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The slippery fish that is unity

By Philip Golingai

HAS Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) joined the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition? This is currently the ikan palian question among the political elites in Sabah.

Palian is a delicious local river fish which is difficult to eat because of its many bones.

According to a statement issued on Wednesday by GRS secretary-general Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, PCS, led by Tan Sri Anifah Aman, has been accepted into GRS, the backbone of the Sabah coalition government.

Masidi, who is with Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (PGRS), said PCS was accepted as the eighth party in the coalition with the unanimous agreement of all other party presidents.

However, some of my sources in the coalition have told me there has been no official decision.

There are seven Sabah-based parties in GRS.

PGRS led by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) headed by Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, Sabah Star under Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) led by Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee, Usno headed by Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, Liberal Demo-cratic Party (LDP) under Datuk Chin Su Phin, and Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah led by Tan Sri Liew Yun Fah.

So, is PCS the eighth party in GRS?

Has Anifah’s PCS officially moved into the big tent of GRS? It’s not certain yet, some sources maintain.

Has Anifah’s PCS officially moved into the big tent of GRS? It’s not certain yet, some sources maintain.

Since the Masidi announcement and the press statement by Anifah, no statements, of congratulations or protest, have been issued by GRS or any of its component parties.

It reminds me of my favourite analogy: if a tree falls in Danum Valley and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Publicly, there is no sound.

But privately, there was a loud thud of anger, especially among the leaders of almost all of the GRS parties except for Hajiji’s PGRS.

Some of the leaders felt that the decision to accept Anifah’s PCS was like having a slice of palian shoved down their throats.

Some told me it was illegal, as the GRS supreme council should have decided on the party’s entrance into the coalition instead of the matter being handled at an informal meeting in Sri Gaya, the Sabah Chief Minister’s official residence.

“It is a decision that only the GRS supreme council can make.

As far as I know, the GRS supreme council has not met for a long time,” a GRS insider told me.

“Parti KDM’s [Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat] entry to GRS was blocked by PBS. It took Usno more than one year to join GRS. PGRS, made up mainly of Bersatu politicians, was accepted into GRS through a decision by the coalition’s supreme council. The same for LDP and PHRS,” he added.

GRS was formed on Sept 12, 2020, with four parties: PBS, Sabah Star, SAPP, and Bersatu.

Two recent issues have called into question the leadership of Chief Minister and GRS chairman Hajiji.

The acceptance of PCS by GRS, and the state government’s handling of the emotive issue of the recent Sabah Law Society’s (SLS) legal battle for the state’s entitlement to 40% of grant revenue under the Malaysia Agreement that helped form Malaysia.

Has Hajiji lost command? Or has he strengthened his grip on the coalition with the PCS move?

“The SLS suit and the PCS announcement have battered the image of GRS.

“There was an uproar by the rakyat over the seemingly hostile stand that the Sabah government took on the 40% case. The PCS entry to GRS, which goes against the coalition’s constitution, compounded the problem,” a leader of one of the GRS component parties told me.

“These events have raised unhealthy speculation about the future of GRS. The top leadership is making arbitrary decisions without consulting us.”

Why did some leaders, especially from Hajiji’s PGRS, want PCS in the coalition?

“Anifah is known as a Sabah rights fighter. After the SLS suit debacle, we need Anifah with us,” a PGRS leader told me.

“We have Dr Jeffrey, Pandikar and Yong who are known as Sabah fighters. They are on record as supporting SLS in its suit against the Sabah and Federal governments,” countered another GRS component party leader.

“We don’t mind PCS and Anifah, but the decision should not be shoved down our throats.”

There is also speculation that PCS has been included in GRS to head off other parties forming a bloc within the coalition.

For example, PBS and Sabah Star, the major non-Muslim bumiputra parties in the state, have signed a historic memorandum of understanding to cooperate during the next Sabah election due in 2025.

Usno, under the vocal Pandikar, has also been agitating against perceived political blunders by GRS chairman Hajiji

“PCS might be used to neutralise Usno,” a PGRS leader told me.

GRS is heading into uncharted waters populated by the thorny palian.

Will it implode before the state election? Or explode after the state assembly is dissolved?

Editor: This article article has appeared in the Star. https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/its-just-politics/2024/05/26/the-slippery-fish-that-is-unity

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