If Sabah's Lajim Ukin and Wilfred Bumburing join Anwar Ibrahim's team, then PKR will have two more MPs on their side in the next Parliament sitting.
Reliable insiders claimed that the Umno supreme council member and MP for Beaufort is preparing for a June 10 exit and that Pakatan Rakyat coalition de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim himself would fly to Sabah to receive not only Lajim but also scores of other Sabah Umno and United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation leaders.
Among the names being mentioned here and in Beaufort as well as in Labuan are Upko’s deputy president Wilfred Bumburing, former deputy chief minister during the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government, Amir Kahar Datu Mustapha, former federal deputy minister, Yahya Lampong, and the CEO of state-owned Suria Capital, Ibrahim Menudin.
Bumburing, who is the Tuaran MP, was soon after the general election in 2008 linked to a botched effort to get a number of MPs from the ruling party into PKR to give it a simple majority in Parliament and hence the Sept 16, 2008 talk of Pakatan taking over the federal government.
If the switch does take place on June 10, it would add two MPs in the opposition corner.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim’s appearance in the list of persons disenchanted by Barisan Nasional politics ahead of the coming general election is also linked to him being tapped by PKR for the Labuan parliamentary seat.
Yesterday, Lajim, who is also the federal Housing and Local Government Deputy Minister, caused havoc within Umno circles when he launched an attack on Sabah Umno’s number two, Salleh Said Keruak, over his claim that the 20-point agreement accorded Sabah in 1963 was no longer valid as it had been incorporated into the Malaysia Agreement and the Federal Constitution.
Lajim gave Salleh, who also State Legislative Assembly Speaker, 10 days to apologise to Sabahans for declaring the agreement void.
Umno dropping Lajim
Lajim was also quoted by local newspapers as saying that he might organise a peoples’ demonstration in support of Sabah’s rights on the day Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak comes again to Sabah on June 9 for a national Kaamatan and Gawai celebration in Keningau.
His broadside against Salleh astonished many as the tone of the rebuke was harsh and provocative.
The timing of his attack on Salleh Said was also notable given that just last week while on a visit in Sandakan, he denied he was quitting and Umno hit out at those “who would like to see the end of him in politics”.
Insiders, however, claimed at the time that while Lajim was not keen on leaving Umno, it is now the case of Umno leaving Lajim behind.
“There is a difference. What my ‘Janang Gayuh’ (paramount leader in Bisaya) said was always right,” said one of Lajim’s ardent supporters.
Umno leaders said Lajim’s sudden harsh tone could have something to do with resurfacing signals that he is among those to be dropped by Umno.
“Yes, we also have heard the fresh rumour that Lajim and a few others would soon join PKR,” a senior state Umno leader said when contacted today.
Others mentioned as possible crossovers to PKR on June 10 are former chief minister Osu Sukam and former federal Land and Cooperative Minister Kasitah Gadam.
Anwar, Najib wooing Sabah
Meanwhile, a Sabah PKR leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Anwar had initially been scheduled to go to Sandakan during his coming visit to Sabah.
However, the new developments could also see him in Kota Kinabalu while Najib is in town underlining the importance of Sabah’s 25 MP seats to both BN and Pakatan.
In the past, Umno, most notably Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had brushed aside the 25 seats as insignificant for Umno as it commanded a big majority of the 165 peninsular seats.
But the unprecedented gains by the opposition in the 2008 general election has changed the political equation in the country, forcing the ruling coalition to come courting in Sabah and Sarawak.
With a mere six-seat or so differentiating the two political forces in the peninsula, whoever wins the trust of Sabah and Sarawak MPs could form the next government.
Observers are of the opinion that many Sabah and Sarawak MPs would be open to jumping ship either way this time.
Umno is wary of possible turncoats and many names linked to the 2008 Anwar’s effort, including Lajim and Bumburing, most likely will not be renominated for seats.
While many would rather keep a low profile if not renominated, some still influential BN leaders believe they can still win and are raring to prove a point and make a difference in the national political equation.
Political pundits said Lajim and Bumburing belong to this group and their assessment could prove right, judging from the solid support the duo received in the last election in Beaufort and Tuaran respectively.
Lajim still a factor
Many observers believed Lajim, who is a Dusunic Bisaya, could still win handsomely in the Bisaya majority Klias state constituency under any ticket.
He would not be easy to defeat either in his current Beaufort seat if he chooses to retain his parliamentary seat.
The Beaufort seat is said to be being eyed by Anifah Aman, currently Kimanis MP, who is also the younger brother of Chief Minister Musa Aman.
Bumburing’s path in Tuaran or even in the Tamparuli state constituency he once represented, however, may not be as smooth, as the surging State Reform Party (STAR) under Jeffrey Kitingan is now also a power to be reckoned with there as well as in almost all Kadazandusun areas.
June 10, as far as omens go, according to sources, is significant as it is Lajim’s favourite number and would mean that Najib, who reportedly loves the number 11, would read reports about Lajim’s leaving on June 11, a bad sign for BN.