FORMER chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman continues to be an enigma in the 16th Sabah election.
Dropped as a candidate by his Sabah Barisan Nasional successor Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, Musa is widely speculated as the “invisible” third force in the run-up to the Sept 26 snap polls.
While the main battle is seen by many to be between Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Warisan Plus, political circles believe that Musa is working through Independent candidates and even with Perikatan Nasional’s Sabah STAR and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) to be a third player in the game.
The longest serving chief minister of Sabah for 15 years, Musa was denied his chance to defend his Sungai Sibuga seat by Bung Moktar and is now seen to be focused on “knocking out” not only his arch enemy Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal but also Bung Moktar.
Sources believe that Musa is gradually building potentially “friendly assemblymen” to fight his new rivals with observers strongly suspecting that he is behind at least 15 Independents in the race, some openly claiming to be Perikatan-friendly.
This raises questions as to whether Musa is really in the play or just a shadow figure in one of Sabah’s most complex and intriguing elections where friends are fighting friends and enemies become friends.
In the early part of the campaigning period, Musa kept a low profile but re-emerged in public to join the campaign with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in Beaufort on Thursday.
Musa was later seen sharing stage with Muhyiddin during the campaign for Perikatan’s Kuala Penyu candidate, Limus Jury, on the same day and later rallied behind PBS incumbent Kiulu assemblyman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai on the next day as he prepares to face off with Upko president Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau, a deputy chief minister in Shafie’s state Cabinet. Upko is part of Warisan Plus.
In his speech in Kiulu, Musa questioned Shafie’s constant campaign attacks against him and accused his successor of being “obsessed” with finding fault during his tenure as chief minister.
Saying that Shafie was scared of his shadow, Musa said: “Some people say that when Shafie wakes up, he sees my face even though I am not contesting.”
Musa also claimed that Shafie was too busy finding fault with his administration to focus on developing the state.
That claim could refer to Musa’s alleged land and timber deals made while he was chief minister from 2003 to 2018 but Musa rebutted that a chief minister’s main job was to focus on the state’s development.
“Past chief ministers may have their faults but they surely did something good and that applies to me too.
“The chief minister should not waste time finding fault but work. I’m not important, what’s important is we work to develop Sabah, ” said Musa.
Even though he has made sporadic appearances, Musa’s influence is still felt in Sabah politics that even his rival, Bung Moktar, cheekily suggested that he lent him a hand on his campaign trails.
People close to Musa remain firm that he wants to ensure that GRS (Perikatan, PBS and Sabah Barisan alliance) takes over the state government from Warisan.
There is also speculation that Musa could be a possible candidate for the governor’s position when the term of the current Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin ends in three years.
But independent political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir said Musa could also have other ideas and believes he is aiming to be kingmaker in the event of slim majority victories or a hung assembly.
“He wants to be kingmaker. Once the majority is not clear, then he will put his weight on the parties that he will like to support and who will be siding him, ” said Dr Jeniri.
However, Jeniri said Musa’s influence was not the same as when he was chief minister, adding that his campaigns would have minimal effect on the Opposition.
“Based on his reputation and all the issues he was entangled in, his image is already tarnished. It’s not like before when he has influence in Sabah, ” he said.
However, Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Musa probably made an appearance in campaigns due to continuous attacks from Shafie, his political nemesis.
“Shafie triggered Musa’s anger and this will cause Musa to assist in many of the Opposition campaigns, ” he said.
He also said that Musa’s experience as a former chief minister would serve as an advantage to the Opposition’s traditional Umno seats.
Whatever the political rumour mill is saying – Musa remains a threat to Shafie and perhaps even to Bung Moktar.
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