No split in Sabah Umno, says Zahid

KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has dismissed claims of any split within Sabah Umno amid growing political differences between state chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and his deputy Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

"There is no split," the Umno president told reporters after opening the Sepanggar Umno division general meeting on Saturday (June 22).

The Deputy Prime Minister was asked about Bung Moktar's push for Umno not to work with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, while Rahman fostered relations with GRS for the next state election.

Hajiji, among other state Pakatan Harapan leaders, had attended the opening of the Tuaran Umno division (led by Rahman) annual general meeting earlier on Saturday, which Bung Moktar did not attend.

"There is no split. As Bung Moktar said in his speech, he could not attend the Tuaran division programme as he had another function in the morning.

"I take the soft approach principle in Tuaran. My principle is that we have to be friends with all parties.

"(And) we will make our decision on partners when the time comes," he said.

Sabah Umno, led by Bung Moktar, pulled out of the GRS state coalition government in January 2023, but Hajiji survived the coup with Sabah Pakatan and Sabah Umno assemblymen throwing in their support for him.

In the September 2020 snap state election, Barisan and GRS worked together to topple the Warisan and Sabah Pakatan state government.

Ahmad Zahid said that Hajiji was an old friend of his and it was important that at the national level, the unity government was given support while if there were problems at the state level, it could work together to resolve them.

Ahmad Zahid stressed the need to strengthen the party machinery for the state election that is due by October next year.

"We see that at the state level, they may be looking at a new electoral formula for the state election. They asked me when will Sabah Umno and its national leaders decide on its direction for working relations and with which party.

"I told them when the time comes, we will make the decision in our direction," he said.

He said that Umno was constantly studying the political ground in the state and was strategising to retain all 14 state seats it won in 2020 and to regain its traditional seats the party lost.

In his speech at the Sepanggar division meeting, Bung Moktar said that Sabah Umno must select the right partners and should not be played out again as happened with GRS, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), and Parti STAR.

"We have been stabbed in the back and the front by these parties, we cannot and should not work with them," he said, adding that many of the current GRS leaders had abandoned Umno in 2018 to bring in Bersatu and then formed their own party.

"Our time is running out because the state election will be held anytime. Partnership in Sabah, we remain with the stance that we will be friends only with those who have something in common with us, who have loyalty.

"We will not work with those who have stabbed us. We will not be deceived a second or third time," he said, adding that parties like PBS have stabbed Barisan Nasional in the back several times over the years.

"They speak loudly about not wanting Umno from Malaya to be in Sabah, but I want to explain to PBS and also STAR, not to play with Sabah Umno because we are not afraid. We are ready," said the Lamag assemblyman and Kinabatangan MP.

Ahmad Zahid later on Saturday opened the Papar Umno division meeting, and on Sunday (June 23), he is scheduled to open the Kimanis Umno division meeting.

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