KOTA KINABALU: Beluran Umno chief James Ratib has expressed relief over the decision of Beluran Umno permanent chairman Mat Salleh Imam Munabi to leave the party for opposition group Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan).
Speaking to FMT, James said Salleh, who had been an Umno member for more than 20 years, had always caused discord among members of the party and within Barisan Nasional (BN) in Beluran.
“I am grateful that he and his friends have finally left because everybody knows they have always been a liability for BN. We in Sugut are happy they left.”
He dismissed concerns that the departure of Salleh, who has a large following thanks to his position in the party, would affect Umno’s strength in Sugut.
On the contrary, he said Umno would only become stronger as Salleh and his cronies had been the target of many accusations for a long time.
James said he had in fact created Salleh’s post of permanent chairman as Salleh had demanded a post in the division.
“Anyway, it seems Warisan is actively picking up all these has-beens and unwanted people from other political parties to join its ranks.
“Whatever it is, the people of Sugut and in Beluran are generally very happy today over this piece of news.”
He added that it was better for such people to leave the party now before election time so that they could not sabotage the party from within.
Salleh, together with several others, announced they were joining Warisan at an event in Beluran on Tuesday, attended by some 1,500 people.
Meanwhile, Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah denied the allegation by Warisan member Rapahi Edris, who claimed he was a member of the party.
Rapahi had also joined Warisan, which is led by former Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal.
Speaking to FMT, Harapan Rakyat secretary-general Abdin Darus said the claim was nothing but a political gimmick aimed at gaining cheap publicity.
“After much scrutiny and examining membership records in the division level and checking with the state constituency coordinator, division and even the party’s headquarters, I can confirm that Rapahi was never a member of our party.
“We cannot find any evidence of him ever filling up or signing an application form to be a Harapan Rakyat member.”
Rapahi had announced he was joining Warisan at a party function in Sipitang, near here, on Saturday.
Abdin urged the party’s supporters, especially in Sipitang, not to be influenced by the tactics used by certain political parties.
“This tactic is outdated and should not be used by an experienced politician,” he said, in what is believed to be a reference to Shafie.
According to a party source, although Rapahi was never a Harapan Rakyat member, he had been seen together with party president Lajim Ukin on several occasions.
“He was lobbying to be the party’s candidate in Sipitang. But the party already has a suitable candidate.
“So he is unhappy and apparently has decided to try his luck somewhere else,” he said.