KOTA KINABALU, Oct 7 — Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak’s reputation as former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s outlet for attacking Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad previously could make him a liability to PKR if it chooses to accept him, an observer said.
UiTM political lecturer Rahezzal Shah said that it was also unclear whether Salleh’s entry will bring any benefit to the party.
“When Najib brought Salleh him into the Cabinet, most people viewed it as due to his unwavering support for Najib. While others politicians and Cabinet members were silent on some of the key issues raised by the Opposition, Salleh was always at the forefront defending Najib and the government.
“At the same time, he was also quite blunt with his criticism towards Tun Mahathir... when no Umno leaders dared to criticise Tun M, Salleh would come to the rescue,” he said.
Najib made the former Sabah chief minister his communications and multimedia minister in 2015.
Rahezzal said that the move eventually backfired and Salleh made the situation worse for Najib, before eventually becoming a liability to Umno and the Barisan Nasional government.
“Najib brought Salleh into the Cabinet thinking he was an asset, but eventually, he only made the situation worse by patronising the public with his statements. I don’t see what sort of asset or quality he could bring into PKR,” he added.
Rahezzal said that to demonstrate he could be an asset to PKR, Salleh must show he still has influence despite losing by over 4,000 votes in the last election.
“Salleh needs to do a lot of catching up to prove he still holds the support of Kota Belud’s Bajau or even Bajau Sama as a whole,” he said.
In the last election, Salleh took on the Kota Belud parliamentary seat but lost to Warisan candidate and his distant niece Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, polling 19,167 votes to Munirah’s 23,429 votes.
Rahezzal also said that while Salleh’s entry may potentially afford Sabah PKR some additional membership, it would most definitely stir up internal strife.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah lecturer Lee Kuok Tiung said that Salleh’s entry will shake up PKR Sabah’s leadership.
“This will add pressure to Datuk Christina Liew’s group. If Salleh is accepted into PKR Sabah, he’ll be her competitor. Not necessarily because he wants to be but he will get pushed to take on a bigger role,” he said.
Although Salleh’s entry into PKR is expected to strengthen Anwar’s position in Sabah, several PKR divisions and youth wings have voiced their displeasure, citing lack of state autonomy in the decision and its irrelevance to the party’s struggle.