KOTA KINABALU: Opposition MP Shafie Apdal is no longer in the government but says that does not stop him from serving his constituency of Semporna, located on the east coast of Sabah.
“Despite not being in the government, it’s not difficult to serve my constituents.
“In fact, I’m thankful because I can still ‘beramal’ (do good deeds) by serving the people. My conscience is clear,” he told FMT.
Shafie was the rural and regional development minister and Umno vice-president before being removed from his federal cabinet position following his criticism of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s handling of the 1MDB issue.
Shafie, a five-term MP, left Umno and formed Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan), which is actively campaigning throughout the state in preparation for the 14th general election (GE14).
The new party operates under the popular slogan of “Sabahans for Sabah”, which aims to ensure that only Sabahans and a local party will govern the state.
“I thank the Semporna people for voting for me previously. I’m willing to make sacrifices to serve the people,” Shafie said in an interview with FMT.
“They’ve given me their trust so I’ll keep serving them to make sure I can defend them. Being outside the government and not having any post doesn’t mean I can’t help them.
“The help is not in terms of BR1M and outboard engines (for fishermen) but some other assistance in a way that I can.”
Shafie, 60, said he felt at peace because he served the people and not political masters.
However, he acknowledged that as an opposition MP, his capacity to help his constituents was limited.
“I had to choose between remaining a minister and ‘beramal’ by serving the rakyat,” he said.
“Since the first day I joined politics, my intention was to serve the people. I didn’t serve the people for (former prime ministers) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad) and Pak Lah (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) or Najib, but I’ve been serving the people.
“You must be loyal to the voters. It’s because of them that you became the government and I became Semporna MP.
“I must deliver what they want, what I can,” he said, adding that this was the duty entrusted to him.
The Semporna district covers 1,145 sq km and has a population of 133,164. Of that, 97% are Bumiputeras.
There were 41,607 registered voters in Semporna in the last general election.
The Semporna parliamentary area is made up of three state constituencies: Sulabayan, Senallang and Bugaya.
Jaujan Sambakong won Sulabayan on an Umno ticket but left to join Warisan and is now the party’s vice-president.
Assistant Sabah Finance Minister Ramlee Marahaban and veteran assemblyman Nasir Sakaran are BN’s representatives in Bugaya and Senallang respectively.
Last month, Ramlee had dismissed any challenge posed by Shafie, saying politics in Semporna “do not revolve around him”.
“We are not afraid of him because we’re ready to face him and give him a fierce fight. We know we can successfully win all the seats in Semporna,” FMT reported Ramlee as saying.
Ramlee also said Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno had brought many new development projects to Semporna, such as a new sports complex, an upgrade of the water supply facility, a new market, a district mosque, and a religious academy.
He said the tourism industry was also being developed in Semporna, which is famous for its world-class diving spots.
“Although Shafie is the MP in Semporna and I’m state assemblyman only in Bugaya, I can say that we in BN and Umno worked hard to develop not just our state constituencies but the whole parliamentary constituency of Semporna,” said Ramlee during an interview with FMT in January.
Shafie, however, questioned the development projects by BN.
“What did he (Ramlee) deliver? He just did a groundbreaking, there’s no sports complex, just a groundbreaking.
“I’m not going to respond (to claims on his effectiveness as assemblyman) because the people of Semporna are wise and know the truth. I don’t want to boast about this.”
A resident in Semporna said the people in the coastal district had enjoyed an encouraging growth of development, especially in the last few years.
“Infrastructure and economic development are taking place in Semporna. There are lots of new hotels and resorts,” a fish wholesaler, Gapor Akmad, told FMT.
“There’s been a lot of changes, especially in the tourism industry. There are more job opportunities for the people.”
Fish-based business is also booming in the district which is well-known for its marine products.
Gapor said although Shafie was no longer in the government, he had helped many people including the Bajau Laut or sea gypsies on the islands off Semporna.
“He gave assistance to the Bajau Laut or Pala’u in the form of fishing nets and sampans. He helped in any way he could.
“Shafie cared about the people even before he became a member of the opposition,” he said, adding however that the government had also played a part in developing the constituency.