KOTA KINABALU: The failure of Umno’s leadership to provide clear political direction has caused the party’s largest state base to collapse, with most of its elected representatives and division leaders quitting to become independents.
Sabah Umno liaison committee chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, who led his comrades in making the announcement yesterday, said there were conflicting accounts of the “way forward”, depending on who one consulted at the top levels of leadership.
“We also have to take into account that Umno Sabah has over 100,000 non-Muslim members and any shift in the political direction of the party would jeopardise their continued support,” he said.
Hajiji said it was for those reasons that they had decided to disassociate themselves from Umno, and to have free will in considering all other available options to chart their future in the new Malaysia.
The Sulaman assemblyman said all those leaving Umno had pledged their full support to the Pakatan Harapan government led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as well as the Sabah government led by Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
“We have no bitterness against Umno, only disappointment,” he said, adding that all who had left had benefited from Umno and were given the chance to be appointed as ministers and other important posts.
Asked if those who quit knew which party they would join, he said this was still being discussed and they would likely decide in a month or two.
Hajiji also thanked Umno, its members and the party leadership for having given them the opportunity to serve the country.
“We are leaving Umno with a heavy heart but a clear conscience. We believe that breaking free of past political baggage is the correct decision to allow for political renewal and betterment of Sabah,” he said.
Left behind in the exodus, however, is Umno’s Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokthar Radin.
Exiting Sabah Umno leaders said the controversial five-term MP was not invited by Hajiji, who marshalled the large-scale departure, due to his “political liability”.
Apparently, political leaders at the national level had told state leaders not to bring Bung Mokthar with them due to controversies surrounding him in and out of Parliament.
“They (Pakatan Harapan leaders in Kuala Lumpur) felt that he was a liability,” said a senior Sabah Umno leader on condition of anonymity.
But other former Umno colleagues have said that Bung Mokthar, a party loyalist, is close to party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and does not want to leave.
On Tuesday, Bung Mokthar said he was unaware of any movement out of Sabah Umno and that he was staying put with the party.
Another leader who did not join in the exodus was Sabah’s longest serving chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
Hajiji declined to say anything about Musa being part of the group.
“I did not meet him, he is not around. It is better for you to ask him,” Hajiji said.
Some party men said Musa was aware of the move to leave Umno but did not participate as he had to focus on the court cases involving timber-related corruption charges during his term as chief minister.
Musa, who was Sabah’s longest serving chief minister of 15 years, has kept a low profile and has not attended any of the state assembly sittings in the last six months.
But his son Yamani Hafez Musa, who has yet to be sworn in as Sipitang MP, and his son-in-law Datuk Mohd Ariffin Ariff, the Membakut assemblyman, joined in the exodus.
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