KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Umno’s list of choices for the Kimanis by-election has shrunk to four names after Anifah Aman’s sons were withdrawn from the list.
The party is expected to announce its nominee for the parliamentary seat on New Year’s day.
Norhaidi Che Dan, an aide to Anifah, said that Anifah’s sons, Ahmad Firdaus and Ahmad Zachry were not interested in contesting the seat, which Anifah won in 2018.
Norhaidi said Zachry, an ordinary Umno member, is not a politician while Firdaus who is the Kimanis Umno youth chief was “simply not interested.”
Sabah Umno is left with only four choices: former Bongawan assemblyman Mohamad Alamin, who is head of Kimanis Umno, Anifah himself; Saat Ag Damit, a lecturer with Universiti Malaysia Sabah; and a former district officer Ahmad Gais.
However, Anifah has declined an offer by Umno to contest the seat again on an Umno ticket.
Kimanis was narrowly won by Anifah in the 2018 general election. An election court, however, declared the election null and void because of irregularities, a decision upheld by the Federal Court.
Anifah’s lawyers have filed for a review on the federal court decision, and for a stay of the Kimanis by-election on Jan 18 pending the review.
Kimanis voters who spoke to FMT say they prefer Anifah, but were not too sure about the other candidates.
One voter, Nurul Afiqah, said the majority of Kimanis folks are still fond of Anifah as he is soft-spoken and approachable. “Anifah is often seen attending weddings organised by Kimanis folks and is easy to speak with,” said the 40-year-old businesswoman.
When asked about Mohamad Alamin, she said Kimanis folks are also fond of him but it was unlike Anifah as some places like Membakut was not supportive of him.
“If you speak to some Membakut folks, I think they would rather vote for Karim Bujang,” said Nurul. Karim, of Parti Warisan Sabah, lost to Anifah in 2018. Nurul said the other two were relatively obscure to her and many others in the constituency.
Another voter, Awang Damit Kecil, said although he still wants Anifah to remain as MP he might vote for the rival party this time as he was informed Mohd Alamin was the likely Sabah Umno choice.
“Mohd Alamin is not a Kimanis resident, he is originally from Papar. Yes, he might be the ex-Bongawan assemblyman, but what has he done when he was a rep.
“Even the former rep, Karim Bujang, who is now in Warisan, was better: at least he had built a commercial complex in the Bongawan town, providing more entrepreneurs a venue to start business around here,” said Awang, adding that he knew the former district officer whose name was listed, but said he was not a popular man.
There are 29,644 voters in Kimanis, including 16,000 Bongawan residents and over 13,000 Membakut residents.
Umno has held the Kimanis seat for over three terms. According to political surveys by the various Sabah parties, between 6,000 and 8,000 Kimanis folks are fence sitters.
While Anifah had declined Umno’s offer to contest on the party’s ticket, he said he would still be supportive of the Barisan Nasional in the by-election. But his support should not be taken for granted.
Anifah abandoned Umno in December 2018 to become an independent. He has said he wants the BN to support the real moves to restore Sabah’s rights and resolve the illegal immigrant issue in Sabah and that he had spoken to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi about them.
“I know Zahid well enough that he is very serious about the issues that I raised. Otherwise, I would stand in the by-election under one of the Sabah-based parties to send the message to Putrajaya not too fool us too many times,” said Anifah.
Anifah had been rumoured earlier to be considering to contest under the Parti Bersatu Sabah ticket.