KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is expanding its wings to Sabah, following requests from former Umno members who wished to join the new party, says Malaysian Prime Minister and its chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Stressing that Bersatu's presence in Sabah was not aimed at wresting control of the state from Parti Warisan Sabah, Dr Mahathir said they were merely providing an avenue for former Umno members who do not wish to join Warisan.
"Warisan is not part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, but we let Warisan lead Pakatan Harapan in Sabah.
"And at the federal level, we have three ministers and two deputy ministers from Warisan.
"This is an extraordinary arrangement," he told a press conference after chairing Bersatu's supreme council meeting on Friday (Feb 15).
He said Bersatu membership was open to former Umno members and others, except Warisan, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Amanah.
"And for those from Umno, we impose three conditions. They must quit Umno and remain independent for quite some time.
"We also screen the background of individual applicants before accepting them into our party," he said, adding that the party was not into accepting newcomers by groups.
He said Bersatu would screen each and every applicant.
On the Semenyih by-election, Dr Mahathir hoped Bersatu would retain its seat.
On whether fellow component parties consented to allowing Bersatu to spread its wing to Sabah, Dr Mahathir said it was a party decision that did not require the green light from other coalition members.
Dr Mahathir noted that DAP and PKR contested seats in Sabah in past elections.
"Bersatu did not have representation in Sabah then, and we left it to (Datuk Seri) Shafie Apdal who set up Warisan," he said.
Political analysts anticipate an immediate impact on the power structure of the Warisan-led state coalition government with DAP, PKR and the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko).
"Based on Warisan's strong reaction towards the speculation, I'm sure they will definitely be upset and this would probably affect their relationship with Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan as a whole," says local political observer Rahezzal Shah in an interview on Thursday (Feb 14).
Rahezzal said the spillover would also be felt by the local chapters of DAP and PKR.