Rumours are rife that Najib Tun Razak will soon give the nod for Musa Aman to be replaced by an interim CM.
Reliable party insiders here said the reshuffle would involve no less than the top posts in Sabah Umno and the state government – both currently held by Musa Aman.
Musa’s leadership is being openly challenged by his own colleagues.
The most recent and stinging attack was from Umno’s influential Beaufort MP Lajim Ukin who disclosed that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak reneged on a pledge to change Musa, who has become subject of various allegations of abuses of power including one involving hundreds of millions of ringgits in a Swiss bank account.
Lajim, together with Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing, the former deputy president of Upko – a BN component – have since left the national coalition and thrown their support behind Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Rakyat.
According to the insiders, Najib is expected to give the go-ahead to the idea of replacing Musa as Sabah Umno chief.
Shafie Apdal, an Umno vice-president who is also a senior federal minister, will eventually replace Musa.
In the interim, these insiders said, Musa would be asked to take a vacation and let a senior Sabah Umno minister take over as chief minister ahead of the 13th general election.
Two names had been floated for the job – Hajiji Mohd Noor of Tuaran or Masidi Manjun of Ranau.
The manoeuvring is to eventually pave the way for Shafie, the Semporna MP, to take over the leadership of the state after the general election.
Shafie has already won many friends and confidantes in the Sabah BN circles and they include ex-BN stalwarts Lajim and Bumburing, as well as PBS deputy president Maximus Ongkili and LDP president VK Liew, both are serving in the federal government.
Umno’s grapevine has it that Lajim could well be doing Shafie a favour by steadily going against the establishment. He is expected to provide more information on alleged corruption in government as the election looms.
The tussle between Lajim and Musa has been going on for some time.
The Beaufort MP went so far as to brief Najib about the swelling disapproval of Musa in the state which was further fueled by the exposé of money-laundering investigations being carried out in Malaysia and abroad.
Musa is being described as ‘Mr Vacuum’ by those doing business in Sabah to illustrate the lack of business friendly conditions in the state.
Many have overlooked the fact that Musa was already a successful multi-millionaire businessman well before he was appointed chief minister in 2003.
When he was appointed, he reportedly declared his wealth to be RM300 million.
But that is exactly where other groups are going for his throat. They argue there is no reason for him to allegedly “take all” as he is already very rich.
However other spheres of influence control Sabah politics in one way or the other.
On one hand, Shafie is said to be close to Najib while on the other Musa reportedly has the ear of the Prime Minister’s influential wife, Rosmah Mansor.
Shafie is favourably positioned as the great uniter able to win back Lajim and Bumburing, should the duo get elected under Pakatan ticket in the coming election.
According to the Umno insiders, Shafie is also a friend of Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leader, Yong Teck Lee, and this relationship would come in handy for Najib should there be a hung parliament later.
Using the well-funded Rural Development Ministry entrusted him by Najib, Shafie has more or less buttressed his influence within the BN circles in Sabah and in Peninsular, political analysts said.
Shafie is also believed to be the man behind “the new-kid-on-the-block”, KDM Malaysia, helmed by Umno businessman Peter Anthony, who incidentally was a virtually unknown but is now under Najib’s eye.
Recently, Anthony has been in the news for his philanthropy and controversial statements. He recently said KDM Malaysia could secure places and scholarships for local students in universities and colleges. It is now clear where his confidence stem from.
However, it is also an open secret that PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan is all for Musa and not Shafie.
This can be seen from Pairin heaping praises on Musa whenever the opportunity provides and in the process subjecting himself to the ridicule of his own Kadazandusun community, arguably the most disenfranchised and marginalised group under Musa’s tenure.
One reason why the opposition State Reform Party (Star) is so popular especially among the Kadazandusuns now is due to the supposedly strategic marginalisation of the community by the BN government and the failure of Pairin and PBS to compel Najib and Musa to correct this.
Observers here note that wily politicians like Bumburing, a Dusun, and Lajim, a Dusunic Bisaya are seeing a shift in grassroots support away from the ruling coalition and their move to the opposition was to capitalise on this.
Another interesting twist to the chief minister changeover, according to Umno insiders is that by putting someone “clean-looking” on an interim basis, Najib would have more room to manoeuvre state politics in his favour ahead of Umno party elections.
“The acting CM is just acting … it would be to pave the way for a new KL-annointed guy from Sabah Umno to continue leading Sabah after the general election,” they said.