Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Najib’s Sabah visit stirs Musa speculation

Speculations are rife that Chief Minister Musa Aman’s days

are numbered and that Putrajaya may move him out as part

of its ‘transformation’ programme

KOTA KINABALU: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak arrives here today on a campaign stop to push the ruling Barisan Nasional’s message in one of the key states his coalition must win to ensure he is not toppled from power.

Najib will first fly to Kuala Penyu and then Papar on the west coast of the state where a surging opposition has made Umno jittery in both the state and parliamentary seats.

There are three parliamentary constituencies – Beaufort, Kimanis and Papar – up for grabs here and Umno is facing a tough fight in all. The state seats in the immediate vicinity are Kawang, Pantai Manis, Bongawan, Membakut , Klias and Kuala Penyu.

Najib is expected to fly to Keningau and Tenom the following day to shore up support for the BN.

This has set tongues wagging as the east coast of the state, where a security alert is in place after an incursion by a group of armed Filipinos punched a hole in a state the BN calls its “fixed deposit”, is not on his schedule.

Najib’s itinerary also does nothing to silence the question on everyone’s lips about caretaker Chief Minister Musa Aman’s future and if his days in the top post are numbered.

With both the Malacca and Johor chief ministers moved, it isn’t beyond Putrajaya to include Musa in its transformation programme, sources said.

Musa has served as chief minister for more than nine years now and his critics both in and outside the state administration feel Sabah needs a breath of fresh air just like the other states.

His relationship with Shafie Apdal, one of the three vice-president of Umno and the incumbent MP for Semporna, has not been good.

He has also had uneasy ties with others in Umno as well as some BN parties, notably LDP (Liberal Democratic Party).

Salleh as CM?

Will Salleh return as CM of Sabah?

Former Umno strongman, Lajim Ukin, whom Sabah Umno is so worried now that he is in the opposition, blames Musa for forcing him out of the party.

Prior to the dissolution of Parliament earlier this month, there had been talk that Shafie could contest for a state seat which would pave the way for him to take over the chief minister’s post.

But that did not happen.

The return of Salleh Said Keruak, the Sabah Umno liaison deputy chairman, as the party’s candidate for the Usukan state seat has also added fuel to the rumours that he could be in line for another stint at the top.

With a number of senior Sabah Umno politicians qualified for and perhaps eyeing his post, it’s bound to make any chief minister nervous.

Though it is early days yet in the campaign period and it’s anyone’s guess how it will swing, election watchers say Putrajaya could spring a surprise by opting for a new face altogether if the BN wins – someone who will be able to unite the factions in Sabah Umno.

Salleh has already served as chief minister during the state’s quirky chief ministers-on-rotation programme from December 1994 to May 1996 when he handed over the baton to Yong Teck Lee.

A new man or perhaps woman at the helm would work to Najib’s advantage in case he is challenged in the Umno elections.

Others have, however, brushed aside such talk as daydreaming as most of those in Sabah Umno and in the BN component parties are already aligned to Musa.

If push comes to shove in Umno politics, Musa also has some clout at the national level as he maintains a cordial relationship with the various Umno factions there.

Rumours of shake-up

An election observer said that those spreading the rumour of a shake-up in the Sabah government should the BN win may be hoping to dent the performance of the coalition under Musa, who is hoping to do as well or better than the last election when it lost only one parliamentary and one state seat to DAP.

There has been a lot of talk that people aligned to the BN have sponsored candidates to add to the already crowded field of multi-cornered contests with the Pakatan Rakyat opposition front, SAPP, STAR and independents.

So far in the campaign the issue of who will be chief minister has not cropped although there are whispers that someone other than Musa could be in the running, especially if the BN does not win the state with the same convincing margin it did in 2008.

It may be too early to read anything into Najib’s visit to the west coast and the interior today and tomorrow as he has a long haul ahead traversing the country with campaign just begun.

He may come back and visit the east coast where Musa is contesting in Sibuga and Shafie in Semporna perhaps next week.

Source: Google Syndication


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