Sunday, January 09, 2011

I like to share this article, appearing in MalaysaKini, written by Joe Fernandez. It can be read here

"Sabah PKR is once again in turmoil following repeated attempts by the party headquarters to forge 'consensus' on someone to head the local chapter.

Apparently only eight division chiefs attended a meeting chaired by PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution on Friday. Even outgoing state chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini, a Bajau-Suluk, did not turn up.

This is the second such meeting that Saifuddin has chaired in recent days. Saifuddin could have been left nothing less than shocked and speechless by the level of animosity during the first meet.

Three Muslim chiefs, vying for the state chief's post, were going at each other hammer and tongs. The Dusuns - including the Kadazans and Muruts - and the Chinese quickly lapsed into a discreet silence when they realised the situation was hopeless.

The three Muslim chiefs were convinced that the party headquarters would appoint only one of their kind to head the Sabah chapter. They pointed to Sarawak where a Christian native was the head.

pkr convention 281110 saifuddin nasution ismail and anwar ibrahimSaifuddin (left in photo) should have known better than to tread naively into the political minefield in Sabah. Yet, he tried again naively to chair a second meet, which was even more poorly attended than the first.

The pathetic attendance at Friday's meet gives the lie to public claims that 20 division chiefs support Thamrin, 16 support former Sabah Umno activist Karim Ghani, an Indian-Dusun/Bajau, and 15 support Tuaran division chief Ansari Abdullah, an Indian-Bajau.

The question that arises is why the party headquarters, in keeping with its oft-cited claim that the Sabah and Sarawak chapters are autonomous, is not willing to allow a secret ballot of the 26 division chiefs in Sabah and Labuan to select the new state chief.

pkr congress pc 271110 wan azizahPKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, in line with the party constitution, should endorse whoever is elected. She should not be led by the nose on this matter, as previously, by de facto party chief Anwar Ibrahim.

This was the advice from former vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan, a Dusun from Tambunan, when his election as the state chief by a majority of the division chiefs in late 2009 was not endorsed by Anwar.

Instead, Anwar chose Thamrin. The word from the party headquarters at that time, before the decision on Thamrin was made, was that Anwar had thundered during a party political bureau meet: "There's no way in hell that I would allow Jeffrey Kitingan, a Christian, to head Sabah PKR."

Nasty allegations torpedoed

Jeffrey, Anwar reportedly further alleged, was a racist and the most corrupt person in Sabah. The de facto party chief made reference to the time that Jeffrey headed the Sabah Foundation "when he denied scholarships to poor Muslim students".

NONEJeffrey (right) later explained that these "poor Muslim students" were not locals but the children of illegal immigrants with MyKads that they were not entitled to hold.

Anwar also feared that it would not be that easy for the party headquarters to work with Jeffrey since "he was always harping on illegal immigrants, state rights, autonomy and the Malaysia Agreement".

When Anwar's purported remarks leaked out, he went into damage control mode and reluctantly agreed to lawyer and land rights activist Baru Bian, a Christian native, heading the Sarawak chapter.

He later trumpeted Baru's appointment as proof enough that he was "not anti-Christian or anti-native". "Sabah was a different matter since the Muslims there were now in a clear majority," explained Anwar then without making any distinction between Dusuns who were also Muslims, other local Muslims and illegal immigrants.

NONEBaru's (left) predecessor was Mustapha Kamil of Perak who was removed at the same time as Azmin Ali who headed Sabah after Anwar made way for him.

Anwar's purported remarks, subsequently confirmed by members of the team that put together the Sabah Peace Plan, confirmed Jeffrey's belief that Anwar was "anti-Christian", "anti-native" and wanted to impose "proxies, stooges and traitors" on Sabah PKR as its leaders.

Anwar had never ditched his belief in 'ketuanan Melayu' (Malay political supremacy) even in Sabah and Sarawak, Jeffrey decided.

Nevertheless, he agreed to stay on as party vice-president. On Dec 31, he finally threw in the towel after having decided to stay out of the recent party elections. He was not willing to listen to pleas by several senior party activists at the party headquarters, Sabah and Sarawak that he should not allow his politics to be held to ransom by Anwar.

Consensus wears new clothes

Again, Sabah PKR has been in turmoil ever since Jeffrey's resignation in late 2009. His stand is that the state chief, no matter who, should be democratically elected. He was willing in 2009 to accept fresh polls for the post but the party headquarters, in fact Anwar, would not hear of it.

He wanted a consensus on the matter followed by the president - read Anwar - making a final decision on the matter. The choice need not necessarily be the candidate put forward as the party constitution also gives the president the power to appoint the state chiefs.

The Sabah Peace Plan - drafted by Tian Chua, Chua Jui Meng, David Yeoh, Michael Bong and John Soh - was quickly put in place by Anwar. However, it did not go on to pacify the locals as it was honoured in the breach.

In return for Jeffrey accepting Thamrin's appointment as state chief, Kota Kinabalu division chief Christina Liew was to be appointed deputy state chief, Moses Iking state secretary, Bernard Solibun treasurer, and Raymond Tombung Boin information chief. There were also to be other appointments suggested by Jeffrey. The man himself had hinted magnanimously that he may let "the other side" decide on these more minor appointments.

NONEIn the end, only Liew (right in photo) was appointed. There was an ominous silence from the party headquarters as Thamrin went on to appoint others not endorsed by Jeffrey in the state line-up.

To add insult to injury, Iking is one of the two division chiefs and senior party activist suspended for a year by the party for their abortive involvement in the Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS). Nine other division chiefs involved in PCS were given warning letters.

The Sabah Peace Plan had pledged that there would be no witch hunt against those involved in filing an application, withdrawn the next day, to register PCS.

Who can fit the bill?

The pertinent point to keep in mind when deciding on the next Sabah PKR state chief is the forthcoming general elections. Whoever is chosen must be able to work with the majority of division chiefs and the other partners in Pakatan Rakyat, DAP and PAS, and forge consensus with the Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp).

Both Ansari and Thamrin do not fit the bill. Thamrin has been a lackluster leader since late 2009 when appointed state chief in preference to Jeffrey. Thamrin is among the 18 division chiefs in Sabah who voted for Jeffrey in late 2009.

NONEAnsari (left) had a troubled chapter as Sabah PKR chief, being unable to win the support of the Dusuns in particular, and had to be replaced by Anwar for two months. It's difficult to believe that after all that has happened in Sabah PKR, he still wants to be state chief. His recent loss in Batu Sapi should have told him something.

Karim Ghani left Sabah Umno after Batu Sapi because he wanted the state chief to be democratically elected, not appointed, as pledged when he brought the party to the state.

By right, he should not agree to be part of a process where the state chief in Sabah PKR is not democratically elected.

Next comes the question of how PKR will fare during the next polls. It's unlikely that the party will win any Muslim seats. Any party wins will come in Chinese and Dusun areas. It's not likely that even Dusun Muslim and other local Muslims will vote for the party or PAS.
Karim Ghani may be able to pull in a few votes from the ex-United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) members, as in Batu Sapi, but this may not translate sufficiently into seats.

The question of the illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls voting for PKR, as proven by Batu Sapi, does not arise.

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