Huge blow to Abdullah’s leadership

KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — No matter what spin is applied Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today suffered a blow to his stature as the leader of Malaysia.

It does not matter whether Parliament Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia will allow the two Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) MPs to table a motion of no confidence against the prime minister on Monday.

It does not matter that the procedure to table a motion has not been followed (14 days notice must be given). It does not even matter whether the motion is defeated soundly on the House floor as it is likely to be.

By announcing their plan to table a motion of no confidence, Datuk Yong Teck Lee and the SAPP have already achieved what they set out to do – embarrass and humiliate Abdullah.

The message that Yong wants to send to the rest of Malaysia is that the PM is weak and he should be replaced as the head of Barisan Nasional.

This is probably the first time in history that a prime minister of Malaysia is facing the threat of a motion of no confidence from an MP from within the ruling coalition.

At a press conference in Kota Kinabalu today, Tawau MP Datuk Chua Soon Bui said that the party had lost confidence in the PM’s leadership. She then read out a statement which listed the reasons why SAPP would support motion of no confidence against Abdullah.

• No concrete action had been taken on the issue of illegal immigrants despite repeated requests by SAPP and other BN parties.

• No holistic economic solutions had been offered by the government to cushion sudden increase in petrol prices which had burdened the public.

• Not enough attention had been paid to issues raised by the people of Sabah including corruption, poor development.

• People have lost confidence in Abdullah and if he cannot perform, he should step aside and make way for another leader.

The statement was signed by Datuk Chu and Datuk Eric Majumbin (MP for Sepanggar), the party’s two representatives in Parliament. Conspicuous by his absence was Yong, SAPP’s president and architect of the no-confidence motion plan.

Yong has been upset with Abdullah since before the general election when his request to contest the Kota Kinabalu parliamentary seat was turned down by the BN leadership.

Following BN’s dismal performance in Election 2008, Yong criticised Abdullah on a slew of issues, the lack of senior Cabinet positions for Sabah MPs, paucity of appointments for Sabahans in senior government positions and the illegal immigrant problem in the state.

He met Abdullah and gave the PM until August to resolve the outstanding issues. During the same time, he met Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim twice, leading to speculation that SAPP was going to quit BN and join Pakatan Rakyat.

In recent days, Yong has told BN colleagues that he was leaning towards making SAPP an independent political party. He believed that there was a good chance of BN and Umno being defeated in the next general elections and felt that it was a good strategy to fight for the interest of Sabahans first and decide later which coalition to join.

Yong’s rhetoric has grown more anti-federal, even suggesting that Labuan should be returned to Sabah. Datuk Chu said that a decision will be made on Friday on whether SAPP will remain in BN.

Several BN politicians said that Abdullah could have hushed Yong by offering him a senatorship but others felt that nothing could have dissuaded the SAPP from its course of action save for a promise by the federal government to give Sabah more political autonomy.

Abdullah’s critics and political foes have pounced on news of the possible motion of no confidence with glee.

Anwar said: “Congratulations and salutations for the firm bravery of SAPP and its two members of Parliament for defending the rights of Malaysians, especially those from Sabah.”

DAP’s Lim Kit Siang added: “Whether the SAPP no-confidence motion is tabled and debated in Parliament on Monday, it’s very pronouncement has set off political waves in the country, confirming the longstanding, widespread and deep-seated discontent of the people of Sabah at their unfair treatment by Umno leaders, whether at federal or state level.”

The no-confidence motion is also a reminder of how the landscape has changed since March 8 – where the fear and respect of the PM within BN is no longer guaranteed.

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