Many believe that it would be a strategic move to kill off Pakatan Rakyat's inroads in Borneo if the PM appoints a deputy from Sabah.
KOTA KINABALU May 10, 2013: When former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared earlier this week that Sabah and Sarawak should be given bigger representation at federal level, he must already have known that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was weighing the idea.
Najib, according to Sabah ruling politicians, could well be considering appointing a deputy prime minister to represent the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Rumours have fired up the grapevine here that Sarawak and Sabah leaders Taib Mahmud and Musa Aman had concurred with the idea and had left Najib to decide which of the two it would be.
The insiders claimed the reason was to deny rival coalition Pakatan Rakyat the opportunity of enticing BN’s 22 MPs from Sabah and another 25 from Sarawak to crossover.
Much talk has been going on in the backrooms of these states and both Taib and Musa want this settled quickly.
Pakatan, for the record, had pledged to appoint three DPMs to accommodate the Chinese and the East Malaysian communities, if it came to power.
The inner circles in Umno argued that Najib now had an opportune chance to steal the idea from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and clamping any possibilities of defections in Sabah and Sarawak from BN.
They also see it as a strategic move towards consolidating support for BN in these two states which have seen massive inroads by the opposition. Sabah lost 15 state seats in last Sunday’s polls. Sarawak had lost a similar number in its state polls in 2011.
Pairin in the running
Meanwhile Sabah and Sarawak leaders seem unaware that nominees have been forwarded to Najib, especially from Sabah.
Within Sabah Umno, there are at least three names being tossed about for the DPM post.
The three leaders are Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal, former foreign minister Anifah Aman and seasoned politician Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
Many observers here also believe that if Pairin is to be appointed, the credit will go to ex-premier Mahathir, who at his advanced age now, might be seeking some form of forgiveness for what he had done to Pairin years ago.
They claimed this could be the best parting gesture for both the ageing leaders.
So the pressure is mounting on Najib.
He is seen as needing to do something to defeat Anwar, who is already being touted in Sabah and Sarawak as a new hope for East Malaysia.
Najib nevertheless has other means to please those crucial numbers from Sabah. The two states may get more of their own be appointed to the federal cabinet.
But the question is will Najib remain PM for a longer period or stumble half-way in the curent cut-throat politics ripping through Peninsular Malaysia.
According to political analysts here, the creation of additional DPM posts is an administrative process not requiring any amendments to the Federal Constitution.
Some argued that even the current DPM post was not in the constitution.
Meanwhile Sarawak too is believed to have already shortlisted its DPM candidates for Najib’s consideration. The candidates are believed to be Dayak and Melanau leaders.
Observers claimed Najib’s advisers had pushed for the idea to negate Anwar’s offer of three DPMs to Borneo Mps at least until the next general election.
Many believe with the imminent threat of crossovers, the next election may be called sooner than later.
“What has Najib got to lose if he appoints three or even four deputy prime ministers now?
“In fact BN would be strengthened and immediately brush aside Pakatan’s offer for a three DPMs which it could not implement if it is in the opposition,” said an ardent local analyst who only wished to be known as Jimmy.
Come what may, Najib must decide soon. For now, unblinking Anwar is nervously awaiting for his nemesis’ next move.