KOTA KINABALU: Senior state Umno leader Datuk Seri Anifah Aman says he quit the party in the interest of Sabah rights.
The Kimanis MP said he would remain neutral in Parliament and support the current government’s moves to restore Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the federation as announced by Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad on Malaysia Day.
“I am doing it for Sabah.
"I know if I stay in Umno, I will be subject to party whip to vote against any bill the current government tables to restore our rights.
“If I vote against the party whip, I will face disciplinary action. I have decided to leave the party and remain independent to support moves by the current government to restore Sabah rights,” said the former foreign minister, who is the younger brother to former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
Anifah said that he was not a part of any group planning leave Umno and denied his decision was linked to Datuk Mustapa Mohamed’s decision to leave the party on Tuesday.
“My conscience tells me that I have to protect Sabah interests, and I am ready to provide Pakatan Harapan the two-thirds needed for restoration of Sabah rights,” he said.
Anifah said he had always supported state rights under Malaysia Agreement restoration agenda in the Barisan Nasional government and was ready to assist Sabah irrespective of political difference.
Anifah's move is likely to see more Sabah Umno MPs leaving the party, though many of those thought to be on the way out could not be reached.
Sabah Umno won eight MP seats in the general election in May, and Anifah is the first to leave.
Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin, who is not close politically to Anifah, has also indicated that many more MPs would be leaving.
Sabah Umno is now led by Sulaman assemblyman Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, who could not be reached for comments on Anifah's resignation, which was faxed into the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday.
Sabah Umno, which won 17 state seats, has already lost seven assemblymen who decided to move to an independent position, while some joined the ruling government’s Parti Warisan Sabah, Upko and PKR.
Though Anifah is insisting that he would be independent, political talk has it that Sabah Umno leaders led by Hajiji is likely to reshape itself into a new Sabah-based party with or without Umno’s blessings.They are said to be planning to pursue their political struggle through Gabungan Bersatu Sabah, which currently consists of Parti Bersatu Sabah and Parti Solidartiti Tanah AirKu (Sabah STAR).