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Musa ‘lacks Malay-ness’ for Umno

By Luke Rintod of FMT
KOTA KINABALU: A political scientist in Sabah believes it would be better for the two Sabah Umno leaders, currently being propped to vie for Umno’s vice presidency, to work together.

In contention for one of the three coveted Umno vice-president posts are Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman and federal Minister of Rural Development, Shafie Apdal.

Shafie is an incumbent to this seat. The other two incumbent vice presidents are federal ministers Hishamuddin Hussein and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Rather than risk being pipped by other aspirants, analyst Arnold Puyok thinks its best that Musa and Shafie  “work together”.

Puyok, who teaches politics and international relations at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) said that “working together” is an “opinion that is slowly emerging” from the duo’s colleagues in Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) and among Umno grassroots leaders here.

“For the sake of party unity and as a preparation for the next general election, many BN supporters are of the opinion that it is best for Musa and Shafie to bury the hatchet and cooperate to develop Sabah.

“The issue that causes the occasional conflict between the two leaders is lack of coordination and miscommunication in the implementation of federal and state-initiated rural projects.

“BN supporters note that instead of bringing their personal clash to the party polls, it is good for Musa and Shafie to maintain the status quo for the sake of Sabah and party unity,” said Puyok when asked of his view on the tussle between Musa and Shafie.

While Shafie had confirmed he would defend his post at the coming party poll in October, Musa, who heads Sabah Umno, has kept quiet.

Foremost in propping Musa for the post is his own deputy in Sabah Umno, Salleh Said Keruak, who is also the State Legislative Assembly Speaker.

‘Strange bedfellows’

According to Puyok, many people see the ‘war’ ahead as a battle of wits between Musa and Shafie.

“It is publicly known that Musa and Shafie are strange bedfellows. Taking their battle to the pinnacle of power in Umno is seen as their attempt to consolidate their own grip on party politics,” opined the scholar.

Puyok however added that thus far neither Shafie nor Musa have offered any new policy platforms to contest on.

“On paper, it looks like Shafie has more advantages to win. Compared to Musa, Shafie has been in federal politics for a long time and he understands the dynamics of it.

“Furthernore he has a strong following in Sabah which he has established via patronage support from his powerful federal ministry.

“Shafie also enjoys close relationship with Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“He is also seen as a more ambitious political leader who wants to leave his mark on national politics.

“Additionally, as Shafie is well-known among the Malays at the grassroots level, getting their support may not be much of a challenge,” Puyok observed.

With more Sabah Umno leaders giving Musa the nod to contest, everyone now is in a fix over what to do next.

Musa lacks Malay-ness

So far Musa has kept his political cards close to his chest.

The question remains whether he will contest or be satisfied with the explicit support from the various Umno divisions. A show of support will be enough for him to stay relevant until the next general election, due 2018.

Thus far Musa has already thwarted the “jinx” that plagued past CMs. He is the first Sabah CM to have broken the “jinx” to rule the resources-rich state.

The late Mustapha Harun of Usno, Harris Salleh of Berjaya and Joseph Pairin Kitingan of PBS all suffered from the political jinx, failing to retain power for more than two terms.

“Musa has consistently delivered the seats to national parliament since 2004.

“Despite the criticisms against his leadership, Musa continues to enjoy strong support especially from the Muslim Bumiputera voters and from Sabah BN component parties,” observed Puyok.

Puyok said the way Musa responds to his political opponents has baffled many people.

Instead of silencing them, Musa annoyed them more by continuing his work to build coalitional support among his key supporters.

“However, unlike Shafie, Musa is seen as lacking the ambition to spread his influence beyond Sabah. And his lack of “Malay-ness” is seen as a drawback in getting widespread Malay support throughout the country.

“His supporters regard him as a strong regional leader…” opined Puyok.

The party is set to hold its elections in October. A new system in place will enable 146,000 delegates from 191 divisions to cast their votes this time.

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