Zahid urges Sabah Umno to strengthen grassroots before seeking electoral partners

KOTA KINABALU: Umno should only begin negotiating for partners when it is in a position of strength, says party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the issue of cooperation with other parties need not be addressed now, as the priority is to further strengthen the party at the grassroots level.

"Only when we are strong will other parties be keen to negotiate with us. The question of who we want to work with doesn’t matter.

"Don’t negotiate when we are weak; hold on to this. We negotiate when we have strength. Build strength first before we negotiate. God willing, those who negotiate with us will be with us," he said during the opening of the Kimanis Umno annual division meeting at a secondary school hall in Beaufort, about 100km from here, on Sunday (June 23).

Ahmad Zahid emphasised that all Umno members must remain steadfast and not be swayed by offers from other parties.

"I remind myself and everyone, never be a 'lalang' (referring to the long grass weed that sways with the wind). We must have a stand; we must put our party first.

"Offers can be considered later, but first, we build our strength so that in negotiations, our strength will ensure people listen and follow us," he said, urging the party grassroots to strengthen ahead of the state election due by September 2025.

Several Sabah Umno leaders, such as Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, are seeking new political partners for the upcoming election, while his deputy Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan favours working with the seven-member Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) ruling state coalition under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.

Bung Moktar pulled Sabah Barisan out of the GRS coalition government in January 2023 and has repeatedly stated that Sabah Umno should not work with GRS, as it did not honour pre-election promises when they teamed up to topple the Warisan-led state government in September 2020.

Ahmad Zahid, who has maintained that coalition partners will be known when the election is called, reiterated that the Sabah Umno leadership must strengthen the party at the grassroots level in the face of the upcoming state election.

"Datuk Bung and all Sabah Umno leaders, ensure that we build our strength first, and then people will follow us. No one will follow the weak. Give confidence to our members and leaders. We need to build our strength," he added.

Among those present were Bung Moktar and Kimanis division chief Datuk Mohamad Alamin, who is also Deputy Foreign Minister.

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