Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sabah Dilemma, Between The Two Ibrahims

Jeffrey at political crossroads after Zaid’s exit


By Joe Fernandez

ANALYSIS Pakatan Rakyat co-coordinator Zaid Ibrahim’s sudden departure from PKR, under somewhat unhappy circumstances, has caught Sabah strongman Jeffrey Kitingan flat-footed but not entirely without political or other options, it seems.

Zaid, who had banked so much on Sabah and Sarawak to win the PKR deputy presidency, apparently left his allies in the party in a lurch when he quit out of the blue without breathing so much as a word to them.

His critics, and many supporters as well, explain this apparently impulsive action on his part is basically due to a fundamental “instability of character” in Zaid. The truth, as usual, may be somewhere in between.

This situation sums up Jeffrey’s current stand on whether he will continue to stay in PKR or leave the party like a close aide, Phillip Among @ Daniel Dell Fidelis, 41, did last Saturday. The reading in Kota Kinabalu is that Among, who doubles as de facto PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim’s aide as well during the latter’s Sabah visits, was trying to pressure his boss (Jeffrey) into taking a definite stand and quit the party as well. He does not seem to be succeeding so far although he remains unfazed.

“I will look at the situation again after Dec 16 when my two months leave ends,” said Jeffrey who doesn’t want to criticise Zaid.

“Zaid is someone who understood and accepted the aspirations of Sabah and Sarawak. After him, we can see no one else in PKR that we can relate to as easily,” he added.

He was speaking in Kota Kinabalu yesterday at the tail end of a press conference which was held basically to explain Sabah PKR’s stand on the Sabah budget unveiled last Friday. The local press seemed less interested in the budget than in his political future, if any, in PKR after Zaid’s exit.

Fundamental mistake

Jeffrey stressed that his politics is all about Sabah and Sarawak rights within the context of Malaysia as a federation of three territories being in partnership on the basis of equality. That’s the historical and legal basis on which there can be no concessions or retreat, he said.

He came almost close to admitting that he made a fundamental mistake in relying too much on PKR to help further his cause.

However, he said Sabah and Sarawak have had a historical window of opportunity since the 2008 general election to stand up and be counted, but this was not happening. It’s because, according to him, the people have not realised enough to bring pressure to bear on their political leaders.

He quite agreed that Sabah and Sarawak leaders have a window of opportunity to demand for a bigger oil royalty in preparation for the forthcoming general election. He said that the opportunity was always there. Not stated, but implied, was that Sabah and Sarawak leaders would not demand for a bigger oil royalty because there was no pressure on them to do so.

He made passing reference to the emergence of a third force in Malaysian politics but did not mention his own role in such a movement.

Interestingly, some of those who attended the press conference were members of a team which has been working on a third force principally focused on Sabah and Sarawak but extending across the South China Sea to include other marginalised communities.

The existence of the team only emerged when two of its members turned up at the press conference and one of them was seen with a bulky document entitled “3rd Force Model”. He took it back before this writer could have a chance to flip through it.

It appears with some degree of certainty that if not for Zaid staying in PKR, Jeffrey would have quit the party a long time ago. He would have seen no real purpose being served by him remaining with a party which is more focused on capturing Putrajaya but needs just a little help from Sabah and Sarawak.

'Faceless and nameless'

Jeffrey was willing to give a little glimpse of what the third force should look like.

“We (Sabah and Sarawak) look at it differently,” he said. “The third force would be faceless and nameless.”

He expects to hold a briefing around Dec 16 to explain the third force to the media. He may also touch on the emergence of Barisan Rakyat Sabah (BRS) comprising all local political parties in Sabah. However, the details are still to be worked out.

Jeffrey believes any party or all parties on both sides of the South China Sea can subscribe to the third force. “The people must subscribe to it (third force) and believe that it’s their cause. There will be cheer leaders, faceless and nameless, keeping the issue alive before the people for them to decide and adopt.”

This appears to rule out Jeffrey leading the third force through a new political party formed by him to the exclusion of other political parties. The question of a new political party emerging with him at the helm is itself a million-ringgit question. No one seems to know, including Jeffrey, although his supporters like Among swear that they would have to head eventually in that direction.

Among sees the cue being taken from the formation of a new political party – Parti Keadilan Baru (New Justice Party) – by Zaid. At this point, Jeffrey would have to make some sort of decision, he added. “Jeffrey will not join Zaid’s party. We have had enough of the orang Malaya (Peninsular Malaysians) dictating to us. We can co-operate but not kow-tow.”

He predicts that Zaid’s party will pursue the agenda for change and reform. His party is also expected to join either Pakatan or a new Pakatan. The new Pakatan will apparently come about if Anwar objects to Zaid’s party being in Pakatan and at this point in time, Among surmises, both DAP and PAS will abandon PKR since it will be left with only the original agenda of “freeing Anwar”.

Both DAP and PAS, said Among, cannot ignore Zaid’s new party which is expected to attract MPs who left PKR and up to a further 10 MPs who are against Azmin Ali being deputy president. These 10 MPs don’t expect to be fielded at the next general election and see Zaid’s new party as their golden parachute to ensure their continued political survival.

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