KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan's struggle to gain support among the native Kadazandusun and Murut communities was hit badly when two assemblymen - vice president Datuk Peter Anthony and Juil Nuatim - quit the party.
The move by the two effectively takes away the party's presence in the rural Murut-Dusun belt of the interior and shakes Warisan's hold on the semi-urban new Limbahau seat in Papar.
Peter, the Melalap assemblyman was party's strongman in Sabah's interior Tenom area while first-time Limbahau assemblyman Juil both announced they had quit the party and would form a new party that would launch soon.
Peter said that they planned to join the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
Explaining his reason to leave Warisan of which he was one of the founding leaders in 2016, Peter said that it strayed from its original direction to focus on Sabah and the state's rights.
"They have spread their wings to peninsular Malaysia and started branches in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. This is not the original party struggle we wanted," he said at a press conference at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
He said the results of the recent Sarawak state election showed that local parties under the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition were given the full support of the people in the neighbouring Borneo state that rejected outside parties.
"We will form a multi-racial party that will definitely work with the GRS state government under the coalition," he said, adding that it was time for Sabah leaders to bury their quarrels and differences to work for the state.
"It is best for all of us to work with a Sabah coalition," he said, adding that Hajiji leadership was the best for working together in resolving various problems faced by the people.
Peter also dismissed political aspersions that he was joining the government due to an ongoing case involving him allegedly falsifying a letter from the office of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Deputy Vice-Chancellor for a system maintenance contract work at the university in 2014.
On Dec 14, the Sessions Court ordered the former Sabah Infrastructure Development to enter his defence on Jan 3 after the prosecution closed its case.
Peter said that political directions were not guided by the court case as he was confident of proving his innocence.
"As I have said, Warisan has lost its original direction. (That is why) I am leaving has nothing to do with the case," he added.
On whether other opposition party assemblymen would join him, he replied that it was possible once he announced his party.
Asked if he had talked to party president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal prior to his announcement, he said; "Should be okay."
Warisan is now left with 17 State Assembly seats from the 23 they won in the Sept 2020 state elections.
The ten-party GRS currently hold 47 seats in the 79-member assembly with three independents backing the coalition.
With Peter and Juil throwing their support behind GRS, the state's ruling coalition was one seat short of the 53 seats needed to give them a two-thirds majority in the Sabah assembly.
Warisan's remaining elected Kadazandusun leader was its deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking who holds the more urban Moyog state and Penampang parliament seats.
Warisan did not immediately comment on the latest defections.