Two veteran Umno politicians back in the spotlight for Sabah polls

Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak is contesting the Usukan seat on an Umno ticket in the Sabah state election. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak is contesting the Usukan seat on an Umno ticket in the Sabah state election. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 13 — Two veteran politicians who were “point men” in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration have returned to the fore after a lull from state politics to compete in the 16th Sabah state polls.

Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, a former communications and multimedia minister, is contesting the Usukan seat on an Umno ticket, while former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia is contesting the new Pintasan seat in Kota Belud under the United Sabah National Organisation (Usno).

Salleh’s political journey was a big question mark until recently. He had contested the Kota Belud parliamentary seat in the 14th general election (GE14) but lost to to Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) candidate Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis who received 23,429 votes to his 19,167 votes.

The former Sabah chief minister will now be facing Warisan’s Cikgu Abdul Bakhrin Mohd Yusof and Parti Cinta Sabah’s Datuk Mohd Nazaruddin Datu Tiga Belas in Usukan.

Salleh, a former Umno treasurer, quit the party in December of 2018 but did not end up joining Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia like most of his former comrades. He instead applied to join PKR in October 2019, claiming it was a multicultural party close to his heart.

He later said he had cancelled his application to join PKR, calling it a mistake, after pondering the current political landscape and instead applied to join Umno again this year in April.

Pandikar, who is a former Tempasuk assemblyman, has re-emerged in Usno and is facing a six-cornered fight in the new seat against Perikatan Nasional’s Fairsuz Renddan, PCS’s Padlan Samad, Warisan’s Mohd Safian Saludin, Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah’s Roslan Mayahiman, and independent candidate Datuk Almudin Kaida.

Pandikar also left Umno in December 2018, and after considering reviving local party Akar, is now the de facto leader of Usno, saying that he chose the platform to provide a Sabah voice that is bipartisan.

“I’m answering the voices of Sabahans, which are getting louder every year — they want a local party to lead,” he said.

Claiming to be independent, he said that the internal clash faced by the coalitions now was because they were prematurely allocating seats.

“In my mind, we are following a western style of politics where parties enter the election free of alliances.

“After winning, only do they consider each party’s influence and support on the ground, in the event it needs to collaborate to form a coalition government,” he said.

“That is why people are not satisfied and fighting now. Their allocation does not reflect the real support on the ground. The practice in western countries is you don’t determine seats before winning them,” he said.

Pandikar said his party will be revealing its manifesto soon.

A third Sabah politician, who was a staunch supporter of Najib, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan has not been fielded this election. The former Kota Belud MP was among those who had spoken out against the central leadership’s decision to appoint Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin as the BN election machinery director for the polls.

Even though the former BN strategic communications director was later seen to have mended fences with Bung and Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, he was not fielded as a candidate for Umno, who also dropped former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman in favour of new candidates.

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