Sabah tigers look set to renew political battle

Musa Aman (left) has loyal supporters and would naturally be seen as Shafie Apdal’s main rival, an analyst says.

PETALING JAYA: The stage appears set for a renewed battle between Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and his predecessor Musa Aman now that the latter is freed of corruption and money laundering charges.

“Politics in Sabah is now a battle between two tigers,” political analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya told FMT.

Immediately after the 14th general election, there was a civil dispute over the right to the chief minister’s post, and Musa was at a disadvantage because of the charges against him.

“But with Musa now freed of the charges and Peter Anthony being charged, the battle may be turning,” said Awang in reference to the money laundering charges against Anthony, who is Sabah’s infrastructure development minister and a key Shafie ally.

But he also said the negative perceptions against Musa arising from his arrest would persist since many people see the court’s decision as favouring a person aligned to the government of the day.

This was not helped by the timing of Anthony’s arraignment, he added.

Anthony, who is Warisan vice-president, earlier claimed trial to five charges of money laundering and accepting the proceeds of illegal activities totalling RM8.75 million between 2014 and 2016.

Azman said the government would need to convince the public with regard to the facts of the cases to prevent allegations that the authorities were guided by political vengeance.

Another analyst, Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said he believed some people would now gravitate back towards Musa and Umno.

Musa was a dominant force in Sabah politics for years and has loyal supporters, and would naturally be seen as Shafie’s main rival, Puyok said.

“Sabah politics is still very personality-based and Musa is one of those personalities who can reactivate his party machinery and network anytime,” he said.

He said the case against Anthony and other recent developments in Sabah could jolt Warisan’s power base though they would not necessarily trigger the ruling party’s downfall.

But he said the situation could demoralise Warisan members.

“And this can create a lot of doubt, which Warisan’s opponents can use to persuade its leaders or representatives to switch camp,” he said.

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