PETALING JAYA: The fight for Sabah’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) will be a key campaign issue if a by-election is held for the Kimanis parliamentary seat, said a political analyst.
A poll is looming in the constituency held by former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman after the Election Court on Friday declared his win in the 14th General Election (GE14) on May 9 last year as null and void.
Anifah quit Umno in September last year to become an independent Member of Parliament.
“MA63 will be the issue to be played up by the contesting parties, ” said Tony Paridi Bagang, a lecturer at the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies at UiTM Sabah.“Before GE14, Anifah organised several programmes in relation to MA63 and Sabah autonomy. Since he is no longer with Umno, he is able to pursue his political struggles for Sabah freely in his own way, ” said Bagang.
However, in April the Dewan Rakyat failed to meet the necessary two-thirds required to restore Sabah and Sarawak to their original status in MA63, which saw only 138 lawmakers supporting the move.
On July 25, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, whose Parti Warisan Sabah is a Pakatan ally, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to announce some good news with regard to Sabah’s rights under MA63.
In its decision to nullify Anifah’s win, the Election Court said it had found serious breaches in the conduct of the election process with over 300 votes improperly cast. Anifah retained the seat in GE14 with a narrow 156-vote majority over Datuk Karim Bujang of Warisan.Anifah’s lawyers are expected to appeal within 14 days of the ruling, and the Election Commission (EC) has said it will wait for the 14-day appeal period to end before deciding on its next course of action.
“It would be interesting to see the dynamics of this. Kimanis is considered a Barisan Nasional and Umno stronghold but after GE14, the popularity declined tremendously, ” said Bagang.
Dr Arnold Puyok, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, meanwhile feels that local issues along with MA63 will be at play.
“MA63 may resurface as Anifah is known as one of the leading personalities in Sabah who champions the issue, ” he said. Anifah will, however, be in for a tough fight if he again faces off against Warisan’s Karim in a by-election, as the latter is well known and popular in Kimanis, Puyok said.
Warisan, on the other hand, cannot rely merely on its status as Sabah’s ruling party to convince voters to abandon Anifah.
“This is because the perception now is that the Warisan-led government has yet to prove that it can lead Sabah better than the previous government, ” said Puyok.