BEAUFORT: Two Sabah PKR women campaigners made a cordial “hello” to Sabah Umno chief Datuk Bung Moktar Radin as he sat in a coffeeshop below the Barisan Nasional operations centre in Membakut Jaya.
The place is a relatively new commercial centre in this south-western district in Sabah.
One of the PKR members took a picture with the Kinabatangan MP. But the other who was wearing a T-shirt with the PKR logo on it declined, saying that if the photo goes viral, it may be turned into a political issue on social media.
Bung Moktar told them in a light-hearted manner: “You go ahead and continue your campaign for Parti Warisan Sabah candidate Datuk Karim Bujang. But on polling day Jan 18, you just put the ‘x’ on Barisan Nasional’s Datuk Mohamad Alamin.”
“Tidak boleh, tidak boleh. Tatap Warisan (We can’t do that, definitely Warisan), ” said the PKR member who had her picture taken with Bung Moktar.
The political affiliation of 29,664 voters in Kimanis is blurred now.
Before GE14, it was one big Umno family that held the area for 25 years.
Some of the mainly ethnic Brunei Malay voters are open about their allegiances while others keep their thoughts and support private, only giving a smile or saying “50-50” on the chances of the candidates.
For 76-year-old farmer Sulaiman Matsari at Kampung Sungai Damit in Membakut here, he made it clear that he is behind Umno.
He was upset of losing his ketua kampung (village chief) position after Warisan came to power.
He also claimed the Warisan-led state government and Pakatan Harapan have not kept their promises, such as reducing fuel prices and the cost of living.
Sulaiman also complained about land compensation for the Pan-Borneo highway that cuts through his land.
“They are only paying me RM200 for my one acre land that has over 100 rubber trees, ” he claimed.
Previously, he said during Barisan’s time, they paid RM70 for each tree in neighbouring Papar.
Sulaiman who has 10 children and 22 grandchildren, is also unhappy with Membakut assemblyman Datuk Mohd Ariffin Ariff who left the party to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in April last year.
“He never consulted us. We voted for Umno and him. Instead, he just left the party, ” he added.
Mohd Ariffin, who is Kimanis Bersatu chief, is campaigning for Warisan in the by-election.
A hawker selling beverages at the Membakut market, Rubiah Buani, 38, had no complaints with the Warisan government, adding that the party needed time to work things out.
“They are only in the state government for 20 months. It takes time for change to happen. I will give them a chance in this by-election, ” said Rubiah, a mother of five.
Others, however, preferred to speak on issues affecting the constituency and the people who used to depend on high palm oil and rubber prices.
Some are hoping for more opportunities from the Sabah Oil and Gas Terminal instead of just piping the gas to Petronas terminal in Bintulu, Sarawak.
For Jenah Santori, 58, from Kampung Talantang in Bongawan, it does not matter who wins the by-election as long as the winner looks after the people’s needs in the constituency.
She said the people here still lacked the basic infrastructure despite being only 80km from the state capital.
“Both Karim and Mohamad have served as assemblymen before and now they are going for a Parliament seat.
“My hope is that they will not forget us, ” she said.
Hassan Hussin, 60, from Kampung Tarab in Bongawan, also said whoever wins must deliver what they have promised as Bongawan needs roads and other amenities.
“There is little job opportunities here. Our children are leaving for bigger towns in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, ” he said.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal together with Warisan partners Pakatan Harapan and Upko have been campaigning against a strong and well-organised Barisan campaign machinery.
As the 14-day campaign entered its fifth day yesterday, former Kimanis MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman turned up to support Barisan’s “Datuk Mo”.
Anifah left Umno four months after the May 9 general election to become an independent, but has decided to help Umno in the by-election that is seeing local-based Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Sabah STAR giving their cautious support to the national opposition party.
Local-based parties are calling for a stop of the planned issuance of the Sabah Temporary Pass to long-time immigrants, including Filipino war refugees from the 1970s.
The pass, known with its Malay acronym PSS, is being defended by Pakatan as an effort to streamline and resolve the five-decade old migrant problem.
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