KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s powerful and influential Aman family seems to be kicking off a fresh political game ahead of the state polls.
The close-knit family is now seeing former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman nudging his elder brother Tan Sri Musa Aman to call it a day.
This takes place about a week after Musa failed to topple Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s state government, which led to the July 30 dissolution of the Sabah state assembly.
Anifah’s call to his brother came as a surprise to many and sparked speculation ranging from a political rift in the family to a design for the younger brother to take over the reins.
But is Musa finally preparing to let his younger brother take over? Others wondered if there were real differences between them.
The family has been linked to Sabah politics since their eldest brother Datuk Ayub Aman was part of the Berjaya government (1976-85).
Musa was Sabah’s longest serving chief minister, serving for 15 years until he was ousted after the May 2018 general election.
Anifah’s latest message to his sibling was a “friendly reminder to his 69-year-old brother to allow for a transition to new leaders,” said political observer Dr Arnold Puyok.
“He (Anifah) is telling his brother, we are in this together but let me take the lead,” he said.
There has been much talk about the family in a state where personality and patronage drive the politics.
Anifah, who took over as president of Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) recently, is trying to offer an alternative local-based party as he takes on the incumbent Warisan Plus led by Shafie and the loose coalition of Perikatan Nasional allied parties.
The role of Musa, who is Sabah Umno’s lone assemblyman, within the party has diminished.
He was seen working with assemblymen aligned with Sabah Bersatu in his bid to topple the Shafie state government.
Sabah Umno under Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Moktar Radin has kept a distance from the attempted political coup.
His position leading Sabah Umno was strengthened recently with the national party leadership rallying around him.
Musa’s position within Umno is still unclear amid purported political frictions with Bung, who is seen as the key man who kept Sabah Umno together when most of its leaders left to join Bersatu in April 2019.
But despite having no position, Musa remains influential among the current crop of Sabah
“It is not easy to take him out of the equation as he is still a force to be reckoned with,” Puyok said.
“Don’t forget Musa has 32 assemblymen who are with him. His ability to convince them to support his move to oust Shafie is quite an incredible feat.”
Musa’s son Yamani Hafez is Sipitang MP; his son-in law Datuk Ariffin Ariff is the Membakut assemblyman. Other extended family members in elected positions are Datuk Ghulam Khan (Kawang assemblyman) and Datuk Zakaria Mohd Idris (Libaran MP).
Though some see the coming state election as a time for Musa and Shafie to settle their score once and for all from the aftermath of the power grab following the hung assembly of the 2018 general election, others see it as a fight between Shafie’s Warisan Plus and the loose coalition of Sabah Barisan led by Umno, Sabah Bersatu, Parti Bersatu Sabah and Sabah STAR without the Musa factor.
Anifah is seen to be the “third force” but his success would depend on the new leaders and personalities PCS can draw into the party as it plans to contest more than half the 73 state seats at stake, Puyok said.
For now, Anifah has stated that he loves his brother and that political differences in any family are not uncommon.
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