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Shafie’s arrest could be a blessing to Warisan

 | October 21, 2017

It is time for Warisan to step out of Shafie’s shadow and mature as a real political force with a strong ideology that Sabahans can identify with.


KOTA KINABALU: The mood was sombre but calm at the house in Taman Golfview, about eight kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, on Thursday afternoon.

The house, which belongs to Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal, is actually a combination of two semi-detached houses in the old housing area, renovated into one bungalow.

Its dark brown metal gate is a lot more modest compared with others in the middle-class neighbourhood and its outer walls could use a fresh coat of paint.

About 50 party leaders and Shafie’s family members stood around, chatting quietly while some sat around the three patio tables set outside and inside the house.

Men spoke with low voices, almost to a whisper, while the women stayed indoors, attending to the guests.

It was a stark contrast to what had happened only 30 minutes prior at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) where more than 500 Warisan supporters had gathered to welcome party founder and their hero, Shafie.

Despite pleas by party leaders to the supporters not to shout party slogans in public, the emotionally-charged crowd defied all warnings and started clapping as they saw Shafie emerging at the arrival gate.

Shafie’s aides were forced to form a human shield around him as supporters pushed to the front to get a chance to shake his hand and assure him of their undying support.

The situation became too chaotic that Shafie’s wife who was with him, had to be assisted after complaining of suffocation.

This show of support was understandable given the circumstances faced by Shafie and his one-year old party.

Two weeks ago the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) opened their investigation on the alleged embezzlement of federal funds involving rural development projects worth RM1.5 billion and Shafie was constantly touted to be the anti-graft agency’s main target.

The arrest of Shafie’s key ally Peter Anthony was seen as the beginning of the assault on the leader.

Not long after, Shafie’s nephew and Warisan youth chief Mohd Azis Jamman was detained followed by his brothers Hamid Apdal and Yusof Apdal, the Lahad Datu assemblyman from Umno.

A Warisan youth leader accused the government of using MACC to intimidate the party and make their lives difficult by freezing accounts of those who were detained.

“They don’t know but we have always used our own pocket money to organise our party events. If they freeze our leaders’ accounts, it will not work. Not on Warisan,” he said defiantly.

Support for investigation

As the clock slowly ticked towards 5pm, Shafie who had been praying upstairs finally emerged to meet his guests.

Clad in white long sleeves shirt and black pants, he shook hands with some of the guests before excusing himself to speak with his lawyers and other Warisan leaders.

“I am not going to obstruct the law. I fully support the investigation because I know that MACC is just doing its job,” he later said to reporters.

The time had come for him to face his accusers and as the men around him said their prayers, Shafie silently prayed by himself.

He kissed his wife on the forehead and hugged her before stepping out of the house and into the black van already waiting outside his house.

He was arrested at 9pm on Thursday night at the MACC office, three hours after he presented himself there.

Now that the inevitable had happened, the question is, will Warisan survive this onslaught and what would happen to the party now especially with the election looming?

It is common knowledge that despite Warisan’s interesting pool of young and dynamic leaders, Shafie is the glue that holds it all together.

The problem with Warisan is it does not have an ideology it can depend on in case Shafie’s charisma, that has attracted so many, is no longer part of the equation.

When it was first founded, Warisan leaders promoted the idea of Sabahans for Sabah, as opposed to Sabah for Sabahans.

Fighting for MA63

Unfortunately, the similarity between Warisan’s slogan and Gabungan Sabah’s slogan led to accusations that the newcomers are just copycats.

More recently, the party had started showing more seriousness about fighting for the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

But other than sound bites, it is unclear how their promise to implement the sacred document will be any different from other Sabah-centric parties that have been talking about it much earlier than them.

For the time being at least, Shafie’s influence is the party’s greatest asset.

The good news is, there is a probability that Shafie’s arrest could only strengthen the party’s resolve to topple the Barisan Nasional government in Sabah.

Sabahans love the underdogs and it was not surprising to see so many turn up despite the worst weather of the year to show their displeasure at the way Shafie was treated.

In fact, this is what has been observed on the ground with even some fence-sitters expressing their dismay at what they perceived as excessive and humiliating.

The sentiments among non-Warisan members and independent onlookers at the court yesterday ranged from pity to anger with one man stating the “KL is bullying Sabahans again” rhetoric.

Rumours are also spreading that these “KL-men” as they were called, used the remand time not to investigate anything but to threaten the witnesses into submitting to BN.

It cannot be ascertained whether these accusations are true because the witnesses who have been released have not said anything publicly.

Even other opposition parties who earlier refused to be dragged into the controversy are now openly supporting Shafie.

Sabah Pakatan Harapan chairperson Christina Liew called the series of arrests alarming while at the same time, acknowledged Warisan’s strong influence in Sabah, particularly in Umno seats.

“We hope justice shall prevail and to be seen to prevail in this case. I appeal to the people to stay calm and let the authorities do their job, without fear or favour.

“I hope MACC will be transparent in its investigation to uphold their reputation that they are non-partisan in carrying out their duties,” she said.

The bad news is, it is fair to say that this incident would be used heavily to attack Shafie’s personality and credibility come election time.

And this is where the importance of having a good ideology that resonates with the people, comes in.

No legal basis for Shafie’s arrest, says lawyer

Warisan president Shafie Apdal arrested by MACC

RM1.5b may have been siphoned from Sabah projects, says MACC


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