Malaysia PM Anwar expected to end impasse in Sabah state government

PM Anwar Ibrahim said he would give special attention to developments in Sabah after returning from Jakarta. PHOTO: REUTERS

KOTA KINABALU - Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is set to fly into the Sabah capital on Monday to broker a peace deal among the three warring parties in Sabah calling for Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) chairman and state Chief Minister Hajiji Noor to be replaced.

However, GRS is proposing for the status quo to remain but with Pakatan Harapan, who is currently part of the state’s opposition, on board the state government.

Mr Anwar will be arriving in Sabah amid the claim by Mr Hajiji, who insists that he still has the majority to remain chief minister, while Sabah Barisan Nasional chairman Bung Moktar Radin is saying that the “game is on”.

The embattled Datuk Seri Hajiji has shown his strength by handing over statutory declarations of support from 44 assemblymen, including seven Pakatan Harapan and five Sabah Barisan-Umno dissidents, to Sabah Governor Juhar Mahiruddin during a one-hour meeting on Saturday.

However, on his arrival from Kuala Lumpur where he had met Barisan chairman Zahid Hamidi on Saturday, Datuk Seri Bung told reporters that the “ball is in play” and dismissed Mr Hajiji’s majority as “corrupted”.

He was referring to the alleged “snatching” of five of the 17 Sabah Barisan-Umno assemblymen to get the majority in the 79-member state assembly, which is expected to hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss a Bill on gas supply regulations.

Mr Bung said Datuk Seri Anwar, who will touch down in Sabah from Jakarta at about 8pm, is expected to discuss with all of them – GRS, Barisan and Warisan – to find solutions to the current political stalemate in Sabah.

“I don’t think there will be a swearing-in at the Istana before that,” Mr Bung said, without disclosing further details.

Both Mr Hajiji and his state Cabinet were originally scheduled to be sworn in before the governor on Monday.

It was learnt that Barisan, Warisan and Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) are pushing for a “true” unity Sabah government involving all parties, including Pakatan Harapan and GRS’ component parties.

A source told The Star that as part of their “peace deal”, the parties were also pushing for Mr Hajiji to be replaced as he was said to be “party-less”.

They are ready to allow leaders from GRS’ component parties – Sabah Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president Jeffrey Kitingan or any of the party leaders from Barisan or Warisan – to lead the unity government in Sabah.

“It must be a true unity government. Everyone must be included – GRS, Pakatan, Barisan, Warisan and KDM,” said a source, adding that they would be proposing this during the meeting.

GRS will be proposing to maintain the status quo of the GRS-Barisan government but will bring Pakatan into the state government, The Star reported.

Mr Anwar, who left for Jakarta on Sunday, is likely to fly straight into Kota Kinabalu on Monday after a two-day official visit to the Indonesian capital and is expected to be joined by his deputy Zahid, who is also flying to Sabah on Monday.

The Prime Minister is to hold peace talks with embattled Chief Minister Hajiji, Mr Bung and Parti Warisan president Mohd Shafie Apdal over the political crisis triggered by Sabah Barisan’s move to pull out its support from the GRS government.

Although it is understood that Istana Negeri is waiting for the outcome of this last-minute bid to bring calm back to the state, sources have described it as a “tall order” at this point.

On Saturday, Mr Anwar told reporters that he would give special attention to developments in Sabah after returning from Jakarta and insisted that the situation was still calm.

He said he had also spoken to Mr Hajiji on the matter and that he was made to understand that Zahid, who is also Umno president, had spoken to Mr Bung.

Asked if the state assembly meeting on Tuesday was still on, Sabah Speaker Kadzim Yahya replied briefly in a text: “I don’t remember cancelling it.”

Sabah’s Pakatan chapter appears to be the kingmaker with its seven assemblymen because both GRS and the Barisan-Warisan group do not have the magic number of 40 seats needed for a simple majority in the 79-seat state assembly.

Sources said the state palace is seeking the state Attorney-General’s legal advice on the validity of the claims by Barisan and Warisan that the Chief Minister was without a party after he ditched Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia to become a direct member of GRS.

GRS secretary-general Masidi Manjun has argued that GRS allowed for direct membership and not necessarily only for parties to become members.

Both Warisan and Barisan are also arguing that Mr Hajiji no longer has the legal right to be chief minister as the Sabah Constitution requires the one holding the post to be the leader of a political party with the highest number of seats.

Dr Masidi, however, has countered that Mr Hajiji is a legitimate chief minister as he has more than enough majority seats in the state assembly.

He also pointed out that based on a previous court judgment which had clearly interpreted Sabah’s constitutional requirements for the appointment of the chief minister, it has to be a leader with support from more than 50 per cent of seats in the state assembly. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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