KOTA KINABALU Dec 14, 2011: With the 13th general election inching closer, Sabah is abuzz with talks of “political movements” within the ruling Sabah Barisan Nasional coalition and the opposition.
Sources in Umno circles claim that Lajim Ukin, the party’s influential chieftain in Beufort, south Sabah, is set to quit Umno for another party.
Lajim’s “fame” dates back to 1994. He is said to have been the one who precipitated the downfall of his former party, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).
Rumour has it that Lajim is on the point of leaving Umno to lead a small Bumiputera party that was at one time briefly helmed by Harris Salleh, a former chief minister in the Berjaya government that was brought down by PBS in 1985.
“He (Lajim) is already sending his men to Sabah People’s Front (SPF). Some Bumiputera leaders in Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) are said to be leaving for SPF… a lot of people are talking about this,” said a political observer.
According to the rumour-mill, Lajim and a group of Umno leaders have banded together to pressure Chief Minister Musa Aman to step down.
They are apparently upset with Musa’s bid to displace existing leaders and place his children and relatives in safe seats in the next general election.
SPF, the so-called farmers’ party, is reportedly closely linked to Harris who, oddly enough, has been noted to have been singing Musa’s praises of late.
Lajim had also reportedly met Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim in Singapore recently.
Is Upko packing up?
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organization (Upko), the party led by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok, is also on the political radar screen now.
Talk is that it is only a matter of time before Upko deputy president Wilfred Bumburing leaves for an opposition party, regardless of Upko’s posturing.
Upko insiders claim that Dompok was confronted by party members recently and told that if Bumburing leaves, a substantial number of Upko leaders would follow him to a “reliable” opposition party.
Upko’s former Youth chief, Kalakau Untol, left the party a year ago taking with him a few young leaders who were disillusioned with Umno’s hegemony and control of the state.
A source said that Dompok is already packing his things in Kuala Lumpur and had allegedly sent a container home before Christmas.
New party for Jeffrey
Now thrown into this mix, a new party helmed by political gadfly Jeffrey Kitingan is said to be in the offing.
Sources here say Jeffrey is to head a party. The possibilities are that he will helm the yet-to-be registered Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) or a Sabah chapter of the dormant Sarawak Reform Party or Star.
They are pointing to UBF’s first anniversary on Dec 16 where Jeffrey could reveal his next move to wrest control of the state from Umno and its partner PBS, which is led by his elder brother, Joseph Pairin.
In a statement issued yesterday, Jeffrey said UBF had invited leaders from Star and Sarawak Nasional Party (SNAP) to the anniversary function here.
Sources in Jeffery’s inner circle indicated that they will finally have a political vehicle in time for the general election.
Two pacts likely
Meanwhile, a group said to be aligned to SPF, formerly known as Bersekutu, has made enquiries to book a cultural hall, the Hongkod Koisaan, owned by the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) in Penampang, for a “big” function on Jan 28.
When asked to comment, SPF’s long-serving president, Berman Angkap, said: “Wait and see on Jan 12…” further fuelling talks that something is happening in SPF.
There is also talk that Pakatan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim and Umno’s Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah will be attending the Jan 28 function.
Sabah has 25 parliamentary seats plus one in Labuan, and 60 state assembly seats.
The talk is that SPF is working out a pact with Pakatan, while Jeffrey’s group or Star will team up with SAPP and SNAP to form a Borneo Alliance or Pakatan Borneo.