by Joe Fernandez
COMMENT It appears that ties between the Sabah chapter of the Borneo-based State Reform Party (Star) and the Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp) could be “much better” if not for the latter’s insistence on contesting in 40 state seats and almost a third, about five to seven, of the parliamentary seats in Sabah. The party reiterated this stand at its meet on Sun in Kota Kinabalu.
Before the 40/5-7 Sun announcement by Sapp, Star had been publicly toying with the “goodwill gesture” of conceding two state seats — Likas and Luyang — and one (Tawau) of the two parliamentary seats it (Sapp) won in 2008 as a member of the ruling BN. Star itself had announced in mid-April that it would go for all 60 state seats at stake in Sabah and 26 parliamentary seats including Labuan.
Star chairman Jeffrey Kitingan then explained it as his party’s Plan Z after Sapp held secret seat-sharing talks with de facto Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Chief Anwar Ibrahim in Kota Kinabalu. Anwar claimed that he was negotiating on behalf of PR but this was quickly denied by Sabah Dap which wants Star brought into the equation as well. Anwar’s excuse for leaving out Star is that “it’s a new party in Sabah”.
Another major policy difference, reiterated by Sapp President Yong Teck Lee at the Sun meet, is that Sapp, unlike Star, does not want to be the king maker. He would be quite happy with just “killing the King” (Umno) so that “Anwar Ibrahim can be King”.
Yong condescendingly attributes Star’s stand to the 16-year-old party being new in Sabah and “still feeling its way” and this has outraged Star which is taking Sapp’s sanctimonious pontifications on “king killing” as a ploy and with more than a pinch of salt.
Jeffrey, given a history of bitter animosity with the allegedly anti-Christian Anwar, is not happy with the idea of him being “King” as it contradicts his party’s grand “vision of working towards helping empower the people of Sabah and Sarawak to wean them away from the dependency syndrome foisted on them by the BN to hold them to ransom in a climate of fear”.
His party, or at least the young Turks, is pushing for either Lim Guan Eng or Wan Azizah on the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) side vs Tengku Razaleigh on the Barisan Nasional (BN) side. Star disagrees with the Pas notion that the Prime Minister must always be a Muslim from one of the Malay-speaking communities in Peninsular Malaysia who originated from the Archipelago.
Under Star’s kingmaker policy, it’s a toss between PR and BN but with the right Prime Minister-designate, “and the one favoured most would be the one – not party — who would least disrupt the economy”.
Star feels that Anwar, being a noted rabble-rouser all his life, would be a disruptive element in the economic management of the country. They are not impressed with his pledge to virtually “steal less oil and gas” than BN from Sabah and Sarawak given that the Petroleum Development Act has been found by legal experts to be unconstitutional and the oil agreement null and void.
The bottomline is that Star does not want Sabah and Sarawak in the post-13th GE period to go from the frying pan (BN) into the fire (PR), or at best, from the fire (BN) into the frying pan (PR).
The political fallout from Sapp’s insistence on “killing the King” and contesting 40 state seats has surprisingly taken a personal turn and is increasingly souring ties between the two parties.
Sapp activists are claiming during their ceramah that “Star is a useless reject from Sarawak where it failed to make any headway for 16 years, that its agenda is simply a cut-and-paste of Sapp’s original ideas, that it has been planted by BN to split the opposition votes and that Jeffrey himself received RM 50 million from a veteran BN leader in South Africa recently”.
Jeffrey’s international passport, a senior Star leader confided, does not show any trip to South Africa.
He dismissed the other allegations by Sapp as “a pack of lies which only this party of samsengs is capable of cooking up”.
“Samseng” is an image that Sapp finds particularly difficult to shake given the Dap constantly harping on this hypersensitive theme. This has made the soft-spoken Jeffrey more than a little wary of being publicly seen as being too close with Sapp, Yong in particular.
Sapp, in any case, seems bent on demolishing Star’s attempt to stake a claim to all seats at stake under Kingmaker Jeffrey’s Plan Z despite a caveat in some quarters.
In a sign of light at the end of the tunnel, some Sapp leaders are willing to accept just what Star can offer it and go along with Jeffrey’s king maker idea. However, they are coming under intense pressure from hawkish elements in the party who are reportedly linked with political party financers and moneybags working across the political divide and known hoodlums from Sarawak, all Foochows, controlling the Sabah underworld.
The young Turks in Star who originally came up with the party’s 60/26 plan, initially denied by Jeffrey “to please Sapp” and subsequently endorsed after Anwar, think that “Sapp will continue with its annoying mosquito ways despite staying in a glass house”.
They may hit back by probing the known skeletons in Sapp’s cupboard and, where possible, dredge up new information.
One of the skeletons is Jeffrey’s incarceration under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) for two two-year terms for activities undertaken by Sapp leaders when they were with the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS).
They are puzzled that Jeffrey can be so “forgiving”.
It was Yong, they swear, who prevailed upon PBS President Joseph Pairin Kitingan to pull out his party on the eve of General Election in 1990. Yong was then a PBS Deputy President. Yong did not work alone. He earlier sought the support of PBS Deputy President Bernard Giluk Dompok – now Upko President – after being first rebuffed by Jeffrey who feared being blamed by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The young Turks confide that Star has two options “to put Sapp and PKR as well in their place in Sabah” in the run-up to the forthcoming 13th General Election.
The first was to demolish “the lies being spread by Sapp activists” and the second was to emphasize that “there’s no basis for comparison between Sapp and Star”.
“It was Sapp who ganged up with Umno to overthrow the PBS Government in 1994 through defections,” said a young Turk who remains incognito. “The Natives are mad to this day with Sapp for overthrowing the government of their Huguan Siou (paramount chief) Pairin.”
According to her, this is the most telling point among the Dusuns and Muruts in particular against Sapp; followed by the sneaking suspicion flogged by Dap that Sapp will “frog back into BN after the 13th GE to play the kingmaker role there”.
Elsewhere, Sapp’s track record when Yong was Chief Minister will come under growing scrutiny.
Topping the list is Yong’s allegedly lackluster record in office as Chief Minister; followed by the Likas election petition during which the Court discovered that the electoral rolls had been padded with illegal immigrants and, as a result, over-turned the election result; Yong’s disqualification from contesting for five years; Yong’s inability to explain the crippling losses suffered by state-sponsored Saham Amanah Sabah (SAS) holders who at one time saw the value of their holdings drop to ten sen per unit; and the marginalisation and disenfranchisement of thousands of forest fringe-dwelling Natives left virtually internally-displaced by the Sapp Government approving 100-year leases for so-called Forest Management Units (FMU).
Star, of all the parties in Sabah and Sarawak, fights a lonely battle on internal colonisation, self-determination, the Petroleum Development Act being unconstitutional, and the Federal Government’s non-compliance on the four constitutional documents and/or conventions which formed the basis for Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia viz. the 1963 Malaysia Agreement; the 20/18 Points; the Inter Governmental Committee Report; and the Cobbold Commission Report.
It also has reportedly a different and comprehensive take on the proposed Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants. The party’s stand will be unveiled in the security aspects of its Manifesto which is “work in progress”.
Therein lies the difference.