Sabah political landscape hazier

KOTA KINABALU: The political landscape in Sabah got more tangled after Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) announced its decision to be part of the unity government, a split from Perikatan Nasional’s decision in the peninsula.

Pakatan Harapan – comprising Upko, DAP, PKR and Amanah – as well as Warisan are part of the Opposition in the state, which is ruled by the GRS-Barisan Nasional coalition.

In a statement on Friday, Upko president-elect Datuk Ewon Benedick (pic) said Pakatan’s five state elected representatives, including him as Kadamaian assemblyman, have given their support and cooperation to GRS chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor to remain as Chief Minister until the current government’s five-year term ends in 2025.

Benedick, who is also Penampang MP, said he and the other four assemblymen – Phoong Jin Zhe (Luyang), Jannie Lasimbang (Kapayan), Pito Galim (Inanam) and Tan Lee Fatt (Likas) – conveyed this to Hajiji in a courtesy call with the Chief Minister after the tabling of the state’s 2023 budget on Friday.

“The Sabah Pakatan assemblymen welcome the support of GRS for the federal unity government as announced by the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim).

“The assemblymen also gave their support to Hajiji and will work with the state government to ensure the agenda on development and state rights can be realised,” he added.

However, when met after the tabling of the budget on Friday, Phoong, who is Sabah DAP secretary, admitted the political situation in the state “was not that clear now”.

“Although we (Pakatan) are still part of the Opposition at the state level, we are also part of the ruling government at the federal level.

“The reason why I cannot give a confirmation is that we have just heard that Anwar said GRS will join the Federal Government, so we don’t know how it will look like.

“If GRS is part of the unity government at the federal level, should the state level also foresee minor changes? We don’t know.

“But as far as DAP is concerned, we are still playing the role of Opposition in Sabah.

“I think that’s quite clear until there is some discussion (over the political stand), but as of now, we haven’t had any discussions yet,” Phoong said.

However, he added that the GRS-Barisan coalition should continue helming Sabah as it was what the people mandated in the 2020 state snap polls.

“So, it’s very difficult for us to do another round of numbers or the SD (statutory declaration) game. Enough of that. Since we are part of the ruling (federal) government, we demand fair and democratic treatment at the state level (too),” he said.

On Friday, Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal also said there was “some conflict” at the state level after the move by GRS to support the unity government.

This was because of the announcement by Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that it will play the Opposition role in the Pakatan-led unity government.

“We still see some conflict is there because of the statement made by Muhyiddin, who is Bersatu president.

“And Hajiji is Sabah Bersatu chief. So, it’s a bit confusing,” he added.

Shafie, however, said Warisan welcomed any support for the unity government as it would ensure political stability in the country.

Besides Sabah Bersatu, GRS also comprises Parti Bersatu Sabah, the United Sabah National Organisation (Usno), Sabah STAR and Sabah Progressive Party, the last two of which are also component parties of Perikatan.

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