Tuesday, June 7, 2011

PKR eyes Pakatan-SAPP alliance in Sabah

With an eye to the next general election, Sabah Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is actively moving towards forging a formal alliance with local opposition party SAPP, hoping to break Barisan Nasional’s (BN) stranglehold over the east Malaysian state.

PR believes a pact with the active SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party), helmed by former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee, will be crucial to boost the opposition’s chances against BN when elections are called.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Sabah PKR, under the leadership of party president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, has formed a “negotiation team” to lead the merger discussions with SAPP.

It is believed the members include Libaran PKR division chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini, Papar PKR chief Datuk James Ghani, Tenom PKR chief Datuk Halik Zaman, Kota Kinabalu PKR chief Christina Liew, Tawau PKR division chief Datuk Kong Hong Ming, Sabah PKR Youth chief Jafery Jomion and PKR deputy secretary-general and Penampang division chief Darell Leiking, all of whom currently sits on the special presidential council which leads PKR’s Sabah chapter.

Other members on the team are ex-BN man and former federal deputy minister Datuk Kalakau Untol and PKR supreme council member Datuk Roland Chia.

A party insider confirmed with The Malaysian Insider that the committee members will meet today to appoint a chairman before discussions are initiated with PR’s Sabah parties about the merger.

Once an agreement is reached in Sabah PR, the insider added, negotiations with SAPP will start.

But if the Sarawak polls were any indication, such political cooperation could turn tricky, largely due to a likely clash in views between the peninsular-based PR pact and SAPP, whose struggles centre on promoting autonomy for Sabahans.

SAPP’s Yong has already grown testy over the proposal following a small fallout with DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang last week when the latter purportedly issued an ultimatum to the party, saying it must form a formal pact and not merely a political friendship.

When contacted yesterday, Sabah DAP chief Jimmy Wong stood by Lim’s ultimatum, saying it was issued with no malice intended.

SAPP, said Wong, must become a PR “blood brother” and not merely a friend or relative to the pact.

“We are openly inviting them to join us but you cannot just forge cooperation without joining us as a formal partner, a blood brother. If you merely become a friend or relative, you can abandon us when we are down. Win or lose, sink or swim, we must stay together as a pact. And we must do it now,” he said.

Despite the tiff however, DAP and PKR have both openly indicated their intentions and the urgency to push for such an alliance while SAPP has stayed non-committal thus far.

But when contacted over the weekend, SAPP information chief Chong Pitt Fah also confirmed with The Malaysian Insider that the party has also formed a negotiation committee to discuss the merger proposal.

“But there has been silence on their part so far. We have formed our committees but we have not held any discussions,” he said.

He expressed confidence that a PKR-DAP-PAS-SAPP alliance will not go the way of Sarawak when negotiations between PR and Sarawak’s opposition SNAP failed to bear fruit, resulting in multicornered fights in 26 constituencies during the state polls on April 16.

“Unlike SNAP, SAPP is a very active party. We have our support and we have two MPs and two assemblymen, whereas SNAP is a half-dead, underperforming party,” he said.

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