BEAUFORT: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal is taking the brickbats in his stride with just about a week to go before voters in Kimanis get to choose between his Parti Warisan Sabah and Barisan Nasional.
His trademark smile tells it all on the hustings with Shafie’s cool demeanour seemingly unnerving his political opponents who have been trying to rattle him with innuendos and even outright slander.
“Let them say what they want We know what we are doing for Sabah.
“We are focused and will not be distracted, ” said Shafie as he forays into the parliamentary constituency with 29,664 registered voters.
By and large, Shafie has been keeping to this script since nomination day.
But he has a lot on his plate.
Not only is he left with the task of carrying his party’s candidate Datuk Karim Bujang, he has also found himself drawn into a national political fight between Pakatan Harapan and Umno.
He has to ward off personal attacks by opponents trying to insinuate that his Warisan is a Filipino party and that the proposed Temporary Sabah Pass (PSS) for foreigners was a mask to give out citizenship to Filipinos.
“What are they trying to say? I want to give ICs to Abu Sayyaf, who is coming and kidnapping my people in Semporna.
“Do they think I want to bring suffering and hardship to my own people?” Shafie told a crowd at Kimanis Estate in Bongawan.
According to him, the PSS is a first step to resolve Sabah’s five-decade-old refugee and migrant problem.
The Opposition is not budging and will continue to harp on this, campaigning that “a vote for the Opposition is a vote against PSS”.
The PSS is among the key issues used by Barisan-Sabah Umno with its local allies Parti Bersatu Sabah, Sabah STAR and former Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman to retain the seat.
On the other hand, Shafie is pushing Warisan’s “Sabah for Sabahan” agenda as he questions the sincerity in giving Sabah Umno autonomy.
“I was the only vice-president for Umno from Sabah and they suspended me for voicing out wrongdoings.
“Do you think Umno will allow Sabah Umno to work independently?” he said in his campaign trails.
Initially, Shafie took a more defensive approach before turning combative of late.
He said Sabahans should not import the politics of Umno and PAS as it was not suitable and could be disruptive to the harmony for a multi-ethnic and multireligious state.
“We are now working with the Federal Government to reinstate state rights, including discussions to increase oil royalty and 40% return of federal revenue taken from Sabah, ” he added.
On paper, both Warisan and Barisan appear to be evenly matched.
But local sentiment and the choice of candidates are two factors that will weigh heavily on the outcome.
Shafie’s personal charm and his ability to reach out to the Brunei Malays and Kadazandusuns with effortless ease may just be the tipping point for Warisan to overcome the well-oiled Barisan campaign.
Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, his deputy Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Sabah Umno chief Datuk Bung Moktar Radin together with senior party leaders are constantly around
to canvass for Datuk Mohamad Alamin, including making “house-to-house” visits in over 135 villages from the eastern foothills of the Crocker Range to South China Sea in the west.
For Umno, Kimanis is its stronghold and the party aims to retain the seat at all costs.
Anifah, who left to become an independent in September 2018, lost the seat after his win was nullified by an Election Court.
Shafie will be making full use of the 14-day campaigning period to win the hearts of some 20,000 Brunei Malays, 8,000 Kadazandusuns and Chinese voters.
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