Sabah Umno's stand to remain with GRS essential to retain power in the state, says analyst

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Umno's firm stand to stay with its partners in the ruling state Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government is a necessity to retain power at the state level, says a political analyst.

Dr Arnold Puyok said although Umno's relations with Bersatu are straining at the federal level, Sabah Umno was seeing the importance of keeping the nine-party GRS coalition intact to continue leading the state which they won in the Sept 26 snap polls.

"Only by keeping themselves together can they continue to lead Sabah. Remember, GRS formed the state government with the support from Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).

"They can’t afford to lose the state government to Warisan Plus should there be a change of government at the federal level," said Puyok, who is also a lecturer with the Social Sciences and Humanities Faculty of University Malaysia Sarawak (UNiMAS).

Sabah Umno cum Sabah Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin has been firm that the state Umno's stand was to remain and defend the GRS government.

Puyok believes that Sabah Umno is also flexing its autonomous rights to decide its own direction.

"Probably this is a way for Bung and Sabah Umno to tell central Umno and its president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that Sabah Umno has autonomy and it is up to Sabah Umno leaders to do what is best for the party here in the state," he said.

Puyok said that a different political stand for Sabah Umno and its central party was a clear stand of autonomy.

"Whatever happens in the peninsula will not affect how Sabah Umno operates at the state level," he said.

However, Puyok said that GRS' decision to stick together with whatever happens in the peninsula will eventually affect Sabah.

"Sabah is not totally insulated from federal politics," he said, adding that the political situation in the country remains "very fluid" and top national leaders are keeping their options open.

On the question of how Bung as Deputy Chief Minister in the state government and Kinabatangan MP at the federal level will be able to reconcile the two different positions of the party, Puyok said; "I think he is willing to stick his neck out on this matter.”

"He may lose favour with his boss at the federal level but not with his allies and supporters in Sabah," he said.

The nine-party GRS group involving parties from Sabah Barisan, Sabah Perikatan and PBS won the state government from Warisan Plus led by Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal in last year's snap elections.

Political fluidity at the national level has cast question over the position of the three-month old coalition government led by Sabah Bersatu chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.

On Saturday (Jan 9), the nine parties under GRS signed an MoU to solidify their position. The leaders assured that they would stick together to deliver the people's mandate and political developments in Peninsular Malaysia will not change their stand.

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