Hajiji set to be sworn in as Sabah CM

Warisan or Mohd Shafie still has until 11am to bring defectors over, says analyst

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / graphic by MZUKRI

THE new Sabah chief minister (CM) is expected to be sworn in at the Istana Negeri today, ending two days of intense negotiations following Gabungan Rakyat Sabah’s (GRS) narrow state election win over the weekend.

Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu chief Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor (picture) emerged as the sole CM candidate amid mounting speculation of defections to caretaker CM Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s Parti Warisan Sabah.

GRS leaders put on a united front in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, with both Hajiji and another contender for the CM post, Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, holding a press conference together, naming the former as the next leader of the state government.

Warisan’s strong performance, however, gave Mohd Shafie the platform to challenge for the position on technical grounds, adding to the leadership uncertainty in Sabah.

Bernama reported that Mohd Shafie had thanked supporters and media personnel who gathered at his residence yesterday, but refused to comment on the current political situation. He, however, stressed that Warisan will continue to serve the people.

The former CM appeared to have conceded defeat after Hajiji was called to meet Sabah Governor Tun Juhar Mahiruddin yesterday afternoon, who endorsed Hajiji as the state’s rightful leader. Hajiji’s candidacy is backed by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Hajiji joined Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in 2018 and has served as Sabah state chairman since last year. Prior to Bersatu, Hajiji was a member of Umno for 24 years during which he held various roles in the state Cabinet including minister of state for housing and local government. Hajiji has represented the Sulaman constituency since 1990.

Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in a statement on Facebook yesterday, softened his stance towards Hajiji’s appointment. Umno had won the most seats among GRS, but the party agreed on Hajiji to ensure harmony in the state, Ahmad Zahid said.

“I was informed by Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar after negotiations among GRS assemblymen that the consensus was to nominate Hajiji to ensure the rights of Sabahans are fought for after the negligence of the Warisan government before this,” he said.

GRS consists of Umno, Bersatu, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Sabah Progressive Party and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah. Umno won 14 seats, Bersatu (11), STAR (6) and PBS (7) in the Sabah state elections.

Analysts, however, are still reluctant to call it a done deal in Sabah. University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute director Prof James Chin said anything can happen until Hajiji is officially sworn in.

“Warisan or Mohd Shafie still has until 11am to bring the defectors over. They are still collecting statutory declarations at his residence. They are looking to move an entire bloc so that the entire GRS government collapses,” Chin told The Malaysian Reserve.

It is believed that Mohd Shafie is still eyeing to form a minority state government as Warisan clinched 29 state seats — the most by any single party.