In Sabah, democracy wins

For the people, especially Sabahans, what matters now is for them to move on in facing the growing threats of Covid-19

pic by BERNAMA

THE political uncertainties and guessing game in Sabah are put to rest following the swearing in of Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor as the state’s 16th chief minister (CM) yesterday.

Hajiji was appointed after Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) won the state polls last Saturday.

Despite the grumblings of discontentment, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia managed to appease everyone and score a truce with other GRS members, particularly Umno, to secure the state’s top post.

It appears that all is well for the 38 GRS assemblymen. For now, at least.

For the people, especially Sabahans, what matters now is for them to move on in facing the growing threats of Covid-19.

Although it is unfathomable how anyone could attempt a political coup against a working government, in the middle of the pandemic, it was enough to push former CM Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to call for a state election.

Mohd Shafie was adamant in letting the rakyat elect their own representatives without outsiders’ interference.

He had maintained that the dissolution was necessary due to political pressure and it was impossible for the state government to function under such circumstances.

One could argue that Mohd Shafie should have surrendered then because eventually — as the election results showed — Parti Warisan Sabah did lose the election.

But giving up without a fight is not an option for the 62-year-old politician, as his track record has proven.

When he was suspended from Umno for speaking up about 1Malaysia Development Bhd in 2016, Mohd Shafie announced his resignation and warned his detractors not to undermine him.

And it took him less than two years to build Warisan and secured enough support to form a state government in 2018. Everything began to change in July this year, of course.

Still, was it necessary for him to call for an election? Various statements from the Health Ministry and the Election Commission did not object for a state poll to be conducted, provided all standard operating procedures, including physical distancing, are adhered to. Sabah election was not the first to be held during Covid-19. The Slim by-election had set the precedent.

Anyway, the Senallang assemblyman took the gamble and paid for it. Although Warisan won the most seats compared to other parties, its coalition Warisan Plus failed to secure enough numbers to form a government.

There have been talks and rumours of possible defections, but it is learned that Mohd Shafie remains steadfast to work for the people, even in the Opposition bloc. Warisan lost, but the people won.

At least, they were given the chance to elect their own representatives and the spirit of democracy is upheld in the state.

On the other hand, the election result also means that it is now time for GRS to start working on delivering its promises to the people.

Where Warisan has failed in 26 months, GRS, which mostly consists of veteran and experienced leaders, should be able to address it.

As it is, it seems that GRS has a lot of teething problems to sort out. The most glaring would be Umno and Bersatu public squabble, which is not only becoming more prevalent at the federal level, but also in Sabah.

Umno supporters have made their dissatisfaction known when a Bersatu leader was made the CM, despite them claiming to have more seats than Bersatu in the state government.

Later, it was learned that Sabah Umno leader Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin was unhappy with his appointment as the local housing and government minister.

It was odd, but somehow, something is expected. Hours after the swearing-in ceremony, Hajiji announced that there was a minor change in his Cabinet.

Bung Moktar is now the infrastructure development minister, swapping his portfolio with another Bersatu man, Datuk Masidi Manjun, who was initially the works minister.

Masidi later tweeted: “What a day! Less than three hours after being appointed as works minister, I am now local and government housing minister. I swapped jobs with Bung. Please don’t ask me the reasons. I will tell all after I retire.”

There may be more issues and challenges that GRS will have to look into in the future. Will it emerge stronger as a coalition from now onwards? That is the bigger question that only time will tell.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.