KOTA KINABALU: A former newsman is among the names being considered to be the Parti Warisan Sabah candidate for Karambunai, one of two state seats within the Sepanggar parliamentary constituency.
According to party sources, Zakaria Damit, who reported for Berita Harian and Harian Mercu previously, is in the running to stand for the Muslim-majority seat in the coming election.
Other names touted to be the candidate are Mentoh Aru, the Sepanggar Warisan chief, and Azhar Matussin.
Azhar was among the seven Sepanggar Umno committee members who resigned their party posts earlier this month. The seven joined the opposition party on April 11.
When contacted, Zakaria declined to confirm if his name was shortlisted but said he would accept any candidate the party decided to pick.
“It is up to the party leadership but if given a chance, I am ready,” said the Sepanggar Warisan information chief.
“But we will support anyone who is selected as the candidate. Warisan is not about individuals but about the party,” he added.
Being a reporter before, Zakaria, 41, said he knew of the issues on the ground in Sepanggar, adding that this experience will serve him well if he is named the candidate.
If selected, Zakaria will be making his political debut likely against lawyer Jainab Ahmad Ayid, the three-term Karambunai incumbent.
Jainab’s candidacy was also the subject of speculation, as there was speculation that she would be heading back to Tawau, her hometown in Sabah’s east coast.
She has, however, played down such transfer talk, saying she was more comfortable in Karambunai where she has served for three terms since 2004.
There is also talk of Sepanggar Umno acting division chief Yakub Khan replacing Jainab in the seat, with Sepanggar Umno Youth members going on record calling for his candidacy in this coming polls.
Together with the Inanam state seat, Karambunai makes up the Sepanggar federal constituency, considered among the hot seats in Sabah.
For Inanam, BN is still considering several names to recapture the seat, won by PKR in the last election.
Three names are being mentioned. They are PBS Supreme Council member William Majimbun, former Inanam assemblyman Johnny Goh and PBS Inanam chief Fredolin Totin Bangon.
Sources said Goh, also with PBS, was in contention to make a comeback after being sidelined in the last election.
It is also understood that Warisan had intended to field its deputy president Darell Leiking in Inanam but agreed to make way for PKR due to the pact between Warisan and Pakatan Harapan.
Sabah PKR vice-chief Kenny Chua is said to be the likely candidate for the seat.
PKR’s Roland Chia defeated PBS’ Joseph Paulus Lantip in May 2013 with a 3,202-vote majority in a three-cornered fight that also involved Sabah Progressive Party’s Eric Majimbun.
Rahman Dahlan for Sepanggar seat?
As for Sepanggar, Sabah BN secretary Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is the incumbent Kota Belud MP, is heavily tipped to contest the federal seat, with Rahman making more public appearances in the constituency of late.
The political scene in Sepanggar, which is nearly double the size of Penang island, is made more complex with the political future of incumbent Sepanggar MP Jumat Idris.
Jumat is said to be considering his political future following his initial six-year suspension, which has been cut down to three, from Umno in 2015 for publicly criticising Chief Minister Musa Aman.
Rahman had said he hoped Jumat would stay with the party but he has yet to confirm his allegiance despite the election looming nearer.
After rubbishing accusations he engineered the exit of the seven Sepanggar Umno committee members, Jumat had refused to deny or confirm whether he would leave Umno to contest as an independent or join other parties.
This has fuelled further speculation that he could opt to join Warisan despite turning down an invitation from Warisan president Shafie Apdal to join his party last year.
Jumat had headed Sepanggar Umno since 2008. He won the seat with a 9,442-vote majority in the 2013 general election with 22,845 votes against DAP’s Jeffrey Kumin, who secured 13,403 votes.
The Sepanggar seat has about 62,000 voters, 51% of them Muslim Bumiputeras, 26% Chinese and 21% non-Muslim Bumiputeras.