Sabah political coup fizzles out — for now

A photo released by the Chief Minister’s Department showing the Sabah Cabinet ministers before their meeting today in Kota Kinabalu.

KOTA KINABALU: A rumoured political coup to wrest power from the Warisan-led Sabah government is said to have fizzled out after the opposition failed to secure enough support from assemblymen.

There has been intense speculation since Monday that a move was being engineered to unseat the 27-month-old state government led by Chief Minister Shafie Apdal by the opposition bloc here, comprising Umno, PPBM, STAR and PBS.

Umno’s Kimanis MP Mohamad Alamin had yesterday fuelled the speculation further by telling reporters outside Parliament that he was expecting it to happen, although he was unsure how soon it would take place.

Media in the state, which has been closely following the happenings on the ground even before this week’s development, was told by political sources that the opposition was trying to secure support from state government representatives by way of statutory declarations (SDs).

There was even talk that a certain federal minister had arrived in the state capital on Wednesday to facilitate the change of government, although this could not be immediately confirmed.

Several state assemblymen with the Warisan-Upko-DAP-PKR coalition had claimed to have been approached by “political agents” offering money and positions in exchange for their support.

This was followed by police reports by some of them and denials by certain others that they had switched allegiance by signing the SDs — all of which further heightened the sense that something was about to happen.

Political circles even claimed that between 14 and 16 assemblymen aligned to the ruling coalition had agreed to switch camps, meaning the opposition, which now has 20 seats, would have enough reps to surpass the 33-seat simple majority needed to topple the government.

The ruling coalition now has 45 assemblymen, including four nominated representatives, in the 65-seat state assembly.

However, things have taken a sudden turn and the earlier buzz seems to have petered out, at least for now.

Shafie, at a press conference earlier today, brushed aside rumours that his government would fall with a smile but stressed the authorities must probe the alleged attempts to buy out his assemblymen.

Political observers feel this is not the end of it, saying Warisan and its partners should not be too quick to heave a sigh of relief.

“Time will tell if another ‘wave’ will take place. If that happens, anything is possible,” said one political observer who requested anonymity.

Political analyst Arnold Puyok agreed that Sabah was susceptible to a change in government although it was not going to be easy.

“Public anger is mounting towards party hopping and there’s also a high possibility that those defecting will be punished by the electorate in the coming election,” he told FMT.

“Also, PN’s position is still very shaky and they may call for a snap election sooner or later.”

The purported change in the state government gained pace after the fall of the Pakatan Harapan government to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) at the federal level last February.

The first indication this could happen was when two assemblymen aligned to the Warisan-led coalition — Sugut representative James Ratib and Kuala Penyu representative Limus Jury —announced their departure from Upko last month.

They cited a loss of confidence in the state government and that they were not in favour of being in the opposition to the PN federal government.