Sabah Umno seems bent on purging its westcoast warlord Lajim Ukin from local politics by blocking much needed funds to his flood-prone constituency in Beaufort.
Ominously for the ruling Barisan Nasional government, Lajim who the opposition Pakatan Rakyat is eyeing to help them topple BN, is fuming that the funds to develop his constituency have been blocked by his political partners in the state.
Without his MP allocation, Lajim has been unable to implement various development projects in Beaufort, a flood-prone quiet provincial town about 90 kilometres south of Kota Kinabalu with a population of around 76,000.
While all signs point to the Beaufort MP being out-manoeuvred in Sabah Umno and his exit from the forefront of state BN politics being imminent, he is not about to go quietly.
His special officer Ibrahim Salim recently said that Lajim’s constituents were annoyed that party politics had disrupted urgent development projects for their area.
Ibrahim, a Beaufort Umno committee member himself, claimed that Lajim’s (MP) service centre had been besieged by complaints over delays in completing even small projects and people were not happy.
“We listed down several minor projects that need to be given priority for the sake of the rakyat but until now we have not received the funds (to start them),” he told reporters recently.
He said that people were stunned that even though Lajim is a Deputy Federal Minister of Housing and Local Government and holds a high post in the party, the funds for his constituency could be blocked.
“If such culture is the practice, then it would not only create problems for the leaders but also for the constituents who have always been supporting the BN,” said Ibrahim.
Can BN afford to lose Lajim?
Talk of Lajim’s name being on the chopping block has gone on for months. Waiting in line to be nominated for Lajim’s Beaufort parliamentary seat include those who had deserted the Parti Bersatu Sabah government in 1994 to join Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman’s camp.
Also potential candidates are Musa’s eldest son Hafez Musa, Beaufort Umno Puteri chief Saridah Mohd Dun, former state police chief who became the city’s first mayor, Elias Ibrahim and former Beaufort MP Nurnikman Abdullah.
But Lajim has a trump card up his sleeve that he could pull out if he is dropped from the BN election line-up in the state.
Sources here claim that Lajim is not on Musa’s list of candidates.
Lajim won the seat comfortably taking 76% of the 18,000 ballots cast in the last election in 2008.
He still commands a lot of clout within the Bisaya community that is concentrated in his constituency which encompasses the state seats of Klias, Kuala Penyu, Lumadan, Bongawan and Membakut.
All these are seats the opposition are confident of winning with Lajim as their frontman.
Bordering his constituency is the parliamentary constituency of Kimanis. This is held by Musa’s brother, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman whose win in the last general election was partly attributed to support by the Bisaya community which is headed by Lajim.
If the state BN drops Lajim, he could pursue his own way and sign on with opposition party, Sabah People’s Front (SPF) which is said to be waiting to grant him leadership of the party.
“Lajim has two choices and both are win-win positions for him,” said an observer.
“If BN drops him he can align himself with Pakatan … make no mistakes, he has a lot of supporters in Beaufort and Kuala Penyu.
“SPF enjoys strong support in this area (Beaufort and Kuala Penyu) so BN’s loss (by dropping Lajim) would be the opposition’s gain,” said the observer.