KOTA KINABALU: Suspended Umno leader Datuk Jumat Idris, who was dropped from defending the Sepanggar parliamentary seat, has made peace with the man who replaced him as the candidate and pledged his loyalty to the party.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us forget problems of the past. Look ahead and focus on winning the elections,” Jumat told his supporters at a thanksgiving dinner at his residence on Sunday.
“The party leadership has chosen ... and we have to respect the decision.”
Jumat was suspended from Umno for six years in 2015 following his Facebook postings critical of other leaders, including Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
His suspension was subsequently reduced to three years and is due to end later this year.
Tension had been brewing in the Sepanggar parliamentary seat, which includes the state seats of Inanam and Karambunai, ever since word got around that former Kota Belud MP Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan would be contesting there.
Jumat is a popular figure in Sepanggar and his supporters were unhappy with the decision.
Jumat, who said he got a phone call from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last week, said he wanted to clear all doubts about his loyalty to the party.
“I am a Barisan man and I am loyal to the prime minister,” he said, putting to rest talk that he would defect to other parties like Parti Warisan Sabah.
“I believe Abdul Rahman can deliver,” he said, to roars from the crowd at the dinner.
Abdul Rahman also made a surprise appearance at the gathering.
“Together, I am confident that we will retain the seat,” he declared.
Abdul Rahman will be squaring off against Warisan’s Datuk Azis Jamman and Parti Cinta Sabah’s Robert Sopining.
Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, who was also present, said he would do all he could to have Jumat’s suspension lifted.
Reading out his WhatsApp conversation with Najib, Dr Salleh said he told the Prime Minister that it was unfair to suspend Jumat who had been loyal to the party.
“When I asked him to reinstate his membership, he said ‘yes, we should’,” Dr Salleh said.