Tuesday, June 17, 2008

PM unaware of Sabah MPs forming own bloc

Wednesday June 18, 2008

PM unaware of Sabah MPs forming own bloc

KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is unaware of any move by Sabah MPs to form an independent bloc.

“No, I have not been told,” he replied to reporters when asked if he has been told about the speculation of Sabah MPs forming their own coalition.

The Prime Minister was here to close the Second International CEOs Conference.

Abdullah also held a dinner meeting with Umno grassroots leaders before returning to Kuala Lumpur last night.

In a related development, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) is scheduled to make a major announcement today.

The press conference of SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee is scheduled for 2pm, according to a senior party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the party leadership would make an important announcement and declaration, and described deputy president Datuk Raymond Tan’s statement on a speculated shift in political power as “politicking”.

The official claimed that the announcement would have national implications and had been thought out for the state and Sabahans.

“We are not lone rangers in this move,” he said, declining to give further details.

Talk of a group of Barisan Nasional MPs seeing “eye to eye” on how to work as a pressure bloc has raised the political temperature in Sabah since last week.

A statement by Umno’s Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on Saturday that a component party could be pulling out of Barisan soon led to denials by Sabah leaders and several Barisan component party leaders.

Despite the denials, there has been no stop to talk that several of them would make the move anytime from today.

This group, said to comprise up to 18 of 25 Sabah MPs, is believed to be preparing to form a coalition of its own to work with counterparts in Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia from within Barisan or outside, including Pakatan Rakyat.

Adding fuel to the fire yesterday was the absence of several Barisan MPs during Abdullah’s visit.

A notable absentee was SAPP president Yong.

Until Monday, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, who is state Barisan chairman, has maintained that there was no indication of any component party quitting the ruling coalition.

Yong could not be reached for comment while deputy president Tan, who is a Deputy Chief Minister, stated that being vocal did not mean that the party was leaving Barisan.

Among those who have been vocal on Sabah issues in the wake of the March 8 general election showing were Musa’s brother Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman, Kalabakan MP Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh, Upko deputy president Datuk Wilfred Bumburing, the MP for Tuaran, and PBS vice-president Datuk Edmond Chong, the Bati Sapi MP.

“It is not that they are planning to jump to Pakatan Rakyat parties. They have reached some sort of a consensus on forming an independent bloc for the people of Sabah and change in the country and may use an existing Barisan component for that bloc,” is how an observer sees it.

Among the key issues agreed on were political autonomy, 20% oil royalty by Jan 1, 2009, return of Labuan by 2010, resolving the illegal immigrant problem in a humane manner, having just participation in the federal administration and reviewing unfair and imprudent federal laws.

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