KOTA KINABALU: Acting Umno deputy president Ismail Sabri Yaakob will announce autonomy for Sabah Umno next week, said Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar.
Bung said this would strengthen the party in the state and help allay the perception that Umno is a Malaya-based party.
“Sabah Umno will be led by Sabahans, and we will decide the seats to contest in the coming elections, the candidates and also the membership,” the Kinabatangan MP said.
Speaking to reporters after meeting the state’s Wanita, Puteri and Youth wings today, Bung said Umno is still relevant and accepted by the people.
Last September, former Sabah Umno chief Hajiji Mohd Noor had handed over a memorandum to party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi seeking autonomy.
Zahid was supposed to make an important announcement on this during the Umno general assembly, but nothing was clearly mentioned about autonomy.
This was reported to be one of the factors that triggered the mass exodus of senior state Umno leaders, including MPs and assemblymen, last December.
Bung said despite the exodus, the state chapter is still intact, adding that those who left only constituted about 10% of Sabah Umno’s half a million members.
“Sabah still has the most number of Umno members. We have completed 80% of the work to clean up the state’s membership roll. This includes members who have passed away, those who are inactive and those who have left.
“We now have 565,000 members in 5,187 branches.”
‘Umno leaders may come back’
Bung also claimed that some of the Sabah Umno leaders who left the party had expressed a desire to return to Umno.
He said these leaders had intended to join Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s PPBM but have since been left hanging due to the party not opening branches in Sabah yet.
“Some of them have been waiting for some time to join PPBM. They feel they were played out.
“Statements from PBBM leaders indicate the party is not coming to Sabah as they are honouring an agreement with Warisan. So, these former Umno leaders feel trapped.
“As the Sabah Umno head, my doors are always open to members or leaders who left the party to rejoin Umno.
“But they won’t be in leadership positions any more and will only be ordinary members.”
However, Bung said none of these former Umno leaders have submitted applications to rejoin the party.
Of the nine Sabah Umno assemblyman who left the party, Tempasuk assemblyman Musbah Jamli was the first to join Warisan recently.
Musbah said he decided to join Warisan as it is a local party and thus serves as the best platform to fight for Sabah’s rights.
The former Kota Belud Umno deputy chief said he decided to break ranks with the other former Sabah Umno representatives, who are reportedly still keen to join PPBM.
Bung said he was not invited by Chief Minister Shafie Apdal to join Warisan.
“But we are still good friends and respect each other.
“I told him I will support anything he does which is good for the people or the state but will criticise those that are not good,” he said.
Bung dismissed any possible alliance with Warisan, saying the opposition cannot be part of the ruling government.
“But in politics, everything is possible. Today, they can be your enemy; tomorrow they can be your good friend.”
He said the Sabah government has not done anything new to improve the lives of the people and had failed to live up to its election manifesto.
“For example logging; it should be stopped for now. They said they will stop logging if they won but such activities are still going on.
“Even in Maliau Basin, there is activity. There are logging trucks coming in and out.”