To go or not to go, conflicting messages on PPBM’s Sabah plan

PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been coy about setting his party’s base in Sabah, a move observers say could upset Warisan president Shafie Apdal. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: What the future holds for PPBM in Sabah, in the aftermath of the Umno exodus from the state last week, is a question that even PPBM’s top leaders cannot answer at the moment.

Any such entry into Sabah by PPBM, seen as having more clout with the federal government than Warisan, will pose a threat to Chief Minister Shafie Apdal.

Both Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin, the party’s chairman and president, have been coy when asked to respond to speculation of PPBM making its foray into the Borneo state.

“They are at the crossroads whether to tell the truth or to let people interpret the political signals,” political observer Awang Azman Awang Pawi told FMT.

Mahathir has so far dismissed talk that PPBM, which launched its Sarawak chapter early this month would also set up base in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said it was too soon for the party to spread its wings to Sabah, saying any such move must be discussed with its allies in the state.

But the presence of two senior party members at a press conference to announce the departure of 17 Sabah Umno MPs and assemblymen, has fuelled suspicions of PPBM’s plans, despite denials from the top.

PPBM strategist Rais Hussin, and his colleague in the Supreme Council Rafiq Naizamohideen, were among those who witnessed the announcement, seen as the biggest setback for Umno since its Sabah chapter was launched in the early nineties.

Rafiq is seen to be close to PPBM deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir.

Despite denials, there were rumours of an intense campaign to recruit PPBM members.

Awang Azman agreed with suggestions that Umno members would feel more at home with PPBM, the bulk of whose leaders come from Umno.

“It makes them feel more comfortable knowing it will look after the interest of Islam and Bumiputeras in Sabah,” he said.

Political analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff said despite things being in favour of PPBM, the stakes are high, most notably its ties with Shafie.

But he said the fact that two Supreme Council members attended the press conference last week, and also the meeting held between Umno MPs and Mahathir not too long ago, “shows the likelihood of them joining PPBM”.

Kamarul Zaman suggested a win-win solution. He said federal MPs could join PPBM, while assemblymen can add to Warisan’s number in the state assembly.

“This way there is no power struggle and Warisan will also remain strong in the state.”