Commentary Politics

Anything goes with politics in Sabah

Sabah Umno leaders: Always looking for new opportunities......

Written by Aziz Hassan

December 13, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

MOST political operatives and veteran observers of Sabah politics a few decades ago had many stories to tell and almost all were not flattering. Thus in this context, the decision by most of Sabah Umno’s leaders to quit the party didn’t come as a shock. So too the fact that they will most likely link-up with Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition at the federal level and with Warisan in the state.

This exodus, which means Umno now having five less MPs for a total of about 44 left from the 52 after the general elections last May 9, is seen as helping Pakatan to eventually achieve the objective of its chairman-cum-prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad of having a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

That, many commentators say, will clear the way for Pakatan to amend parts of the federal Constitution in pursuit of institutional reforms, while weakening the Opposition. The purists consider the latter as something unfavourable to a true democracy.

But even without two-thirds, any amendment that will make for a better Malaysia will surely be supported by the Opposition, for to do otherwise will equate to committing political suicide and creating your own doomsday at the next elections.

Knowing Mahathir’s politics, he may want the two-thirds for other reasons and those familiar with what he did during his first tenure as PM will be the least surprised if he does it again, should a similar head-on collision looms.

When Umno decided to enter Sabah in 1994, many of these same political observers could anticipate what would be coming next, with some saying that with politics in Sabah you have to take both the good and the bad all at the same time and also that there will eventually be a time when it’s all about the bidding. There was a lot of talk then about how widespread money politics was over there.

In the run-up to the May elections, feelings of parochialism became stronger and it was precisely this that helped put Parti Warisan Sabah as the dominant force. Parochialism began to be a strong factor in determining the direction of politics in East Malaysia when the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem became chief minister of Sarawak in March 2014 and has gained much traction since in Sabah too.

Now that the Umno politicians have done what many had expected of them, commentators are sure there will be a second exodus, this time in the peninsular, and the party that will gain the most is Mahathir’s Pribumi Bersatu and he is not likely to give this opportunity a miss despite reservations from some PKR and DAP lawmakers.

As has been written before here, those who contested in the elections on an Umno/BN ticket who decide to desert the party to join Pribumi Bersatu may have failed to ponder over how the party will be like post-Mahathir.

The concern would be the leadership situation and this too will create its own side-effects. My take is again that come GE15, Pribumi Bersatu, without Mahathir as PM, will most likely lose its influence, both from the purely political perspective, and within the government.

It is for this reason that Umno doesn’t need geniuses moving forward, while maintaining its hold and influence, at least in areas where it is still strong, respected and needed by the people. There’s no reason why it should change tack and become less Malay. No, it can and should retain its Malayness without being objectionable to the other communities.

In the meantime Umno also needs to address its problems and limitations.

For some time now after May 9, doubts have been raised about its leadership and now Sabah Umno Youth, whatever is left of it, has repeated this point as being a factor behind the Sabah exodus.

When 90 or 95 per cent of those in leadership positions within a state Umno leaves the party, it goes without saying that the party is in deep waters, so it was strange to say the least that Umno president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi should insist that the exodus will not weaken the party.

What members are looking for is a clear direction of what Umno will do to regain lost grounds and this Zahid hasn’t been able to do.

Where was the National Audit Department on Tabung Haji’s financials?

We were recently given some shocking details on the financial position of Tabung Haji based on a review by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the first details of which were told to the press by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof.

The first to react to “try and put things right” was the agency’s former chairman Datuk Seri Azeez Abdul Rahim. He of course tried his best to tell us the positives.

There was also a statement by TH chief executive officer Datuk Zukri Samat, who stated that a misleading press report had contributed to a spike in withdrawals by depositors but which the agency was dealing with. The most glaring contradiction though was Mujahid’s remark on the dividend for this year and what PwC said on the same. Going by what we have seen so far, Mujahid better pray that he had got it right and that Tabung Haji will still afford to pay the dividend.

Regardless of what’s right and wrong and who’s right and wrong, it should not be ignored that the National Audit Department and auditor-generals, past and present, have a lot to answer too. The last two financial statements – for 2017 and 2016 – were signed off by current AG Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad. Basically Madinah and her predecessor were positive on the accounts in the last several years but with Madinah pointing out in last year’s report an inconsistency in the impairment policy. Beyond that you couldn’t find significant negatives in their findings.

Those who wish to know more can always go to the TH website.  





About the author


Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.