The frog factor in Sabah polls

Defections have left a bitter taste in the mouths of Sabah voters, says former state assembly deputy speaker Johnson Tee. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: A recent widely shared post among Sabah’s social media users gives the following “important dates to remember”:

  • Date of nomination: Sept 12
  • Date of early polling: Sept 22
  • Date of polling: Sept 26
  • Date when the frogs begin hopping: Sept 27

The anonymous post reflects a growing cynicism and frustration over the inclination of elected representatives to “tukar baju”, a local colloquialism for switching allegiance.

The terms Sabahans use for those who jump from one political party to another are “katak”, which is Malay for “frog”, and “bohangkut”, the Kadazandusun word for “toad”.

The two words were freely used after the general election in 2018, when five Upko assemblymen ditched Barisan Nasional, leading to the fall of the two-day-old state government led by former chief minister Musa Aman, paving the way for Warisan president Shafie Apdal to replace him.

This triggered a spate of defections from Barisan Nasional parties to Warisan.

Last month, 13 of the defectors did an about-turn to lend their support to Musa.

Inanam assemblyman Kenny Chua, formerly of PKR, was one of them.

One of Chua’s constituents, a retired nurse who identified herself only as Maria, was shopping at the Telipot market here when she was asked if she was worried that her next assemblymen might also decide to “tukar baju”.

She gave a look that indicated disgust and said: “Switching political allegiances is wrong. They should respect the wishes of voters who elected them.”

Former state assembly deputy speaker Johnson Tee said the defections had left a bitter taste in the mouths of Sabah voters and many were left wondering if their ballots mattered at all.

Tee, the former Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) secretary-general, is worried that such sentiments could result in a low voter turnout in the coming polls.

Other observers here said many voters felt the election would not give them a meaningful choice.

“The sentiment is that the Warisan-led government doesn’t appear to know how to administer the state effectively but that on the other side are the same old faces that were defeated before,” said one observer.

Sabahans will have to wait until Sept 27 to see if there will be jumping frogs and toads to leave them hopping mad once again.