June 19, 2008 As more talk swirls about possible defections from the national coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) big guns are now in Sabah to head off what could become a revolutionary change in the political landscape, reported Malaysia's The Sun.
Apart from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who flew into the state on Tuesday, Khairy Jamaluddin (United Malays National Organisation youth vice-chief) has been in Kota Kinabalu for days, and Tengku Adnan (BN secretary-general) arrived in the state on Monday.
Also in the state are Rural and Regional Development Minister Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
They are are apparently there to contain the situation and prevent a domino effect should BN component parties start quitting the coalition.
THREE PARTIES TO DEFECT?
Word that three BN component parties, and not just one, as hinted by Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, from the state may abandon ship have put Umno leaders on high alert.
According to a report in Oriental Daily News, aside from the Datuk Yong Teck Lee-led Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), speculation is rife that Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which is headed by Kadazandusun paramount leader Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitinggan, and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok's Upko (United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation) may also leave the coalition.
Upko has four MPs, whereas PBS and SAPP have three and two MPs respectively.
BN controls all 25 parliamentary seats in the state except Kota Kinabalu which went to the Democratic Action Party in the 8 March general election.
If the three parties indeed leave the coalition but opt not to join the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), BN will still have 131 MPs (49 more than PR's) and will not be under any threat of being toppled. However, such a development will still boost the opposition's morale at the crucial time and allow PR to up the ante against BN.
A Sabah Umno man told the daily that Sabahans know the rules of the game well as far as party-hopping is concerned.
'(In Sabah) you've to try your best to be both the 'peg' and the 'hole' and you don't rule out any possibility.'
Apart from the rumoured rendezvous with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in HongKong and the Philippines, some leaders of Sabah BN component parties are said to have met Tengku Razaleigh, who is eying the Umno No 1 post, for possible cooperation should the Umno veteran win in the party election.
Mr Anwar, being the one-time Umno leader tasked with Sabah affairs, knows Sabah politics thoroughly, and with the help of PKR state chief, he can create a political storm in the state. The BN top leadership is trying its best to keep the situation under control.
It is understood that Sabah parties are asking for the 5 per cent oil royalty to be increased to 20 per cent and want a solution to the problem of illegal immigrants in the state.
Sources told the daily that although several BN component parties in the state are considering quitting the coalition, they have no intention of joining PR yet.
This is seen as a tactical move to keep their bargaining power.
But this will no doubt lend credence to PR's plan to take control of the federal government by 16 Sep, or Malaysia Day.
A poll by SAPP showed 42 per cent of the respondents believe the party should leave the BN, 47 per cent say it should join PR and only 9 per cent want it to remain with the coalition. source:
Can they prevent coalition defections? Electric New Paper, Singapore