STAR out to steal PBS’ thunder at Sabah polls with independent candidate salvo

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) candidates face competition from independent candidates. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) candidates face competition from independent candidates. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KOTA KINABALU, Sept 13 — Already facing clashes in six seats, two local parties within the Perikatan Nasional (PN) state Opposition alliance are now at war after it has emerged that at least another six independent candidates have received the go-ahead to sabotage their supposed allies’ chances at the ballot box.

The six candidates are believed to be aligned with Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan who gave them his consent to contest where allies Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) are also standing.

Despite registering as an independent candidate at yesterday’s nominations, Inanam incumbent assemblyman Kenny Chua today revealed that he has since received the blessing of PN leaders.

“Since there were clashes between PBS and STAR, I then got this blessing to represent PN in Inanam,” said Chua, who said that Kitingan and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) leaders had endorsed him as a “PN-friendly independent”.

“Yes, from Datuk Jeffrey from STAR and also Bersatu because I would not go ahead if I don’t get their blessing, I am not like that, I would have gone alone,” he said.

“Because what has happened between PBS and STAR, it seems like PBS broke their promise because they are not supposed to contest where STAR is standing. They even challenged the president of STAR in Tambunan,” he added.

Chua said this to reporters when met on the campaign trail along Jalan Sukang Mabpai, Inanam, here, where people in PN vests were seen assisting with the setup of the event.

The promotional poster used as a backdrop during Chua’s speech, despite depicting the chair logo as designated for independent candidates by the Election Commission, also now features the text “Perikatan Nasional Friendly” (Mesra Perikatan Nasional).

In Matunggong, where PBS’ incumbent Julita Majungki is defending her seat, a STAR loyalist Paul Porodong is also running as an independent in an eight-cornered fight, with the party’s blessing.

The former lecturer and former STAR party coordinator for the Kota Marudu parliamentary seat said he was running as an independent to give an option to voters who are tired of the negotiations between parties that put an emphasis on the party name, rather than the best leader, to contest a seat.

“The reason I’m running as an independent is to free the voters from this restrictive PBS ‘quota’. I want to give the voters of Matunggong a chance to be relieved of this quota and mentality  that is stopping them from getting the best leader, who may be in the ‘wrong’ party,” he said.

“I am a party loyalist. I got the blessing to run from the party president once he knew that PBS was putting their candidates in places they were not supposed to. If I win, I will give the seat to STAR,” he said.

Negotiations between STAR and PBS for 26 Kadazan, Dusun and Murut seats ended with PBS getting a majority of the seats while STAR was allocated eight.

A visibly dissatisfied Jeffrey walked out of a PN meeting on Wednesday and threatened to quit the coalition if STAR was not given at least 15 seats to contest. By the time PN announced its candidates on Thursday evening, he had given in and accepted  the situation, saying that he had to honour the bigger picture.

However, a day before nominations, STAR heard that PBS would be fielding more than the 15  candidates that they had agreed to, placing some seven candidates in seats where PN and Barisan Nasional (BN) would also be contesting.

Bound to a PN agreement where its components would only contest on a PN ticket, STAR would later place four of its candidates as independents in the KDM seats of Tandek, Matunggong, Bengkoka and Kiulu and two more “friendly independents” in Api Api and Inanam.

In the seat of Tandek, which had been allocated to PBS, its candidate Hendrus Anding will not only have to go against its BN ally PBRS’s Yillson Yanggun, but also incumbent Datuk Anita Baranting, now an independent who is “PN friendly” to STAR.

She and Chua were part of the 15 defectors who had triggered this election when they crossed the floor to support former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.

According to PBS, Baranting’s proposer was STAR’s division chief while the seconder was the  division’s treasurer.

In Api Api, former STAR Tanjung Aru division head Marcel Jude Joseph also said that he was running as an Opposition independent with the party’s blessing.

“They can’t field a candidate so they cannot formally endorse me but they are implicitly supporting me,” he said.

It was learnt that there would be a PN meeting today where another round of negotiations is set to take place in the hopes that some quarters will withdraw from the race.

Within PN, there are at least 17 clashes between PN, BN and PBS. PN consists of Bersatu, STAR and Sabah Progressive Party while BN consists of Umno, MCA and PBRS. PBS is a PN-friendly ally but not tied to either.

The Election Commission has set September 26 for polling and September 22 for early voting.

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