The large crowd at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.KOTA KINABALU: An elderly woman repeatedly prayed audibly as she wiped her tears, asking for God’s grace to protect former chief minister Musa Aman.
“He was a good chief minister. When he came down to the ground in Sandakan, he was never arrogant and always made sure we were provided for. I only hope he will be treated just as well,” she said, her eyes welling up in tears again as she spoke.
A heavily-pregnant young woman leaned against the black van parked next to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal Two, obviously exhausted after waiting for Musa’s arrival since 11am.
“I am due anytime now. But I want to be here to show my support. I don’t care what happened. I just want to see Musa again,” she smiled.
The women were among more than 3,000 supporters allowed into the Terminal Two compound.
Another 8,000 were reportedly turned away by the police who blocked the area, fearing for the safety of the people if more were allowed in.
They were Musa’s supporters, mainly from Umno and others from former Barisan Nasional (BN) parties and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR).
These supporters came in their own vehicles while some took buses and taxis to be present at the airport.
As more and more photos of the large turnout found their way into social media, rumours began to circulate that those who came were paid RM150 each by Sabah Umno and that buses were chartered to bring them in.
However, those who were on the ground could attest that this was not so as it was obvious that those who came today did so at their own expense and out of loyalty to Musa.
Musa arrived at 12.30pm on a private jet and was greeted by his friends in Gabungan Bersatu Sabah (GBS).
He has been away from the public eye for almost four months. When he left then, the image he left was that of a strong and determined man.
But the man that appeared today was an older man, yet still with the same determination in his eyes.
His beard was white and so were some parts of his hair. He walked slowly but surely, assisted by his walking stick as he raised his hand to greet his supporters who continued to push forward to get a glimpse of him.
Musa was swiftly transported to a waiting black van outside the terminal building towards the Sabah State Legislative Assembly building.
He was sworn in as the Sungai Sibuga assemblyman before Speaker Syed Abas Syed Ali at the Speaker’s Chamber at 3.33pm today.
Political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung told FMT that while Musa’s coming home finally answered all questions about his whereabouts and the many what-ifs, he warned this was only the beginning of another string of events.
The Universiti Malaysia Sabah Humanities, Arts and Heritage Faculty senior lecturer said one should not view this as anything to do with the current administration of the state government under Parti Warisan Sabah.
“But, of course, who is the rightful chief minister will be known soon. The important thing is that Musa has already been sworn in as assemblyman. I think this is just a start, not the end of the Sabah chief ministership saga.
“This is because, previously, Musa’s political opponents and their supporters had been hoping that Musa would not be able to be sworn in as the assemblyman,” he said.
He also noted that the large turnout at the airport despite the late notice – news of Musa’s imminent arrival was only made known late yesterday evening – showed that Musa still has a large support base among the people.
However, he believed Chief Minister Shafie Apdal would not be too concerned about the big crowd.
“If anything, I think it will only provoke Shafie’s supporters to be more aggressive now,” he said.
Musa, who left Sabah on May 14 for Kuala Lumpur, left the country two days later to receive medical attention in London.
He returned to the country on Aug 21 but was immediately transferred to a private hospital in Subang Jaya for further treatment.
Following a criminal intimidation report lodged against him, he was arrested on Aug 23 but the magistrate’s court refused the police remand application as Musa was not seen as a flight risk.
He is set to take over the role as opposition leader from STAR president Jeffrey Kitingan at the Sabah state legislative assembly.