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Najib downplays Lajim’s exit

 | August 3, 2012

The PM denied that BN was losing its grip in Sabah. He also said PKR's Rafizi was not being persecuted for exposing the NFC scandal.

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno president Najib Tun Razak today tried to play cool over the exit of the party’s Sabah leader Lajim Ukin despite predictions that the move could tilt the ruling coalition’s chances in favour of the opposition in the upcoming national polls.

The Barisan Nasional chairman refused to comment media queries on Lajim’s Umno membership, saying the Beaufort MP’s fate will only be known after he responds to a show-cause letter issued to him two days ago.

“He has been shown the show-cause letter. He has two weeks to reply… he has to go through the due process,” he told reporters after chairing Umno’s supreme council meeting at the party’s headquarters here.

Lajim, a veteran politician said to be instrumental in the coup that ousted the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) administration in 1994, quit as the Beaufort Umno chief, citing disillusionment against Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman’s leadership.

However, the well-known leader did not announce his resignation as an Umno member in what is believed to be part of an alleged power play designed to force Najib to replace Musa.

Lajim, an Umno supreme council member before his resignation, was later sacked as the Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Damage control

His exit was believed to have been engineered by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim but Lajim has not said anything about backing Pakatan Rakyat’s effort to wrest Sabah in the next general election which must be held by end of April next year.

The defections by Lajim and Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing are set to shake Sabah’s political landscape and increase Pakatan’s chances to infiltrate into Sabah, which is so far considered as BN’s “vote bank”.

Penetrating both Sabah and Sarawak is crucial for a shift in federal power. Both the states contribute 55 of the 222 parliamentary seats.

It became BN’s saving grace when it provided most of the ruling coalition’s seats in the 2008 national polls after the opposition grabbed 80 seats against the ruling coalition’s 85 in the peninsula.

Najib denied BN is losing its grip in Sabah and said that the party had made the necessary arrangements to replace Lajim and ensure the Sabah party chapter would monitor the division’s progress.

He also announced that he will be visiting the state on Aug 12 to meet with the coalition’s Sabah leaders including announcing details of the Royal Commission of Inquiry set up to probe the state’s immigration problems, a key campaign issue.

Rafizi compromised banks

Meanwhile on a separate matter, Najib denied opposition allegations that his administration was prosecuting whistleblowers in the arrest and prosecution of PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli for his expose on the National Feedlot Centre scandal under banking rules.

He said that his government does not condone power abuse, but said Rafizi should have not exposed the banking information on the scandal to the media.

“He should have gone to the MACC [Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission] instead. When he revealed the information he went against Bafia [Banks and Financial Institutions Act], which is there to protect confidential information of the financial institutions,” he said.

He said Rafizi’s action had compromised Bafia and could lead to the loss of investor confidence in the country’s banking system.

Rafizi, along with another whistleblower, was detained two days ago and charged under banking laws for his exposure on the “cow-gate scandal” implicating the family of a former federal minister and subsequently released on bail.

He said his arrest was linked to his role in exposing the RM250-million controversy.


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