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The knives are out in Sabah Umno

The simmering rift between state Umno chief Musa Aman and party
vice-president Shafie Apdal looks set to become openly hostile.
KOTA KINABALU: As happens periodically, the Chief Minister’s post, who gets what, and who is sabotaging whom, is taking on the mood of a pre-election campaign within Sabah Umno.

At least two factions within the party are sorting themselves out on which side they stand – Chief Minister Musa Aman’s or Umno vice president Shafie Apdal’s.

Under the cover of gearing up for general election, the two factions have come out into the open after Umno Youth wing chief Khairy Jamaluddin revealed that a cold war has been going on between the top Sabah Umno leadership.

Umno division chief, Abdul Rahim Ismail did not mince his words when declaring his support for Shafie as the political hostilaties between the Sabah Umno heavyweights have come out into the open.

Speaking at his division annual delegates conference in Papar on Saturday, Rahim who was dropped from the State Cabinet before the 2008 general election by Musa, pledged not to back out from the struggle to return Sabah Umno to its original political platform.

“Don’t be surprised by the content of my speech today, everything is now out in the open,” he said at Dewan Datuk Salleh Sulong. The meeting was officiated by Shafie.

The Papar Umno meeting was only the second Umno division meeting that Shafie has been invited to open as it was learned that all division chiefs in the state have been advised by Sabah Umno top leaders against inviting Shafie.

The first division was none other than his own Semporna. Another Sabah Umno division set to act against the ‘order’ is Kinabatangan under Bung Moktar Radin and Shafie is expected to open its meeting on June 16.

Warning to Musa

Rahim acknowledged that his stance could invite trouble for him within the party but warned Musa’s administration not to punish his constituents in Pantai Manis.

“They also have the right to all the facilities enjoyed by other people in the state so don’t punish my constituents,” he said.

Rahim, the state representative for Pantai Manis, said the state leadership was being over-confident and taking for granted that the Barisan Nasional (BN) could win the general election easily because
Sabah is considered the ruling coalition’s “fixed deposit”.

However, he cautioned that the BN government could find itself going backwards if the government fails to record an increase in votes for the BN.

“Are we really confident of achieving this?” he asked, citing Sarawak, which was also labeled as a BN fixed deposit state but still could not stop the opposition from taking away several seats in the recent state election.

Among the reasons for this was the failure to listen to the people who wanted change, he said, adding that based on Election Commission (EC) statistics, 47% of voters comprised the better informed youth.

“So we must listen to the younger generation,” he said, adding that there must not be any divide-and-rule style of administration in the state.

Rahim also expressed disappointment that “certain people” were not taking pride in the ability of Shafie, a Sabahan Umno leader, to become an Umno vice president.

“There is no reason why we should not be proud too of his achievement,” he said, adding that the situation instead was the other way round.

Shafie’s projects blocked

He said Shafie’s intention of going around the state in his capacity as Rural and Regional Development Minister to channel assistance from the federal government had received hostile reactions from some in the state government.

“These are allegations made by those who are jealous and afraid of their own shadow,” he said.

“How will we face the 13th general election if we continue to be suspicious and be carried away by obsessive of power,” he said, adding that the people were now becoming smarter and they could obtain knowledge as well as information easily from the internet.

“Don’t think that only (Opposition Leader) Anwar Ibrahim’s stories are available there (Internet). There are also about other leaders,” he said.

Rahim said it was also disappointing that certain development projects funded by Shafie’s ministry were being blocked.

“Why is this allocation being blocked? Is Shafie from the opposition? Perhaps they worry Shafie’s popularity will suddenly rise. This jealousy however will cost the people in Sabah,” he said.

He added that Sabah, which has the highest poverty rate in the country, really needs such assistance from the federal government.

“There is this Chinese saying – genuine gold is not afraid of fire – and our genuine gold is Shafie,  Umno vice president and an original Sabahan,” he said.

In this respect, Rahim said the practice of taking out cronies must also be stopped because in the end it would only create hatred for state leaders.

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