KOTA KINABALU, Feb 18 — Signs of unhappiness have been leaking out from the component parties of the newly cobbled-together Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition here barely six months after it won the state election.
Sabah Umno chief Datuk Bung Mokhtar declared earlier this week that his party wishes to contest more than half of the parliamentary seats in Sabah, colliding with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s targets.
Now, another component party has said that its members are unhappy due to the unequal distribution of power.
There are rumblings from party members of Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) over political appointments to state government-linked companies (GLCs), native court and village leadership posts that they felt were not fair.
“All the positions have been allocated to Bersatu’s people. The bigger GLCs have been given to Bersatu, and maybe one or two in Umno. And even the village heads and JKKK positions are awarded to Bersatu’s people,” said a STAR Penampang division leader who wished to stay unnamed.
JKKK refers to the village chiefs and village development and security committee posts.
“We helped the Perikatan Nasional government win in so many KDM areas. Without STAR, they would not have won these interior seats.
“Why is it that we are not given the positions and that they go to a Malaya party?” he asked, naming Tuaran and Penampang grassroots as among those who were most vocal in their dissatisfaction.
He said that almost all of STAR’s branches in the Kadazan-Dusun Murut (KDM) districts were unhappy, with the exception of Keningau.
STAR, a KDM-based local party headed by Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan whose focus is on championing state rights, went from two state seats in the 2018 state polls to winning six seats in the 2020 snap polls, despite multiple multi-cornered fight from its Umno and PBS enemies-turned-allies.
“STAR is becoming more popular with the people. So many are making noise and are unhappy with the chief minister because almost all the political appointments have gone to their people. Even positions in Datuk Jeffrey’s ministry were taken up by Bersatu and Umno,” he said.
The rumblings have gotten loud enough that the party’s Tuaran division chief Edward Linggu has called on members of the party to calm down and keep their eyes on the big picture.
In a statement earlier this week, Linggu said that members were disgruntled and disappointed because they had worked hard to campaign for GRS and the federal government in the recent state polls but felt their effort was not recognised.
“There were many reasons why certain ground leaders were chosen while others were not. In part the positions were limited to be shared by several political parties while those wanting positions were many. And qualifications, suitability and seniority had also to be considered.”
“However, let’s take a strong stance of loyalty and try to understand the situation in a rational manner,” he said.
Linggu who is also the strategic director of the party reminded the members to look at the big picture and that the party was currently riding on a high with many of its elected leaders appointed to the state leadership.
“Our president Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan is at the top as the deputy chief minister and also deputy chairman of Perikatan Nasional,” he said, while calling on all its members to stay loyal to Kitingan.
“Let’s also take note of Jeffrey’s advise to all members that we should all now behave as leaders and members in the government. He has advised us to leave behind the old approach as if we are still in the opposition,” he said.
Linggu also reiterated the party’s stand with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
The GRS state government coalition consists of eight parties from Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Bersatu Sabah, which formed the alliance to take down the Warisan Plus government in the snap polls after an attempted takeover by former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
The party is almost certain to be headed for more internal clashes as Bung recently announced his party’s intention to contest at least 14 of the total 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah in the 15th general election.
Sabah Umno currently has two seats remaining — Bung’s Kinabatangan and Kimanis, after five of its MPs left for Bersatu following BN’s loss in GE14.
Bung announced that the party would contest the seats where it feels it has support, and added that early negotiations over seat allocations between BN and the rest of GRS should be carried out in a transparent manner based on the strength of the respective parties.
The 14 seats would essentially mean more collisions if they cannot agree on which party should contest the seat as the sole GRS representative.
“Of course we are not happy with his announcement. Why did he have to announce it to the media? It is purposely trying to antagonise the situation,” said a PBS leader who declined to be named.
“If he really had the best intentions, he would try to settle things in private first. I think almost all the other component parties are not happy with him now. It is typical Umno arrogance showing,” said the leader.
At the same time, he said PBS was concerned it was also heading for more collisions with its KDM counterparts, STAR.
“I don’t know if our parties will be able to come to an agreement this time, based on how it went during the last state elections. Of course, it would be ideal to be able to put up just one GRS candidate to reduce likelihoods of split votes, but I don’t think STAR will be willing to compromise now, they are riding high,” he said.
In the snap polls, there were no less than 17 clashes among the GRS component parties, mostly within the KDM majority seats.
Bersatu leaders have declined to comment on the reports, with its deputy chairman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun saying that it was not the time to be politicking when the state was still trying to battle against the pandemic.
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