KOTA KINABALU: The announcement by PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the party will spread its wings to Sabah has caught many by surprise, especially Warisan leaders who until yesterday were confident PPBM would keep its election promise to stay away from Sabah.
However, the decision has been well-received by both Sabah Umno and PPBM’s potential members.
Sabah Umno chief Bung Mokhtar Radin welcomed PPBM’s decision to enter Sabah, saying the party’s decision was to Umno’s advantage as PPBM was never a threat to Umno in Sabah.
“Instead, the party is a threat to Warisan. Those who have already left Umno, said to be around 80,000, are ready to join PPBM.
“It’s okay. That is better because that way, we know those who stay with us are genuine and true to Umno’s struggle. We will continue to play our role as the opposition,” he told FMT.
In its heyday, Sabah Umno reported it had as many as 500,000 members statewide in all 26 constituencies, including Labuan.
Bung Mokhtar’s opinion was supported by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) political analyst Arnold Puyok, who said PPBM was trying to position itself in the Muslim Bumiputera areas to fill the void left by Umno.
“So, I see PPBM’s move as an attempt to emerge as a strong alternative player in Sabah.
“I foresee that eventually, it will become a competitor to Warisan,” he said.
Puyok had earlier said any move by PPBM to spread its wings to Sabah would leave local party Warisan in a dilemma as the Malay-Muslim Bumiputera communities might be more attracted to the Malay-based PPBM.
He pointed out that Warisan’s multiracial philosophy was not attractive enough to the Malay-Muslim Bumiputera communities as they would be looking for a political platform that could be seen as serving their interests.
This political platform, once provided by Umno, can now be taken over by PPBM.
Meanwhile, former Sabah Umno deputy information chief Ramlee Marhaban, who left Sabah Umno with other Sabah Umno leaders last December, welcomed the move and thanked PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad for listening to the request of Sabahans.
He confirmed that all the former Sabah Umno leaders, now independents, would join the national-based party once it was officially established here.
“I think this is a good move because it would only benefit Sabahans in the long run. I don’t understand why some people are unhappy about it. Dr Mahathir already said it will strengthen the state government.
“Personally, I think this will ensure Sabah will be able to continue its economic development in a much smoother way,” he said.
He claimed that the majority of those who left Sabah Umno did not want to join Warisan, which made PPBM their natural destination.
He urged Sabahans, especially Sabah PH and Warisan leaders, to look at this latest development positively and not try to stop PPBM’s decision.
“It would certainly stabilise our political situation in Sabah and the people would be happier in the end,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, former Sabah Umno secretary Masidi Manjun, who had also left the party, said the independents, namely the five MPs, eight assemblymen, two senators and all former Sabah Umno division chiefs who left the party would hold a meeting soon.
They will, however, wait for the return of the group’s de facto leader and Sulaman assemblyman Hajiji Noor from his pilgrimage.
“We will have a meeting after his (Hajiji’s) return. He is only expected to return after Feb 23. We will issue an official statement after the meeting,” he said.