KOTA KINABALU: Speculation is rife over who will lead PPBM’s Sabah chapter, with a former Umno leader and an ex-deputy minister seen as likely candidates.
Former Sabah Umno chairman Hajiji Mohd Noor, who led a mass exodus of senior party leaders last December, is said to be a favourite for the post.
However, Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah (PHRS) president Lajim Ukin, who is a former Umno deputy minister, could give Hajiji a run for his money.
Sabah Universiti Teknologi Mara lecturer Tony Paridi Bagang said Lajim’s chances are slim but cautioned against dismissing the possibility.
“Lajim is considered a veteran politician,” he told FMT. “He performed well when he was in Umno.
“He also solidified his relationship with his constituents and became very popular due to his personal outreach to the people.”
However, Bagang warned that Lajim’s track record of switching political allegiances might backfire on him.
He noted that Lajim had been with PBS before joining Umno. “His political history and betrayal of PBS may reduce public confidence in him,” he said, adding that Lajim had contested on a PKR ticket in the 13th general election before going on to set up PHRS.
While Lajim is seen as the Janang Gayuh or paramount leader of his Bisaya community, he added, the politician’s popularity is on the decline as shown in the last polls.
“His failure to win any seats in the last general election suggests that such relationships are not enough.
“His unexpected defeat revealed that his popularity failed to win over enough voters to put him back in office.”
Hajiji, who is Sulaman assemblyman, confirmed last week that PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad would launch the party’s Sabah chapter at Padang Merdeka here on April 6.
However, he declined to comment when asked if he would be made pro tem chairman, saying either Mahathir or PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin would make the announcement.
Lajim subsequently dismissed talk that Hajiji is in the running to be named Sabah PPBM head.
“For me, it’s just a rumour. It’s not valid unless there is an official announcement made by the PPBM leadership,” he said.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Tiung said Hajiji would be the natural choice as he has a great deal of support.
“He has the numbers – a group of state assemblymen and MPs are with him,” he said, adding however that there could be others in the running as well.
He also spoke of the possibility that other elected representatives from existing parties in the state would join PPBM once it is established in Sabah.
On Lajim’s suggestion that converting PHRS divisions and branches into PPBM ones would be a straightforward process, he said this was not necessarily the case.
“Anyone who wishes to join a party is subject to that party’s constitution. No one can declare that he has disbanded his party and turned all his branches and divisions into another party.
“They need to follow the process and apply to join the party, then set up the branches and divisions subject to approval by the Registrar of Societies,” he said.
Lajim previously said PHRS would hold an extraordinary general meeting to dissolve the 26 divisions and enable its 64,000 members to join PPBM.