Will Lajim’s exit hurt Musa?
Rumours are that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has asked Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman to step down after the 13th general election.
COMMENTSabah’s 25 parliamentary and 60 state seats have remained Umno’s ‘most trusted fixed deposit”. In the 13th general election, with uncertainty looming over peninsular politics, Sabah must be won and local Umno ‘warlords’ cannot be simply dismissed because ‘their too old”.
A case in point is Lajim Ukin, an influential warlord or ‘strongman’ as some call him from Beuafort. He’s a humble man and well liked in his constituency and unfortunately for some factions a ‘winnable’ candidate.
Coffeeshops here are abuzz with rumours that Lajim may announce his exit from Umno later this month.
“Wait till Jan 31… The tree will not shake if there is no wind,” said one of Lajim’s acquaintances when asked of his ‘boss’ will leave Umno for Sabah Peoples Front (SPF), a local party currently headed by Berman Angkap.
The acquaintance also also reinforced that Lajim’s main reason for leaving is because he “knew” that he was among several veterans who were considered ‘under-performers” and most likely would be dropped by Sabah Umno head, Musa Aman in preparation of the coming general election.
Musa is said to be responding to a call by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is Umno’s president, to identify those who should be dropped and replaced by younger and more educated candidates.
While it is true that Lajim is now a veteran politician having served as people’s representative since 1985, it cannot be said that he has been underperforming.
He is among the most popular Barisan Nasional MPs and is in touch with his constituency in Beuafort. He is amiable and easily approachable to people seeking his hand.
According to an insider, the problem lies in the fact that “populist Lajim” is indeed a winnable candidate” at least in his own Beaufort area.
“He is humble and close to the people in Beaufort. He works tirelessly and that’s threatening to some quarters who are instigating Musa, ” said the insider who also spouted common rumour that Musa is contemplating replacing Lajim with a relative.
Musa’s family ties
Currently Musa’s younger brother, Anifah, who is also the Foreign Affairs Minister, is the MP for Kimanis, just adjacent to Lajim’s Beaufort.
Already, Musa’s son in-law Ariffin Arif is the assemblyman for Membakut which comes under Beaufort.
While Lajim has been successful in evading speaking to the media about the rumour of his quitting Umno, his men readily admitted that they already ordered thousands of SPF flags, printed thousands of t-shirts and opening a big office somewhere here.
A senior Sabah Umno, when approached for comment, said the press should ask Lajim when he will announce his exit.
“Rumour are that he will wait until after Chinese New Year to announce his move. We will wait and see lah,” said the insider.
Musa’s principal political secretary, Nizam Abu Bakar Titingan, when asked about the rumours recently, answered in text: “We have asked the persons concerned but they denied”.
Nizam’s ‘they’ refered to Ghapur Salleh (MP Kalabakan) and Bung Mokhtar Raden (MP Kinabatangan) and Lajim.
All three are on Musa’s ‘drop list’ and rumoured to be heading for SPF.
Yesterday Musa, in a bid to counter these rumours, called on BN leaders not to dwell too much on the issue of candidacy.
Musa under Najib scrutiny
Musa himself, some insiders claimed, is already a subject of stringent auditing by Najib and his team as to whether he should continue to be the Chief Minister or not after the general election.
There are speculations that Najib could have asked Musa (as he did to Sarawak Chief Minsiter Taib Mahmud) to step down early and pave the way for a transitional state government as the “general election will not be held very soon”.
Despite PAS’s ‘confident prediction’ that polls will be held in March, Musa insiders claim Najib had insinuated that there will be no polls this year.
Not to be muscled out this way, billionaire Musa has leveraged his position by going the extra kilometre and “contributing” to oil the Barisan Nasional’s election machinery in its embattled base in Peninsular .
Meanwhile waiting in the wing for the coveted Chef Minister post are Sabah Umno’s deputy head, Salleh Said Keruak, who is also State Assembly Speaker, and Shafei Apdal, Umno’s vice president who is also Rural and Regional Development Minister.
Both, however, are currently not an assemblyman – a prerequisite to be considered for state cabinet posts.
Things would however get clearer when election is called.
While Salleh and Shafei may harbour hopes of standing in a state constituency, Lajim for now is said to be weighing his options in the event he is not renominated.
Lajim, a thorn to Musa
The threat is if Lajim quits Umno and forms an alliance with STAR’ Sabah chapter Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, together they might spring surprises in many seats, especially in Sabah’s west-coast area where Kitingan’s Kadazandusun communities are substantial.
Lajim, himself being a Bisaya, is from the Dusunic group.
Could the political saying “there is no permanent enemy or friend in politics” ring true for Kitingan and Lajim?
According to their respective inner circles, both leaders have been in contact with each other over politics since as early last year.
Berman, when asked yesterday about Lajim joining SPF, refused to comment.
All he said in his text message was, “no idea, tq”, further fueling speculations that Musa may see more that one surprise spring in coming months.