Despite tensions, GRS will bind Umno and PN, says analyst

A political analyst says the relationship between Umno and PN in Sabah will be affected by political developments in Kuala Lumpur.

KOTA KINABALU: A political analyst believes Umno and Perikatan Nasional in Sabah can show counterparts in Kuala Lumpur how the two political outfits can work together at the national level.

Although tensions have been running high between Umno and PN, or more specifically PPBM, Romzi Ationg of Universiti Malaysia Sabah says there is time for the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah alliance to show colleagues across the pond how the town is big enough for the both of them.

After the state elections, Umno conceded the chief minister’s post to PN, leading several Umno leaders to speak out. Among them was deputy president Mohamad Hasan and former supreme council member Nazri Aziz who had called for the termination of ties between the party and PPBM.

Romzi told FMT that the “drama” could be reduced if the parties register GRS as an official coalition. He said the relationship would still hold even if collaboration between BN and PN fell through at the federal level.

Gabungan Rakyat Sabah is an informal alliance of PN, Barisan Nasional and PBS, who now form the new state government.

On Tuesday, less than three hours after Sabah PN chief Hajiji Noor took office as chief minister, he announced that Sabah BN chief Bung Moktar Radin would swap ministries with Sabah PPBM deputy chief Masidi Manjun.

Bung was initially sworn in as the state local government and housing minister but was later given the works ministry portfolio held by Masidi.

Asked whether there were any initial discussions over the distribution of Cabinet positions among the parties, Hajiji confirmed there were but that the “minor” change was due to “extra work” cropping up.

BN must show respect for Hajiji

Sources had earlier said Bung was unhappy over the distribution of posts to Sabah BN, which had helped GRS to secure 38 seats in last week’s election.

Romzi said the next step would be for BN to work more closely with Hajiji and his administration.

“BN has to show respect to Hajiji. And they must improve communications between leaders from both sides. By doing this, at least, they can avoid the state government from falling easily,” he said, adding this could also show the leaders in the peninsula how to minimise the gaps between Umno and PPBM at the national level.

Another UMS academic, Lee Kuok Tiung, believes to a certain extent that Umno and PPBM can set an example on how to make their ties stronger in the peninsula.

He said both parties could take stock that they already showed such camaraderie in the Sabah elections.

“What we saw in the state election is PN using Umno’s election machinery as they (Umno) have a stronger party structure at the branch and division levels. Most of, if not all, the Sabah PPBM members were from Umno (previously) so there is space for them to work together,” he told FMT.

However, he said the relationship in the state would be affected by the political developments in Kuala Lumpur.

Lee said things should go smoothly if BN and PN could avoid matters like seat clashes in future elections or agree on backing a single candidate from any of the GRS parties to contest in each of the respective seats.

At last week’s elections, there were 17 seat clashes between BN, PN and PBS. However, Umno and PPBM managed to avoid contesting against each other in these seats.