Bung faction shifts to opposition bloc as uncertainty reigns in Sabah assembly
KOTA KINABALU - While the Sabah Barisan Nasional faction led by Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin had their seating positions shifted in the special state assembly meeting today, a decision by the opposition to be absent en bloc suggested that the political turmoil was far from conclusion.
Bung Moktar, who on Jan 7 announced Umno's withdrawal of support for Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, triggering turmoil within the state assembly as calls for the latter to step down began to surface, had today alongside Karambunai assemblyman Datuk Yakub Khan, Sukau assemblyman Datuk Jafry Ariffin and Sungai Manila assemblyman Mokran Ingkat had their seats moved to the opposition bloc.
A prior agreement between opposition assemblymen seemed evident as all seats on the opposition bloc were vacant, including the 19 from Warisan led by Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who along with Bung Moktar has issued a statement that they unanimously supported the two bills tabled during the meeting in absentia.
While Bung Moktar has stated earlier that the majority of BN assemblymen did not support Hajiji, the latter had yesterday announced the support of 44 assemblymen to remain in power and this had received the blessings of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, whom with his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had met with Hajiji yesterday.
The five BN assemblymen who remained in support of the government under Hajiji remained in the government bloc at the state assembly today, with three of them seen attending the special session. They were Tanjung Keramat assemblyman Datuk Ir Shahelmey Yahya, Sindumin assemblyman Datuk Dr Yusuf Yacob and Sugut assemblyman Datuk James Ratib.
During the session, Dr Yusof stood to express his regret over the opposition bloc's absence.
"I congratulate and thank the Prime Minister for the proposal, this is an important agenda for the state of Sabah and must be approved as this is what the people of Sabah has been waiting for. But I'm disappointed that there is not even a single person on the other side, supposedly this should have been a priority. I apologise. I am also a friend, and I don't want to bring it up, but we should fight together because it is in the interest of the people of Sabah, I do not have personal interests," he said.
Following his meeting with Hajiji and assemblymen who supported him, Anwar stated that he agreed to Hajiji being the Chief Minister and wanted Sabah to have a strong government under the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) chairman, albeit in proposing a unity government for the state.
He added that the two bills to be tabled were an important milestone towards returning rights to the people of Sabah under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and thus urged all assemblymen to support it.
Bung Moktar in a statement this morning notified that a large number of Sabah Umno assemblymen could not attend the session as they had to leave for Kuala Lumpur to attend the Umno general assembly.
However, he stated, that he along with all Sabah UMNO assemblymen fully support the Gas Supply Bill 2023 which was to be presented at the 16th Special Meeting of the third term.
Shafie seemed to echo Bung Moktar, in confirming full support of Warisan assemblyment for the bills tabled despite being absent.
However, Shafie said the reason for the absence was to ensure swift establishment of a Special Committee to determine the leadership of the unity government as discussed with Anwar in a meeting on Monday.