Heavyweights face off in hot seat Semporna

Former federal minister Shafie Apdal is challenged by state assistant minister Ramlee Marahaban

SEMPORNA: Two Sabah heavyweights, Shafie Apdal and Ramlee Marahaban, are vying for the hot parliamentary seat of Semporna, with both confident that they will be the voters’ choice on May 9.

Shafie is seeking a sixth term in the Muslim-majority seat in Sabah’s east coast. Against him is Ramlee, a former Umno comrade, who is assistant state finance minister.

They are joined by Abdul Nasir Abdul Raub (PAS) and Asmara Asmad of Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah.

Ramlee, who is Sabah Umno deputy information chief, said the people of Semporna were mature enough to practise true democracy.

“We saw Semporna people’s support during the procession with BN’s candidates from the mosque to the community hall nomination centre,” he said. “The support from the people in blue shirts really convinced me of a win.”

Ramlee said the four-cornered contest would make it easier for BN to set their strategy.

However, Shafie said Sabah people, particularly those in Semporna, could judge for themselves and choose wisely. “Wherever in Sabah I went to give a talk, people would patiently wait without expecting anything,” he said.

Nevertheless, attendances at events were not a yardstick. “What matters is the votes,” he said.

Shafie was rural and regional development minister in the federal Cabinet and an Umno vice-president before being dismissed following his criticism of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s handling of the 1MDB issue.

He formed Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan), which is actively campaigning throughout the state, under the popular slogan “Sabahans for Sabah”. Their aim is to ensure that only Sabahans and a local party will govern the state.

Ramlee defended his state seat of Bugaya in the last outing by a 3,503-vote majority in a six-cornered tussle, after winning his first term unopposed in 2008.

Semporna covers 1,145 sq km and has a population of 133,164, of whom 97% are Bumiputeras. There were 41,607 registered voters.

The parliamentary constituency is made up of three state constituencies: Sulabayan, Senallang and Bugaya.

Shafie is also contesting Senallang, the first time he is standing in a state seat, and will be up against cousin Nasir Sakaran, who is seeking a second term.

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