Sabah MPs Wilfred Bumburing and Lajim Ukin’s unusual terms of ‘joining’ PKR has raised the question and stoked resentment within state PKR.
They try to keep it as quiet as possible – to subdue the irritations – but Sabah PKR just can’t keep it down. The prevailing discomfort has morphed into serious disagreements and the leaders just can’t keep it behind the curtains anymore.
Since MPs Wilfred M Bumburing (Tuaran) and Lajim Ukin (Beaufort) and later (Senator) Maijol Mahap, “joined” PKR, several serious consequences have surfaced.
First of all, Bumburing and Lajim’s unusual terms of “joining” PKR without becoming actual PKR members have raised the question of their real commitment to PKR.
Their choice to just affiliate themselves and “borrow” the PKR ticket when the time comes for them to contest in the 13th general election, has made their sincerity questionable.
And both have allegedly been promised substantial number of seats (rumoured to be around 17 seats each).
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, on his part, is delightedly lapping up the media hype, acting like he scored two important goals in his fight with Barisan Nasional.
Anwar, the perennial opportunist, can sense making political mileage out of it.
The duo had left the BN and invited him to witness their official public declarations, so why not take the golden opportunity to bask in the publicity?
And although deep inside he wished the duo had actually joined PKR, they did not and have not todate.
It is a smart move on Lajim and Bumburing’s part.
By coming into the PKR camp without really becoming members, by being pro-PKR or pro-Pakatan Rakyat but remaining independent, these MPs thought they had their cake and could eat it too.
They wanted to be able to move about and speak at will without having to get any approval from PKR (read Sabah PKR).
In the case of Tuaran, there was no outward clash for positions in the PKR division; Ansari Abdullah continued unthreatened as the division’s head.
But moving unhindered under Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS), Bumburing is harnessing the support from those who were in BN with him while enjoying the ready assurance of the support of the PKR members – a nice way to kill two birds with one stone.
Kalakau Untol, previously in an uncomfortable position in Tuaran PKR due to his inability to forge real co-operation with Ansari, has now found his niche and purpose under APS, while still a PKR member.
Will Bumburing throw his weight to field Kalakau as the Tuaran MP candidate in the 13th general election?
This can only happen if Ansari decides not to re-try his luck in the MP contest this time round. Bacause if he does that, Azmin Ali (PKR deputy president) will surely decide in his favour.
But the decision by the defectors not to join PKR was a smart move only to a point.
This is because a clash between the duo and the Sabah PKR old guards is unavoidable – they could pretend to ignore the potential fireworks only for a while.
Initially, the PKR leaders made comforting self-reassurances that co-operation was being nicely established and the whole arrangement is good for the party, no matter what.
YB wannabees unhappy
But the fact that the newcomers are getting a lot of attention from Anwar had raised warning signs among state PKR leaders.
And the fact that Bumburing and Lajim were expecting to contest in around 30 seats combined had clearly pointed to the possibility of many PKR divisional leaders and potential candidates being sidelined.
In response, they began to spread the word that Anwar only promised to give Bumburing and Laijm one seat each, and none to their followers.
But many PKR YB wannabees are now very unhappy.
Some PKR divisional leaders don’t like the open competition – between them and the newcomers – on who can command bigger support.
Lajim, who is campaigning under the banner of the Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPS), has openly claimed his 17 seats, and announced in his recent Hari Raya open house that his folloowers will contest in all the Muslim majority areas under PKR tickets.
This announcement has miffed Sabah PKR chairman, Thamrin Jaini, who immediately denounced Lajim’s statement.
Thamrin said such decision can’t be made without a proper discussion in the party.
The very next day Lajim responded by announcing that he is forming a political party, the application to be submitted as soon as possible, saying: “If approved by the ROS [Registrar of Society], we will be contesting under the new party.”
At first glimpse, this may look innocent enough, but we can bet there are already real fireworks going on behind-closed doors.
PAS option for Lajim
Lajim’s announcement to form a political party is in direct defiance against Thamrin and Sabah PKR.
It’s his way of telling PKR that he is not totally dependent on the party for his political survival, nor is he subject to any decision or action by the party.
In short, he is saying, “I am not totally beholden to you and I have other options.”
And when he said “should ROS reject the application, we will fall back on our initial plan and contest on the ticket of a Pakatan coalition member”, it was also significant that he didn’t say he would contest on the ticket of PKR, but on the ticket of “a Pakatan coalition member”.
This could mean PAS. This incident had changed the PKR-Lajim relationship by several degrees within a few days, and Anwar must be scratching his head and re-calculating his options and wishing for another Umno Muslim MP to jump over and neutralise Lajim.
We can also suspect that Lajim himself doesn’t really believe he can get his political party registered before the 13th general election, which is expected to be early next year.
With what happened with Sabah People’s Front (SPF) whose registration was hijacked and given to the Sarawak People’s Party (SWP), Lajim knows what Kuala Lumpur’s game plan is when it comes to applications for any Muslim-based party from Sabah.
It is most likely that he made the announcement merely as a tactical gambit to tell his supporters he still commands the ropes, that he still has options and that PKR leaders better think twice before messing with him.
This turn of events has either proven the ”Janang Gayuh’s” (Bisaya word for paramount leader) finesse and acumen as a political leader or has exposed his short fuse.
Ghapur Salleh, Rubin Balang
But isn’t Lajim’s announcement about forming his political party a relief to the Muslim potential candidates in PKR?
While the development may not be welcomed by Anwar, Sabah Muslim PKR leaders should sense some kind of hope that they will be the party’s candidates, after all.
If this is their feeling, then it only proves their disapproval or discomfort with Lajim.
But Sabah PKR leaders have not seen the last of their problems yet before the national polls.
What if Anwar’s promise of “more positive news coming from Sabah” is fulfilled soon?
There are talks that Gaphur Salleh and Rubin Balang may leave the BN and join the opposition.
If these personalities make the move, Lajim’s claims on all the Muslim seats in PKR will have to be re-negotiated, and Bumburing’s hope of contesting so many KDM seats will also be compromised.
Then PKR will appear to be less of a greener pasture for defectors.
And Anwar – after the botched agreement with SAPP and the discomforting experience with Bumburing and Lajim – will be less inclined to make anymore sweet promises to new BN defectors.