Protest against ‘parachute candidate’ in Tawau

The group of protesters in front of the Tawau Umno office, holding placards rejecting Sabah EPU director Osman Jamal as their candidate.

KOTA KINABALU: About 80 Umno members held an hour-long peaceful demonstration in front of the Umno office in Tawau today to protest a possible “parachute candidate” being fielded for the Balung state seat.

One of the protesters, who requested anonymity, said the group was upset after finding out their long-time assemblyman, Syed Abas Syed Ali, 70, would be replaced by the Sabah Economic Planning Unit (EPU) director Osman Jamal as the BN candidate in the May 9 election.

“We do not want a parachute candidate. We demand the party leadership continue to place its faith in the current assemblyman,” he said.

He claimed that despite their small number, they represented the voice of BN voters in the constituency.

“I am sure the party’s leadership knows who it would want to appease – the 14,000 voters or one person, Osman Jamal,” he said.

The group gathered outside the Umno office building from 9.50am and refused to leave.

They demanded to speak to their assemblyman, who is also the Sabah state assembly speaker, and ask him to defend the Balung seat in the coming election.

They held placards with messages like “We want a candidate from Tawau Umno”, “We reject parachute candidate”, “Choose one or 14,000 Balung voters” and “N55 Balung rejects Osman Jamal”.

Syed Abas arrived there an hour later and persuaded the group to disperse.

Police were also there to control the situation.

Syed Abas first represented the Balung seat from 1978 until 1981 and then from 2004 until today.

Osman was the state Land and Survey Department director before being transferred to the EPU about three years ago.

He comes from Tawau and is the president of the Sabah Bugis Cultural Association.

Attempts by FMT to contact both Syed Abas and Osman were unsuccessful.

Parachute candidates are a hot-button issue, especially in Tawau, where several long-term representatives are expected to be replaced.