KOTA KINABALU, Nov 8 — Gabungan Rakyat Sabah chairman Datuk Hajiji Noor reaffirmed the coalition’s commitment to its electoral pact with Barisan Nasional, after affiliates launched unsanctioned challenges against the latter’s Umno.
However, the state Bersatu chief declined to comment when asked if the Perikatan Nasional leadership’s approval for Datuk Ronald Kiandee to contest in the Beluran seat as its candidate has hurt the GRS-BN pact.
He also would not state whom the pact would support to be prime minister — PN’s Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin or BN’s Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob — and would only say that the unique pact in Sabah would be maintained.
“Of course, we will continue to support what we have already agreed upon. We are facing this GE15 together as GRS and BN,” he said.
When pressed on whether GRS would prefer to work with PN or BN, Hajiji sidestepped this by saying the working relationship was with BN as the state level.
Bersatu is a component in both the PN and GRS coalitions.
While PN and BN are open rivals on the national stage, Bersatu and other PN components in Sabah have gotten around this by using GRS to work with Umno, the BN lynchpin, in the state government.
Formed after the 2020 state election, the pact has held together despite the worsening hostilities between PN and BN, but GE15 has surfaced some internal division, when Kiandee and Bersatu’s Armada chief in Tenom went after seats allocated to Umno.
Kiandee, a five-term MP is defending his Beluran seat on a PN ticket while Riduan Rubin, the Bersatu division Youth chief is contesting as an independent in Tenom. Riduan is the son of Datuk Rubin Balang, the assemblyman for Kemabong, which is in the Tenom federal constituency.
“We cannot prevent anyone from contesting. In Beluran, Kiandee is using PN. In Tenom, if it is true that he is a Bersatu member, we will take the appropriate action,” said Hajiji.
When asked to comment on Muhyiddin’s statement that the state Bersatu should not have yielded Kiandee’s Beluran, Hajiji said it was his prerogative to decide as Sabah Bersatu leader.
“That is his opinion. In Sabah, the political circumstances are a bit different, there is uniqueness to the way we do things. So, we are moulding our politics Sabah-style,” he said.
Kiandee’s move to crash the state’s electoral pact with Muhyiddin’s approval has rocked GRS’s relationship with BN, whose chairman, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and the Sabah BN chief both criticising Kiandee and PN.
Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by the Free Malaysia Today portal that GRS should not have sacrificed Bersatu’s seats when it negotiated with BN, and that GRS should have contested in Beluran.
Kiandee won the seat in 2018 on a BN ticket while he had been in Umno, but later quit the party en masse to form Bersatu in Sabah with Hajiji.
“That is my candidate, and he did not get the credential letter from GRS. If you are in my position, what will you do? So, I told Kiandee that our (PN) decision is that you can contest, and you can use our PN ticket,” he was quoted as saying.
Muhyiddin further said that he held back from fielding up to six more candidates.