KOTA KINABALU - The Sabah state government has lost its majority in the state legislature after a major coalition partner, Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN), pulled out.
The state was led by the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS)-BN ruling coalition. But Sabah BN leader Bung Moktar Radin said he has pulled out the party’s 17 assemblymen from the 27-month-old government.
The East Malaysian state has a total of 79 members in the state legislature, with a minimum 40 seats needed to obtain simple majority. Before the GRS-BN breakup, the coalition had 46 lawmakers - 29 from GRS and 17 from BN.
The GRS government is headed by Chief Minister Hajiji Noor.
GRS’ 29 assemblymen consist of 15 direct members who were formerly with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS, seven), Sabah STAR (six) and one from Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP).
In Sabah’s fractious politics, it was understood that Datuk Seri Hajiji previously also had support from smaller parties: Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (3), Parti Islam SeMalaysia (1) and Parti Bangsa Malaysia (1), and one Independent.
After pulling out, BN is now expected to tie up with the main opposition party, Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan, 19 seats) and other smaller parties to try and reach the magical number of 40 seats.
BN plus Warisan would have a total of 36 lawmakers (17 + 18).
The second main opposition party, Pakatan Harapan (PH) (7 assemblymen), said on Thursday that it had decided not to support the BN-Warisan revolt.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is the PH national president, on Thursday called Datuk Seri Hajiji. Mr Hajiji also met with all the 7 PH assemblymen at his office on Thursday, in what is seen as a sign that PH wanted the status quo to remain.
A GRS-PH combination would also have a total of 36 seats (29 GRS + 7 PH).
Sabah BN chairman Bung Moktar, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, announced the Sabah BN decision to pull out after chairing a two-hour meeting at Umno headquarters in Kota Kinabalu late on Friday night.
“We have lost confidence in Hajiji and he has lost his locus standi to remain as Chief Minister after he quit Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia to become a direct member of GRS,” Bung told reporters. Mr Hajiji quit Bersatu to join GRS directly as part of a separate kerfuffle involving the seats in the national Malaysian Parliament.
Mr Hajiji had said on Friday said he was reshuffling his state Cabinet, and that this would be announced soon. He was expected to remove Bung Moktar and others who have with drawn support for him.
Many local political observers said it was important for Bung Moktar and Mr Hajiji to resolve their differences as the likely political scenario could end in instability and snap elections.
Bung Moktar, explaining why BN has pulled out from the GRS-BN state government, said the political understanding after the 2020 Sabah elections was that BN would support Mr Hajiji as Chief Minister, who in turn would appoint BN as his state Cabinet ministers and heads of state-owned government-linked companies.
He said the basis of cooperation was done between Sabah BN, Perikatan Nasional coalition (headed by Bersatu) and PBS in the 2020 polls to defeat Warisan and PH.
Mr Hajiji was picked as the chief minister as he was Sabah Bersatu chairman under Perikatan, he said.
“When he decided to ditch Bersatu (on Dec 8), the whole cooperation ended,” he added.
Furthermore, Bung Moktar said Mr Hajiji and GRS had breached the cooperation with BN by sacking Sabah Umno’s Usukan assemblyman, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, as chairman of state investment arm Qhazanah Sabah.
“Due to the breach towards the political understanding, Sabah BN has decided that all its 18 assemblymen (including Parti Bangsa Malaysia’s assemblyman Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi) will pull back their support and declare we have lost confidence in Hajiji as Chief Minister,” he said. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK