KOTA KINABALU: When Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) president Shafie Apdal named his new Sabah Cabinet last week, there was a certain air of unfamiliarity among Sabahans.
For the past 14 years or so, Sabahans, much like their Malaysian counterparts elsewhere, had been used to the same government and ministers, albeit with some reshuffling now and then.
And the chief minister had, since 2003, been Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) chief Musa Aman.
But after the May 9 polls, the country’s political landscape underwent a complete flip, with Pakatan Harapan (PH) taking control of the federal government and cutting short BN’s 60-year reign.
Sabah also saw changes, with Shafie sworn in as chief minister less than 48 hours after Musa had taken his oath. This brought about a new government, led by Warisan but populated as well by ally PH and Upko, its latest associate.
Sabah now has two politicians who have been sworn in as chief minister, and it will be up to the courts to decide which is the rightful leader.
With Shafie’s Cabinet, Sabahans are only familiar with Shafie and his deputy chief ministers Wilfred Madius Tangau, Christina Liew and Peter Anthony.
“Honestly speaking, only Shafie and Tangau have experience in office while the rest are rookies,” local Brandon Young told FMT.
“I heard Yusof Yacob (newly-installed Sabah education and innovation minister) was a Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker before, and Petagas assemblyman Uda Sulai is a seasoned government servant. Maybe a few others had government experience here and there.
“But the rest – I’m sorry, but I need to memorise their names and faces,” the 38-year-old who operates a pet taxi service said, adding that he was completely clueless about many of the new assistant ministers.
Government worker Daniel Roman said it would be an interesting four years or five years, until the next election.
“It will be a new way of doing things. New policies and new systems… there will be excitement and anxiety at the same time but I’m looking forward to these interesting times,” he said.
Even senior journalists raised their eyebrows when Warisan announced its list of candidates two days before nomination day, not knowing who most of the candidates were.
Political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung said Sabahans generally knew the senior leaders like Shafie, Tangau, Warisan vice-president Junz Wong, Anthony and ex-Umno representatives who defected to the coalition.
“It’s just odd for them (the people) to start accepting they’re the new government of the day now.
“How are they going to learn to become the government? Easy. Just deliver what they promised to the people. Sabahans will remember everything they have said.
“Sabahans want to see lower cost of living, the abolishing of the GST (goods and services tax), solutions to the various illegal immigrant-related issues, 20% oil royalty instead of 5% and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 issues,” Lee said.
Lee, a senior lecturer with Universiti Malaysia Sabah, said Sabahans would be eager to see how the new government would perform compared with its predecessor.
He also said Shafie could make a difference by adopting more inclusive government approaches such as involving the current opposition in his office.
“You cannot simply stop any development project initiated by the previous government,” he said, adding that the public might see this as a form of political vengeance.
Warisan-PH vs Sabah BN
The Warisan-PH alliance came on the back of a strong election showing. Of the 60 state seats contested, Sabah BN tied with Warisan-PH at 29 seats each, with Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) holding the two remaining seats.
It was only when the two STAR assemblymen, including the party’s president Jeffrey Kitingan, joined forces with BN that the former ruling coalition gained a simple majority of 31 seats to form the state government.
Lee said this was technically a win for Sabah BN, but that everything had crumbled following the defections of Umno and Upko reps to the Warisan-PH fold.
He said Sabah BN was considered to have lost badly due to overconfidence, lack of teamwork and acts of sabotage.
Since the introduction of the 60-seat system in 2004, Sabah BN had never lost its two-thirds majority, causing the state to become known as “BN’s fixed deposit”.
BN almost made a clean sweep in the 2004 and 2008 polls. In 2013, it won 48 seats but still retained its two-thirds majority. That majority increased after more opposition representatives joined BN.
This time around, of the 29 seats won by BN, 17 belonged to Umno, six to Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), five to Upko and one to Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS).
The other Sabah BN component parties like the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Gerakan and MCA were completely wiped out, losing all their allotted seats.
The seat allocation for Sabah BN component parties were: 32 for Umno, 17 for PBS, six for Upko, one for PBRS, two for MCA, four for LDP and two for Gerakan.
By the time PBS, Upko and PBRS left the coalition, coupled with defections from Umno, BN – or ultimately Umno – was left with only 11 state seats.
Warisan, on the other hand, won 21 state seats while PH secured eight.
As for parliamentary seats, Warisan and PH won 14 of the 25 available. BN won an initial 10 while the remaining went to STAR.
The Sabah east coast, once seen as an impenetrable BN bastion, fell spectacularly into the hands of Warisan.
Initially, BN only won Sugut, Sukau, Apas, Balung, Tanjong Batu and Sungai Sibuga and Sebatik in the east coast. However, the representatives for Balung, Sugut, Tanjong Batu and Sebatik have since left to pledge support for Warisan.
The supposed heavyweights, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Salleh Said Keruak, Abdul Ghapur Salleh were all deposed, along with the three deputy chief ministers Yahya Hussin, Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Raymond Tan.
However, the Kadazandusun Murut Rungus (KDMR)-majority seats remained relatively intact, with PBS, Upko and PBRS winning a combined 12 state seats initially.
These are rural seats comprising Matunggong, Tandek, Tamparuli, Kiulu, Kundasang and Labuk for PBS, Kadamaian, Paginatan, Kuala Penyu, Kuamut and Nabawan for Upko and Sook for PBRS. Sugut representative James Ratib, of Umno, also later joined Upko.