The second snub of Sabahans by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has left native BN-partner parties in the state floundering against a rising opposition.
The president of Upko, a Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition member, yesterday had little comfort for party supporters who had been hoping that Najib, who was here over the weekend, would announce the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the matter.
“Well, I have always said that this matter should have been dealt with urgently and I maintain my stand that this is an urgent matter and needs to be attended to, especially since the cabinet had decided of Feb 8 to go ahead with this (inquiry),” he told the local media during a function in his Penampang constituency.
“I think the government must expedite the terms of reference and the appointment of the people who should be members of this commission,” he added, in reference to long-held demands by Sabahans for action against those responsible for granting thousands of illegal immigrants citizenship in return for their support during elections.
Dompok’s party is facing a backlash for continuing its support of the BN despite not being able to get ‘urgent’ matters resolved.
Despite the Upko president’s attempt to explain the stalemate in deciding on the RCI, the continued delay has aided opposition parties like the State Reform Party (STAR) who claim they have gathered into their fold hundreds of disaffected BN supporters.
STAR chairman Jeffrey Kitingan along with his United Borneo Front organisation has been busy drumming home to Sabahans, especially natives in the interior, that the state government has sold away their rights and privileges in order to keep power.
Kitingan urged Sabah BN parties like PBS, Upko, PBRS and LDP to leave the national coalition and work with him to end what many see as peninsula’s control of the state and restore Sabah’s powers and unique position together with Sarawak within the federation.
Unhappiness within the emasculated PBS and Upko over their supporting roles within the Umno-led ruling coalition has been brewing for years.
Dompok has been forced to acknowledge whispers that his deputy in the party, Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing, is clearly unhappy with the failure by Upko to force the Umno-led BN governments at both federal and state level to deal with matters as basic as allegations citizenship fraud.
Dompok, the plantation industries and commodities minister, has taken pains to smother speculation that Bumburing is on the verge of leaving Upko knowing that his departure could lead to an open revolt.
His comrade in arms from PBS, Joseph Pairin Kitingan, is also looking over his shoulders of potential challengers to his crown who may cash in on the federal government’s unwillingness to investigate the illegal immigrants issue and his inability to call them out on it.
Similar high-level desertions from other BN parties in the state along with their supporters will be a boon to the PBS chief’s younger brother in STAR.