Persuading Sabah MPs to stay in BN

Posted by Super Admin
Monday, 16 June 2008

(The Malaysian Insider) – The race is on to prevent Datuk Yong Teck Lee and the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) from leaving Barisan Nasional.

Several Umno politicians are in Kota Kinabalu trying to persuade Yong from making the SAPP an independent political party, a move that will reduce BN majority in Parliament by two seats and heap more pressure on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Early indications point to the prime minister’s charm offensive ending in despair. So far the Umno politicians have not been able to make headway with the SAPP president, who believes that the time is ripe to “turn back the clock” and bring back political power from the federal government to Sabah.

Yong wants to take SAPP out of BN and make it a true multi-racial party which represents the interest of Sabah. Only after the next general election will the party decide whether to join BN or Pakatan Rakyat.

By then Yong hopes that other disgruntled Sabah MPs from Umno, Parti Bersatu Sabah and UPKO would have joined the SAPP, giving it a better bargaining position to extract more Cabinet positions from whoever controls Parliament.

Yong has told his friends that the SAPP, which has two MPs, will not be joining Pakatan Rakyat just yet. SAPP’s declaration of independence could come as early as next week.

And Umno politicians who met Yong said: “There’s a strong anti-federal sentiment in Sabah, especially among the Chinese and Kadazandusuns. Yong is hoping to ride on this feeling. He wants Labuan to be returned to Sabah and thinks that Sabah should model itself after Sarawak which has more autonomy.”

The Sabah for Sabahan sentiment is also pervasive among other BN component parties but for now there is no sign of crossover. Still, the loss of two SAPP MPs from the backbench will create unease among BN and put more pressure on Abdullah to speed up his succession plan.

Abdullah’s statement that he will hand over power to Najib has been well received but some BN officials are pushing for a handover date, something Abdullah supporters say will make him a “lame duck” prime minister.

If the SAPP leaves BN, this will be interpreted as a loss of confidence in Abdullah’s leadership.

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