In Sabah Umno, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's wife Rosmah Mansor, strangely enough, seems to be an important factor in the battle between party vice-president Shafie Apdal and Chief Minister Musa Aman.TAWAU: Umno president Najib Tun Razak is a worried man and much afraid of his own shadow and, if rumours are to be believed, his wife’s clout within the party.
Within Umno there are three groups of “intelligentsia” – two official and one unofficial. Each group has been turning out their own reports.
But of interest to Sabah is the group which believes that in order for Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) to become a “better and reformed” party, it should be “dethroned” first.
“A dethroned Umno and BN can make a stronger comeback in the 14th general election… There will be better unity and appreciation of each other,” said a veteran Umno insider.
According to the veteran insider, Najib too is “very much aware” of this view and secretly shares this opinion.
“That’s why he (Najib) openly said in his (Umno assembly) speech that he will defend Putrajaya ‘at any price’. He said it twice.
“He has given many hints of his views. Even last week he admitted that ‘normally a political party too long in power would not do self-introspection’.
“In other words, he is saying that a party (read Umno) takes for granted it would be in power forever, and thus arrogance would bring it down finally,” he said.
It is also now an open secret that opposition Pakatan Rakyat has consolidated its presence in Sarawak and is “convinced” of raking in eight MP seats.
Pakatan is also said to be optimistic of its chances in another five seats, making it a challenge for BN to maintain its grip on Sarawak’s 31 MP seats.
But Sabah is another story. Sabah lost two seats – Tawau and Kota Kinabalu – to the opposition in the 2008 general election.
Together, Sabah and Sarawak contribute 57 parliamentary seats (including one in Labuan), a crucial number that can tip the balance of power in the peninsula when the country goes to the national polls.
Malaysia has a total of 222 parliamentary seats, and it practises “first-pass-the-pole” system whereby a government can be formed once a simple majority in Parliament is attained.
Although the 13th general election is not due until March 2013, signs are there that it could be held sooner.
Here the Election Commission (EC) has already begun appointing its polling district heads who are mostly school headmasters or principals in the state.
According to political observers in Tawau, the central BN leadership is confident it would not lose more than three of the 25 MP seats in Sabah.
But Sabah BN is a little more cautious. It sees a 50:50 chance in six seats – Sandakan, Penampang, Kota Belud, Pensiangan, Kota Marudu and Beluran.
Pressure is mounting on BN to win in Tawau, Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu, all Chinese-majority towns.
Reading between the lines of Najib’s many moves, an observer here said the prime minister had sent his own team to evaluate the situation in Tawau.
“Umno intelligence reports aside, Najib is sending his own trusted men to Sabah to do BN’s own analyses of its ground strength.
“He has sent Parliament Speaker, Pandikar Amin Mulia, to Sabah (for this purppose).
“Pandikar was in Tawau a few days ago to gauge the situation in Tawau alone.
“The prime minister does not want to rely on just Umno’s intelligence reports. It’s not because he refuses to believe them, but he simply wants a second or third opinion on BN’s real strength in Sabah.
“There’s an idea to get Sabah to hold its state election ahead of the general election as a way to gauge BN and Pakatan strength.
“But a faction within Umno is against such a psyche-war,” a local Umno source said.
The source believes Pandikar and Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal are working together to ensure Sabah retains the 25 MP seats, thus gifting Najib with the “fixed deposit” which is guaranteed to allow BN to “retain Putrajaya at all cost”.
State opposition DAP chief Jimmy Wong is also of the opinion that Najib wants Shafie, who is rumoured to be chief-minister-in-waiting, to lead the battle for the state.
It is a known fact here that Najib wants Shafie to be Sabah chief minister, replacing Musa Aman.
“There are two Umno camps here. One is the Najib-Shafie camp and other is Musa-Rosmah.
“Najib wants Shafie to be chief minister but Rosmah needs Musa on the seat, ” he said.
Wong’s comment seem to confirm widespread rumours here and in the peninsula that Rosmah, through her nominees, is in business with Musa-linked associates in the plantation and the quick-money spinning timber industry.
Rumours circulating the political circles here are that recent disclosures of Rosmah’s jewelled indulgences are allegedly linked to commissions she is allegedly receiving abroad.
Sabah is facing a serious shortage of round logs which the state, through its agencies, exports abroad. Round logs which are exported do not pay the state government royalties.
It is understood that payments for the logs are not remitted to Sabah but instead paid in a third country, such as Hong Kong.
A local sawmill operator told FMT earlier this week that it was puzzling why the state government was refusing to sell round logs to locals who were prepared to pay the same price as foreign buyers. The state government’s adamant stand has brought the industry to an almost standstill since early this year.
Wong threw some light on this matter when he said that there was the “above-board price and what was actually paid”.
“I am sure the buyers abroad are paying a lower price. Until now, the state has not declared how many logs it sells and how much is actually earned.
“Strange but in the last three years, state earnings from timber have been dropping considerably,” he said.
Back to politics, Wong said that in Sabah, Musa and Umno “can do anything they want”.
“BN knows it will be difficult in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia this time.
“Here it is a one-man show. In the past 30 years , Umno-BN has done a lot of damage. It will be difficult to change the situation overnight,” he said.
Wong, who is Sri Tanjung state assemblyman, believes thtat to unseat the opposition-held parliamentary seats in Tawau and Kota Kinabalu and his own Sri Tanjung, Umno-BN would need to beef up its voter strength in these areas.
“They are already doing this by gerrymandering the electoral lines. They are downsizing big Chinese areas and leaving big Umno areas alone.
“They will also use the ‘sewa undi’ strategy.
“This is for the illegals here. Umno is holding them for ransom. It was doing this before… now with the amnesty programme, Umno will have acquired all the details it needs from more illegals.
“Then the party makes the MyKads and ‘sewa’ (rent) to them to ‘undi’ (vote). This is what happened even in the last election.
“We have proof of the many frauds but the EC is not interested in fairness, which is what Bersih 20 is asking.
“Clean the electoral lists of dead people and stop the gerrymandering,” said Chong.
Meanwhile, a local activist told FMT that his informant in the National Registration Department (NRD) had revealed that the department had been directed by Putrajaya to ensure that 40,000 illegals in Sabah are issued MyKads.
“The informant told me last year about the directive from Putrajaya. So far they have managed to register 20,000 because the NRD is selective.
“NRD will only give it to the uneducated illegals. A friend who is Muslim and has some education was told that he cannot get a MyKad because he spoke English,” he said, adding that it was obvious that the government was only interested in the illiterate aliens and those who will not ask “too many questions”.
Another Umno source who is aware of this “operation” said that the 20,000 “new” voters would be placed in areas where BN saw marginal wins in Sabah.
“The voters will fill up areas which BN is unsure of. There are at least five other constituencies which are borderlines for BN,” he said.