Warisan wins over Sabah, one ethnic group at a time

Noor Azam Shairi Jason Santos

AFTER close to a year at the helm of Parti Warisan Sabah, Shafie Apdal believes he has won the support of the ethnic groups in Sabah, including the KadazanDusun Murut (KDM). 

The last time the ethnic groups rallied around a political party was in the 1985 general election, when newly formed Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) led by Joseph Pairin Kitingan, via a gentlemen’s agreement with Usno led by Mustapha Datu Harun, defeated Berjaya. 

Despite being branded a “parti suluk” (suluk party) or “parti lanun” (pirate party) by detractors, Warisan has received overwhelming support from the KDM. 

The “suluk” and “pirate” references are a slur on Shafie’s roots. His ancestors are from the southern Philippines. They are derogatory, referring to the cross-border crime and kidnapping committed by militants from the southern Philippines. 

Shafie understands the reason for PBS’ success back then.

He said Warisan is similar to PBS in its struggle to champion the rights of Sabahans. In fact, some of the PBS members are now in Warisan.

“(Joseph) Pairin Kitingan is still around and so is PBS. Jeffrey (younger brother of Joseph) is also around, but two of their siblings have joined us in Warisan. 

“What does all this mean? They could have joined Pairin or Jeffrey. But they chose us. This shows the support of the Kadazan for us in Warisan,” he told The Malaysian Insight.  

The two Kitingan siblings are Crispin Kitingan and Juliana Kitingan, who joined Warisan in April.

“No matter the insults (hurled against) Warisan… whether it is a parti suluk or parti lanun, they are with us.”

Pairin, who is also the Huguan Siou or the paramount leader of the KDM, has indicated that he will be retiring and may not contest in the next general election. 

But Jeffrey still leads Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Sabah Star), which is presently allied with Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah and Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah in the United Sabah Alliance (USA), a coalition of state-based opposition parties. 

Crispin said PBS has derailed from its true struggle for Sabahans while Sabah Star has yet to become a solid party and was no match for Barisan Nasional. 

“The USA coalition remains incapable of ousting Umno-Barisan Nasional from Sabah,” he said during a Warisan rally in Pitas in May. 

Crispin hailed Warisan as a non-racial party with a unifying purpose that crossed religion and race barriers. 

Warisan number two, Penampang MP Darrel Leiking, is also a KDM fighting for the special rights of Sabahans, said Crispin. 

Warisan chief information officer Alfred Bosuin, also a KDM, said the party offered ethnic groups in Sabah the unique opportunity to unite under one party. 

“We do not believe in racial politics,” said Bosuin, indicating there are 32 official ethnic groups in Sabah. 

“This is the time for us to reclaim the spirit of the Sabah people,” he said. 

Party volunteer Chris Masudal said he joined Warisan because of its leadership, composed of young leaders who are genuine about creating a new and respected political legacy. 

“It is far better than the youth supporters of BN who enter politics just to fill their pockets.” 

Masudal said USA will not be able to oust BN although it is a coalition of four Sabah parties. 

“Gabungan Sabah comprises seasoned politicians who would surrender when attacked by BN, just like BN component parties, such as Upko and PBS.” 

He said Warisan, which turns one next Tuesday, is able to attract many ethnic groups in Sabah because it was fighting for the special rights of the state. 

“I bring the voice of the Sabah people to change Sabah from being administered by a corrupt government to a new government which will look into their interest and prosperity,” he said. 

“Warisan is about the people’s struggle, in the interest and voice of the people,” he said. 

Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal has shrugged off all the insults hurled against his year-old party. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, October 12, 2017.

Shafie said Sabahans like the rest of Malaysians are fed up with the ruling BN government and who wish to change the system and rebuild the nation. 

“I think all Malaysians want a change,” he said. 

Shafie was careful answering questions on the party’s election strategy for GE14, which must be held before August. 

On whether Warisan would work with Pakatan Harapan in the peninsula, Shafie said Warisan supports the coalition’s efforts to oust BN but will “never” join it.

“We have an understanding. I refuse to join PH because I’m fighting for the rights of Sabahans. I don’t want it to be such that later, after PH forms the government, Sabahan demands are cancelled.

“All the trust and hope of the people invested in Warisan would then go to waste,” he said. 

Shafie is also waiting to see whether PH would work with other parties, like the USA coalition does. 

He refused to divulge whether Warisan would form pacts with other parties. 

“Nonetheless, it would be much easier to work together if the other parties have the same objective as Warisan.”

He also refused to say whether Warisan would form a single-party government if it wins in the polls. 

Shafie is also reticent about the party’s chances of forming the government, whether alone or with other parties, as well as on how many parliamentary seats it expects to capture.

“We’ll look and see later.” 

 He is equally cagey about how many state constituencies Warisan will contest. 

 “We want to win the elections. We want to form the next state government. We don’t want to be the opposition. 

“We may do it alone, or together. We can only see later.” 

But Shafie admits that Warisan has a plan and strategy to capture Sabah. 

“I don’t want to reveal all of it but suffice for me to say that Warisan is ready.”

Sabah has 60 state seats, 35 of which have a Muslim majority, 18 KDM, four Chinese, and three multi-racial. 

Eighteen new seats with Muslim majority voters may be added in the re-delineation exercise that the Election Commission is in the midst of planning. 

Warisan supporters believe the young party will capture 48 of the 60 seats. – October 12, 2017.

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