KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia will establish a chapter in Sabah, chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed today.
The move comes despite the ruling Sabah coalition’s attempts to dissuade the peninsular-based PPBM from setting up camp in the Borneo state.
PPBM is believed to be keen on entering Sabah in order to absorb former Umno lawmakers from the state who are currently independent.
Speaking at the press conference today, Dr Mahathir said the move is meant to strengthen the government of Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
“We are from Pakatan Harapan, which accepts Parti Warisan Sabah as the government. We are not going there to stunt Shafie.
“Also a factor in our decision is those in Sabah who do not wish to join Warisan but support PH, especially PPBM,” he said.
The move could mean another major step towards the coveted parliamentary supermajority that would let PH undertake sweeping legal reforms including amending the Federal Constitution.
Dr Mahathir added his party was open to any from the state who wished to join, but said this offer did not extend to former members of PH components or Warisan.
“However other parties who wish to join PPBM may do so, not limited to those from Umno. We are ready to accept them, subject to vetting which will be done individually and not as a group,” Dr Mahathir said.
When asked who will lead Sabah PPBM, he said it will be a local but added it still needed further discussions.
Earlier this week, PPBM announced it was absorbing seven former Umno MPs after their period in political limbo.
The controversial move effectively gives PH, in combination with Shafie’s Warisan, control of 134 seats in the 222-member Parliament.
Warisan is aligned with PH but not officially a component.
There are six former Sabah Umno MPs who are officially independent: Datuk Abd Rahim Bakri (Kudat), Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun (Beaufort), Datuk Zakaria Mohd Edris (Libaran), Hafez Yamani Musa (Sipitang), Datuk Seri Anifah Aman (Kimanis) and Datuk Ronald Kiandee (Beluran).
If all six enter PPBM as expected, it would leave PH within eight seats of securing a two-thirds majority in Parliament that no federal government has enjoyed since 2008.
While some in PH have stated their misgivings over PPBM’s acceptance of the former lawmakers, such as PKR vice president Rafizi Ramli who called it a betrayal of voters, there have not been ultimatums issued towards PPBM.
Dr Mahathir acknowledged the backlash from PH allies his party’s adoption of the former Umno lawmakers, but said it was better than to leave them independent.
“Some people feel it is wrong to take in Umno people, but if you leave them without a party they can cause damage. We do not accept everyone, only a select number under certain conditions.
“I do not think this will damage PH, just that some will be upset as many said I would ruin the coalition when I joined the then-Opposition at the time. One cannot reach a 100 per cent agreement on everything,” he said.