KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan Sabah’s battle for the support of the native Kadazandusun and Murut communities has been hit with two of its assemblymen quitting the party.
The resignation of vice-president Datuk Peter Anthony and Juil Nuatim 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.
Its remaining elected Kadazandusun leader is its deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking who holds the more urban Moyog state seat and the Penampang parliamentary seat.
Warisan is now left with 17 assemblymen from the 23 they had after last year’s state election.
Peter, the Melalap assemblyman, was the party strongman in Sabah’s interior Tenom area.
Juil is a first time Limbahau assemblyman.
Both men have made known their intention to form a new party.
Peter said that they planned to be part of 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 claimed that it had 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 told reporters yesterday.
He said they would form a multi-racial party that would work with the GRS government, adding that it was time for Sabah leaders to bury the hatchet and work for the state.
Hajiji’s leadership would be the best for working together in resolving problems faced by the people, he said.
Peter said the results of the recent Sarawak election showed that local parties under the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition had the full support of the people in that state, which showed that “outside” parties were rejected.
Peter dismissed talk that his moves are due to his ongoing court case involving a charge with falsifying a letter from the office of Universiti Malaysia Sabah deputy vice-chancellor for a system maintenance contract work at the university in 2014.
(On Dec 14, the Sessions Court ordered Peter, who is a former Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister, to enter his defence on Jan 3.)
Peter said that his political move was not guided by the court case as he was confident of proving his innocence.
“As I have said, Warisan has lost its original direction. My leaving has nothing to do with the case,” he added.
Asked if he had talked to party president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal prior to his announcement, he said: “Should be okay.”
As for party vice-president Datuk Junz Wong, he said: “Leaders come and go, but the fight must go on.”
With Peter and Juil throwing their support behind GRS, the ruling coalition is one seat short of the 53 seats needed to give them a two-third majority in the Sabah assembly.
The 10-party GRS holds 47 seats in the 79-member assembly with three independents backing the coalition.