KOTA KINABALU: Rumours of a battle for the Warisan deputy presidency have prompted a political analyst to warn of a potential division in party ranks.
Commenting on talk that incumbent Darell Leiking will face a challenge in next April’s party election from vice-president Peter Anthony, analyst Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said Warisan’s lack of a solid multiracial ideology made it vulnerable to a split.
Leiking, the federal minister of international trade and industry, is a Kadazan and Anthony, who is state minister of infrastructure development, is a Dusun. They are looked upon as leaders of their respective communities although the Kadazans and Dusuns, along with the Muruts, are now spoken of as belonging to one community, the KDM.
The rumours about the challenge have been swirling for the better part of a year, but have gained strength in recent days.
“This is a challenge for Warisan,” said Puyok. “Its KDM support is not particularly strong. If indeed Peter is challenging Darell on the KDM platform, he has a slight advantage since he has long led the KDM Malaysia NGO, gaining some influence among the KDM in the interior.
“Also, as a state minister, he has had more time to consolidate his grassroots support.
“At the same time, however, we know that Darell has a large following among the young KDM in urban areas.”
Puyok acknowledged that the talk might turn out to be untrue, but he noted that Anthony took over KDM Malaysia’s leadership by ousting the founding president.
“If his record in KDM Malaysia is anything to go by, I don’t see any reason why he will not take a chance in trying to take over Warisan’s deputy presidency,” he said.
In the event of a fight between the two, he added, Warisan president Shafie Apdal’s task of preventing a split in the party would be daunting.
“Warisan’s problem is that it does not have a strong ideology or platform on multiracialism or multiracial politics,” he said. “People joined Warisan because they hated Umno and Barisan Nasional.”
A Warisan insider who is close to both Leiking and Anthony was dismissive of the rumours. He told FMT the two were friendly with each other.
“This rumour has been going around since before the general election,” he said. “Of course, the people see more of Peter since he is a state minister. But this does not mean that he wants to take over Darell’s position in the party.”
He said it was important for Warisan to ensure that a prominent KDM leader like Anthony maintains closeness with people on the ground, especially in areas that are not too secure for Warisan, such as Ranau and places in the interior.
He described Penampang, which is Leiking’s constituency, as “already a safe area” for Warisan.
“Of course, we would like Darell to go down to the ground more and not just in Penampang,” he said. “But right now, he is busy with his new role as a federal minister. Next year, the KDM people will see him more often.”