Reports by Muguntan Vanar, Philip Golingai, Stephanie Lee and Kristy Inus. Pix by ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE
The Peninsular Malaysia Gelombang Biru (blue wave) of Barisan Nasional swept into Sabah, delivering a victory for the opposition coalition in the Kimanis by-election.
The wave of Tanjung Piai, which Barisan’s MCA had recaptured, crossed the South China Sea to the state which bucked the Pakatan Harapan losing trend in 2019, when DAP won the Sandakan by-election.
It is a sweet victory for Umno and Barisan which disintegrated in the state after they lost in GE14.
Almost all of its 17 assemblymen and seven MPs left Sabah Umno except for Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Warisan and Upko.
Barisan also collapsed in Sabah with local-based parties like PBS, Upko, LDP and PBRS leaving the coalition.
The victory showed that despite Umno and Barisan’s implosion, they were able to rise from the ashes.
The result also proved that Umno’s machinery worked well. Its supporters have stayed loyal with the party even though Datuk Ariffin Arif, the assemblyman of Membakut, which is one of the two state seats in Kimanis, had left Umno to join Bersatu.
Datuk Mohamad Alamin (Barisan’s Umno) faced Datuk Karim Bujang (Pakatan Harapan-allied Warisan) in a straight fight for Kimanis.
The constituency, about 60km from Kota Kinabalu, is sandwiched between the eastern foothills of the mountainous Crocker Range and the South China Sea.
There are 29,664 voters in the constituency with some 20,000 Muslim bumiputra who are mostly Malay Brunei, about 8,000 Kadazandusun, and fewer than 1,000 Chinese and others.
The Kimanis seat was declared vacant after the Federal Court, on Dec 2, upheld the Election Court’s ruling that nullified Umno’s four-term Kimanis MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman’s 156-majority victory in GE14.
Anifah, who quit Umno to be an independent, is backing Umno in the Kimanis by-election.
Barisan has framed the Kimanis by-election as a referendum on the controversial PSS (Sabah Temporary Pass for illegal immigrants). It is saying that a vote for Barisan is a vote against PSS and that a vote for Warisan is a vote for the proposal.
Some analysts thought that it was the wrong strategy for Barisan to focus on the PSS as it was an issue that was complex and would only attract mostly the Kadazandusun voters.
But, Barisan hoped its campaign would jangkit (infect) the voters.
From the result, it looks like a majority of Kimanis voters rejected the PSS.
The Federal and Sabah governments have to reconsider whether they should push for the PSS as it is an explosive issue among Ori (original Sabahans).
The defeat of Warisan is a bitter result for its president and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal who campaigned hard in the constituency.
He wanted a “menang bergaya” (winning with style) majority of 5,000 to cement his party’s grip on the state.
Until polling, Warisan leaders were confident that it would win by a 3,000-majority. But as the results trickled in after voting closed, they were in for a shock.
There is talk among Warisan politicians that Bersatu, its Pakatan ally, had let it down by failing to deliver votes.
On why Umno won Kimanis, a veteran Sabah politician said: “PSS and Membakut (referring to the state seat which Bersatu held after the assemblyman ditched Umno).”
As the government of the day, Warisan had the advantage.
However, a majority of the voters had politically matured and were not worried whether they would receive “development” if they voted for the Opposition.
The gelombang biru capsized the Warisan’s sailing ship logo in Kimanis.
It will force the over-confident Warisan to rethink its campaign strategy. It will also draw local Opposition parties like PBS and PBRS to review their decision to abandon Barisan.
It might be the beginning of an Ubah Balik (change back) to Barisan in Sabah.