Native Sabah ministers – Pairin Kitingan, Bernard Dompok and Joseph Kurup – have backed opposition SAPP's call for all Sabah ICs to be recalled and re-issued.
Twenty years ago, Umno rode on the coat-tails of the project to usurp political power from the local native parties. The plan then was for Project IC to strengthen Umno’s hold on the state but the blowback from the dubious scheme could now unseat the party – permanently.
Three of the ruling coalition’s component parties – United Pasokmomogun KadazanDusun Murut Organisation (Upko), Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) – are edging away from Umno to soften a voter backlash over a host of problems facing the state.
In a sign of a crisis of confidence in the government, BN component party leaders Bernard Dompok, Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Joseph Kurup, have joined forces to pressure Umno to rectify manipulative practices that allowed Umno to take control of the east Malaysian state in 1994 and rule ever since.
The trio have latched on to what is becoming clearly a case of massive fraud in the extraordinary population explosion of the state since the 1990s to press their demands.
One thing that could trigger open rebellion is refusal by Umno to offer some deal.
Umno now controls 32 of the 60 state constituencies owing to the fact that a large number of Muslim immigrants have gained citizenship and voting rights and the state’s population has been skewed in favour of Umno.
This allowed Umno leaders at both state and federal level to boast that Sabah is their “fixed deposit” and to bully and threaten other members of the ruling coalition to follow its lead.
Sabah Umno helmed by Chief Minister Musa Aman could dictate terms, which he did, and the rest had to lick his boots.
But conditions are now ripe in the state to overturn the status quo.
The leaders of the three Sabah native parties – PBS, Upko and PBRS – who always played second fiddle in the government, have scented their chance to correct the political imbalance for good.
Yesterday, the three indicated that they fully supported a plan broached by opposition leader Yong Teck Lee of the Sabah Progressive Party that Sabahans be issued new identity cards so as to weed out those who gained citizenship through dubious schemes.
Their joint demand with that of Yong, a former Sabah chief minister, appears to be a realignment of political forces in the state just as the general election is about to be called.
Until just two months ago, their parties appeared to be heading for the cliff as supporters abandoned them and an anti-BN mood took over with renewed fervour following two damaging events for the ruling coalition.
First, a royal inquiry into the influx of illegal immigrants into the state and then the fallout from a bizarre invasion of a village in Lahad Datu by an armed group of Filipinos set in motion the current crisis in confidence in government.
The royal inquiry now in progress to determine how tens of thousands of ineligible immigrants gained citizenship and voting rights since Umno took over the state government has revealed the “fingerprints” of Umno politicians all over a clandestine scheme to change the population and thus the political balance in the state.
The Lahad Datu security crisis has its roots in Malaysia’s foreign policies that now appear spectacularly foolish.
But talk that members of the armed group and their sympathisers held Umno membership cards has been especially upsetting.
Dompok, who is federal Plantation Industry and Commodities Minister, said yesterday that only a drastic and daring proposal that all Malaysian identity cards issued in Sabah be recalled and re-issued to only genuine Sabahans would sort out the mess.
All Malaysian identification cards issued in Sabah so far, he said with Pairin and Kurup, should be returned to the relevant authorities and new identification cards be issued only to those eligible.
In the unlikely event their plan is approved and adopted, it would strip Umno of its power in the state and relegate its members to economy class status from their current first-class seats.