Has Sabah MP Lajim Ukin really defected or is this all just another shadow play engineered by both Najib Tun Razak and Anwar Ibrahim?
KOTA KINABALU: Whatever the game Umno chief Najib Tun Razak and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim are playing in Sabah, it is going to be fiery and those who will feel the heat at the ballot boxes are the locals whose minds are being toyed with, spirits tested and loyalties horse-traded.
The reverberations from Barisan Nasional MPs Lajim Ukin and Wilfred Bumburing’s defections – if indeed they are defections – are hitting hard at the walls of Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman and his counterpart in Sarawak Taib Mahmud.
Cut from the same cloth and soaked in Mahathir-mentored politics, neither Najib nor Anwar seems to really care about Sabahans or Sarawakians.
For them the priority is securing Putrajaya at whatever cost. At stake is Sabah’s 25 and Sarawak’s 31 parliamentary seats.
While Sarawak is for now less of a threat to Najib, Sabah, on the other end, is literally holding the Najib and BN-run federal government policies to ransom. It is no more a fixed deposit despite the state BN’s postulations.
Sabah is the poorest state in Malaysia and its masses are writhing under federal government policies that have made basic necessities a luxury.
Since Sunday, when Lajim and Bumburing officially made known their view of BN, denials of problems within Sabah Umno ranks and declarations of a “consolidated” state BN have come fast and furious.
Not surprisingly, Lajim was yesterday stripped of his post as deputy minister.
But what will be interesting to watch is if Umno sacks him for insubordination and the strategy Lajim will invoke.
Lajim is an old hand at politics, having wheeled and dealed his way through state politics since the 1970s.
He is in the know of Sabah Umno’s deepest darkest secrets, including the alleged RM100 million which Musa claimed belonged to Umno.
Let’s not forget that Lajim was once Sabah’s deputy chief minister and privy to insider information. He was appointed to the post after he won the Klias state seat in the 1999 polls under Umno ticket.
Lajim knows Anwar well too. Anwar was the deputy prime minister when in 1994 he brought Lajim into Umno and later engineered the downfall of Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s Parti Sabah Bersatu (PBS) government, a Christian administration, which then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad could not accept. PBS toppled Berjaya in the 1985 polls.
Even then Anwar had promised Lajim a chief minister’s post but that never happened.
Thus Lajim knows the political thinking of Anwar. He knows Najib and Najib knows him.
‘No loyalty from Lajim’
With Lajim it is not a question of loyalty. Both leaders are willing to play ball in a free-for-all battle for supremacy in the 13th general election.
Lajim has resigned from all his posts in Umno but has remained an Umno member while openly expressing support for Anwar’s agenda.
He has nothing against Umno; in fact, he is closely aligned to Umno leaders Shafie Apdal and Muhyiddin Yassin.
His only real contention has been that Najib must keep his promise and purge Musa.
But can Najib be seen doing this to a chief minister who’s been good to Putrajaya and allegedly to him personally?
Musa, Lajim claimed, had no support and many of the Sabah Umno MPs and assemblymen had no confidence in the Musa leadership.
As if on cue yesterday, Sabah Legislative Assembly Speaker Salleh Keruak vehemently denied that Lajim’s resignation from Umno and BN had anything to do with the internal problems in Sabah Umno.
“All his reasons for leaving Umno, which he helped [form the government] by toppling the PBS government in 1994, are merely excuses for his mission to stay afloat politically,” Salleh told FMT.
The key words here would be to “stay afloat politically”. As an incumbent in Beaufort, Lajim wants to defend his seat and perhaps try for a parliamentary constituency.
Ask any local political pundits and they’ll put their money on Lajim winning in his constituency – he is a “winnable” candidate, they say.
If BN wins, Lajim sees himself being appointed as a full minister. If Pakatan wins, then Anwar has promised him the chief ministership.
Perak defection revisited?
But Musa is allegedly against Lajim defending his seat and continuing to lord over west-coast Sabah.
He is looking to replace Lajim with his own man and perhaps even consolidate his brother Anifah Aman’s sway in the state. Anifah, who is Foreign Minister, is also Kimanis MP.
There is a group here who believe that Anifah should take over from Musa as chief minister.
They claim he has less “political luggage” and is not as “soaked” in Umno’s ways.
They also claim that Anifah, having spent his early days studying in England, is more exposed, articulate, has finesse and was doing a fine job as Foreign Minister.
This the Lajim group is dead against. Lajim’s loyalty is to Shafie who wants to be Sabah chief minister.
One wonders then if Lajim is as true to his struggle as he may be to his real bosses.
There’s a phrase in the KL circles which goes like this: “jaga tuan jaga tuhan” – which literally means “take care of your boss and look after God”.
In Lajim’s case, who is really his boss? Consider the fact that he has not quit Umno.
In which case, would we consider him a Trojan horse?
It’s not unprecedented really because in 2009 it was an Umno defector who eventually triggered the reverse takeover by BN of the Pakatan government in Perak.
Bota constituency’s Umno representative Nasaruddin Hashim defected to PKR on Jan 25, 2009, saying that his constituents were supportive and he received no monetary award to defect.
Soon after, Najib took over the reigns of Umno Perak and BN then “engineered the re-crossover of Nasaruddin and three other Perak assemblymen from Pakatan Rakyat” and effectively ended the democratically voted government.