KOTA KINABALU: As many as 30,000 to 40,000 people attended the launching of Sabah PPBM today at a new shopping mall in Penampang, about 10km from here.
Attendees started arriving as early as 10am for the 4pm event and the four-lane road connecting Donggongon in Penampang to Kota Kinabalu was clogged with traffic and vehicles parked on the roadside.
Participants were from all walks of life and the multi-racial crowd included people from all over Sabah, from Tawau and Semporna on the east coast to Sipitang in the south.
Many politicians from government and opposition parties were present – but none of the leaders of Sabah’s ruling Warisan party.
A Warisan insider told FMT that president Shafie Apdal chose not to attend as he considers the event to be a personal event for Mahathir and allies.
Warisan leaders and their supporters are reported to be unhappy with PPBM’s decision to enter Sabah, after repeatedly asking that PPBM honour its promise to leave Sabah to Warisan.
Many of the people who came to the ceremony today were former members of Sabah Umno, although some said they had never been part of any party, with PPBM being their first foray into politics.
One of them was 26-year old Elvira Michael of Penampang. She said she chose PPBM as a national ruling party because it is new and free of scandals unlike other parties.
Asked why she did not join local parties such as Upko or Warisan, Elvira said she prefers a national party as it is easier to get Sabah’s voice heard.
“The other national parties like PKR, DAP and Amanah however do not suit me and my aspirations,” she said.
Two friends from Semporna, known only as Adzwan and Lajurani, said PPBM was a natural destination after they decided to leave Umno last year.
They considered other parties including Warisan, whose president, Shafie Apdal is the Semporna MP, but decided against it in the end in favour of a national party. “It does not mean we are unpatriotic. We think it is better to be in a national party because our reach is
wider compared to a local party,” said Adzwan.
Among the dignitaries who attended the event were Parti Bersatu Sabah secretary general Jahid Jahim and information chief Joniston Bangkuai; Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan; Kimanis MP Anifah Aman; Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah president Joseph Kurup and deputy president Arthur Kurup; former Sabah MIC chief V.
Jothy; former chief ministers Harris Salleh and Chong Kah Kiat.
PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad was so overjoyed to see Chong, that he gave Chong a hug.
There was no sign of three former Sabah Umno leaders, namely Salleh Said Keruak, Pandikar Amin Mulia and Yamani Hafez Musa, who is Sipitang MP.
Among those who joined PPBM was former Upko vice-president Bobbey Ah Fang Suan, assemblyman for Nabawan.
Sulaman assemblyman Hajiji Noor has been appointed Sabah PPBM chief coordinator, tasked to oversee the creation of PPBM divisions and branches and to ensure the process adheres to the party’s constitution.