay if he didn’t like me but I asked for his loyalty not to me as a person, but as the party leader, because if we are loyal to leaders, the party will be stronger.
“As the Prime Minister, I know that I’m not strong because of the name Najib Razak, but because of the Umno supporters behind me, I have strength,” he said, urging the people of Semporna to support Barisan Nasional.
He is confident that the east coast district will stay in Umno’s fold.
Najib, making his first visit to Semporna after Shafie left Umno in 2016, said he had helped him more than he had helped Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
He said he entrusted the former Umno vice-president with bringing development to rural areas through his appointment as Rural and Regional Development Minister, but Shafie did not heed his advice to work with Musa.
“I don’t mind if he doesn’t think about what I’ve done for him. I’ve done more for Shafie than for Musa, I gave extraordinary opportunities to Shafie to become the first Umno vice-president from Sabah.
“But if I didn’t campaign for him, it’s impossible that he would have achieved that.
“Most importantly, I still love the people of Semporna, because you are still loyal to Barisan,” said Najib.
He also promised a raft of infrastructure upgrades in Semporna if Barisan repeats its victory there in the 14th General Election, including upgrading the dual-lane road leading into town to a four-lane carriageway, and building a new bridge to the newly declared sub-district of Pulau Bum Bum.
The Barisan chairman, who arrived in Sabah on Sunday to launch the Tawau International Cultural Festival, later opened the Tawau Urban Transformation Centre there.
In the last general election, Barisan won the Semporna parliamentary seat and its three state seats Senallang, Bugaya and Sulabayan.
In 2016, Shafie quit Barisan and Sulabayan assemblyman Datuk Dr Jaujan Sambakong also joined Warisan.
Senallang and Bugaya remain with Umno and are represented by Datuk Seri Nasir Sakaran and Datuk Ramlee Marhaban respectively.