BEAUFORT: An even fight remains as the battle for Kimanis enters its halfway mark and both Barisan Nasional and Parti Warisan Sabah raise the ante to woo voters.
Both sides are accusing each other of spreading lies, playing money politics and deceit during ceramah as party campaigners go knocking on doors of the 29,664 voters of mainly ethnic Brunei Malays, Kadazandusuns and a small Chinese community.
The Brunei Malays, who make up the largest community of the 20,000 bumiputras who were once the backbone of Umno in controlling the constituency, are now split between Umno on one side, and Warisan and its partner Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia on the other.The Brunei Malays, who are a tightly knit community of big and influential families, are keeping their choices close to their heart as they look at the options between a local-based Warisan or a rebranded and “fully autonomous” Sabah Umno.
A political observer believes the community is torn between their past affiliation with Umno and growing support towards Warisan and Bersatu now.
Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal who is pitching to maintain Sabah’s brand of multiethnic and multireligious harmony is seen as the central figure in softening the ground for Warisan.
Shafie made inroads in the constituency during GE14, riding on a “Sabah for Sabahan” platform.
Despite the departure of its key Umno leaders for Warisan and Bersatu following the last general election, local observers said support for Umno was still intact among the older generation.
“You have a large group of hardcore Umno supporters but the question is how much can the party bring back what they lost, ” the observer said, adding that Umno’s focus of campaign “Ubah Balik” (Change Back) was not gaining much traction among the youths.
Umno, now working with local Opposition – Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Sabah STAR – is pushing their campaign against the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS) among the 8,000-strong Kadazandusun community to tilt the elections in their favour.
Warisan vice-president Datuk Peter Anthony and Upko president Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau are also utilising the PSS issue.
To further convince the people, Shafie also claimed that he has the official letter by former PBS president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, approving PSS in 2015 when it was known as Kad Resident Sabah.
Umno president and former home minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi denied that Barisan had ever approved it.
PSS remains the “weapon” against Warisan as it pushes “a vote for the Opposition, is a vote against PSS” in the contentious decades-old migrant problem.
Despite this, a cool Shafie told a crowd at Kampung Tengah Bongawan that based on support from various groups, Warisan should be on the way to victory in Kimanis.
He said Warisan had the support of both incumbent assemblymen Datuk Mohd Ariffin Ariff (Bersatu-Membakut) and Dr Daud Yusuf (Warisan-Bongawan) together with other groups.
Not giving in, Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said Barisan and Umno were making “good progress”.
“To me, it is still 50-50, ” said the vocal Kinabatangan MP, who spearheaded Barisan’s campaign in the semi-rural constituency.
Barisan’s candidate Datuk Mohamad Alamin is taking on Warisan’s Datuk Karim Bujang in a straight fight.
Its former MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman is throwing his support behind Barisan.
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