KOTA KINABALU, April 11 ― The first Sabah assembly sitting this year began with a significantly reduced Opposition as nine among them are now on the ruling side via Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
Sulaman assemblymen Datuk Hajiji Noor and his group of former Umno members officially joined Bersatu after more than three months as independents.
The Opposition bench is down to nine representatives versus 55 elected and nominated assemblymen on the government's side in the 64-member House.
However, Hajiji and Karanaan assemblyman Datuk Masidi Manjung both left the opening ceremony early, after Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin’s speech, and did not join in the official banquet.
Sabah Speaker Datuk Syed Abas Syed Ali later said changes to the seating plan was part of the procedure as Bersatu was in the Pakatan Harapan coalition working with the state’s Warisan government.
“The party is considered government. As far as Malaysia is concerned, they’re part of it, but yes, in the state it's not. They are not prt of the state government right now, because they don’t have any position, but they’re friendly, put it like that.
“They’re not part of the Opposition bloc. It’s more or less like that,” he told reporters, adding that it was not an issue.
One of Bersatu’s nine representatives, Klias assemblyman Datuk Isnin Aliasnih, played down the shift from the Opposition to government bench.
“It feels normal, any feeling of shame or ego should be discarded while we do what we need to represent the people and deliver their aspirations.
“We hope our voice is heard, we don’t want to argue or take over power, but to work together,” he said.
Isnin said changing dynamics was normal in politics and they would support the government in good policies and point out any weaknesses.
“Hopefully there will be more good than bad ― for the sake of the people,” he said.
The Sabah state assembly first convened after the general election with 21 Opposition members but since then, most have defected either to Warisan or Bersatu, which only this month set up a branch in Sabah.
The nine in the Opposition are five from Parti Bersatu Sabah, three from Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku and one from Umno.
The sole Umno representative, former chief minister and Sungai Sibuga assemblyman Tan Sri Musa Aman was still conspicuously absent.
Syed Abas said that Musa must attend at least one sitting this year to retain his position in the assembly.
Musa previously came close to disqualification and was only sworn in close to the deadline for him to do so.
“Whoever it is. One sitting is good enough,” the Speaker said.
When asked whether Musa was still on medical leave, Syed Abas said he did not know.
*Malay Mail incorrectly reported that the nine from the Opposition included five from Upko; they are five from Parti Bersatu Sabah. The error has since been corrected.