The duo are repeating Jeffrey Kitingan’s mantra on Borneo rights, change and reform through their own respective vehicles.
The decision by two Barisan Nasional MPs in Sabah, Lajim Ukin (Beaufort) and Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing (Tuaran), to strike out on their own, may not turn out to be an unmitigated disaster for the ruling coalition as widely trumpeted in some media and blogs.
Instead, the duo merely muddies the waters further for the fledgling local opposition in the state as depicted in the form of the State Reform Party (STAR) headed by Jeffrey Kitingan.
The duo were already on their way out but because the BN hesitated too long to eliminate them from the running, they have managed to squeeze a few drops of water from the proverbial stone in a bid to re-invent themselves. Umno sees this as a blessing in disguise for them.
Their defection has rightly been criticised and their sincerity questioned.
They could have joined STAR and, in the process, earned the benefit of the doubt. Instead, they are repeating Jeffrey’s mantra on Borneo rights, change and reform through their own respective vehicles, both with the term “reform” and “change” featuring prominently.
Bumburing is calling his vehicle the Sabah Reform Front while Lajim is heading the Pakatan Perubahan Sabah.
Both are making common cause with PKR, which Jeffrey ditched as vice-president when it allegedly failed to back his agenda for Borneo.
The duo have thereby given the game away as political opportunists. Lajim and Bumburing were willing to betray the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government back in 1994 and help bring about its downfall in cahoots with then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.
The fact that Jeffrey has more than a point in his favour on the Borneo rights issue is beside the point.
The question is why should the electorate accept two opportunists, Lajim and Bumburing, not only jumping on the opposition bandwagon but trying to steal the thunder from it by forming their own vehicles rooting for change and reform.
Lajim’s political direction is not entirely clear although he labelled the STAR just a few days ago as lacking in clear direction. He may be going along with de facto PKR chief Anwar’s oft-expressed view that he expects crossovers from Sabah Umno should Pakatan Rakyat win the majority, as in 2008, in Peninsular Malaysia.
Lajim, in that case, no doubt belabours under the delusion that he can benefit from the anticipated crossovers and emerge as the next chief minister with Anwar’s blessings.
Lajim is a Dusun Muslim from the Bisaya tribe traditionally found along the Sabah west coast and in the Beaufort area in particular. He has little in common with the major Muslim communities in the east coast – Bajau and Suluk – or even the smaller Barunai (Brunei Malays) along the west coast and even smaller Muslim communities like the Irranun, Cocos-Keeling, Bugis and the like.
Hence, as Dusun, Lajim is more likely to make common cause with other Dusun Muslim communities like the Ranau Dusuns and Orang Sungei in Kinabatangan, if not other Dusuns as well. Here, Lajim will be intruding into Jeffrey’s turf as well as that of PBS.
Bumburing has privately pledged that he will not take on the United PasokMomogun KadazanDusunMurut Organisation (Upko), his former party, at the forthcoming 13th general election. Instead, he will focus his political wrath on PBS and God alone knows who else.
There’s no doubt that Anwar will be with him every step of the way as the former does not expect Jeffrey to do serious battle with his brother Joseph Pairin Kitingan and his PBS. Jeffrey’s difficulty here is that he co-founded PBS with his brother in 1985 and has never completely cut his ties with his former party.
Bumburing’s approach will not go down well with Jeffrey who’s in two minds about taking on PBS but will definitely go after Upko hammer and tongs as well as take on the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) and Umno, especially in the Dusun seats held by that party.
Making common cause
Under Jeffrey’s Plan Z announced in mid-April, probably an extreme negotiating strategy, STAR pledged to go for broke in all 60 state seats in Sabah and 26 parliamentary seats including Labuan.
Briefly, Plan Z is an elaborate plan to settle scores from 1994 and this includes eliminating Anwar, who masterminded the downfall of PBS, and the PBS-breakaway Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP).
But for the moment at least, Jeffrey and SAPP president Yong Teck Lee are seen to be holding hands despite fingers being pointed at the latter for his “bosom pal” being incarcerated under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) in the early 1990s for two two-year terms.
It was Yong who reportedly prevailed on then PBS deputy president Bernard Giluk Dompok, now Upko chief, to persuade Pairin to pull out PBS from BN on the eve of the 1990 general election. Jeffrey paid the price as then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sought to punish Pairin.
Jeffrey’s problems are not made any easier either by persistent reports that at least one of his vice- chairmen has allegedly been invited to address PKR’s supreme council meetings more than once. It’s not known where this is heading as this particular vice-chairman was instrumental in persuading Jeffrey to quit PKR.
The bottomline in Sabah, if the 13th general election were to be called today, is that the BN will retain power in the state but not just as easily in 2008.
Alternatively, if Anwar fails and Lajim and Bumburing fizzle out as expected, and STAR makes common cause with PBS, DAP and PAS, the STAR/DAP opposition may be able to take 13 parliamentary seats, that is, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau through DAP, and another 10 through STAR: Pensiangan held by PBRS, Kudat, Beluran, Tenom, Kinabatangan and Beaufort held by Umno, and four held by Upko (Tuaran, Ranau, Penampang and Putatan).