A new Chief Minister for Sabah?
Shafie Apdal to replace Musa Aman
By our Kuala Lumpur correspondent
The Chinese lunar year of the tiger spells trouble for Sabah’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman who is under pressure from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to resign or be sacked.
Federal Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal is expected to replace Musa. He is Najib’s blue-eye boy.
Reliable sources in Kuala Lumpur told Kinabalu Sabah Times that Najib had wanted to replace Musa soon after he became Prime Minister in April last year.
Musa was a staunch supporter of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi. He had worked with Khairy Jamaluddin, Abdullah’s son-in-law in a campaign to discredit Najib in order to prevent him from succeeding Abdullah as Prime Minister.
The plot failed because Najib had overwhelming support from Umno members loyal to former premier Datuk Seri Dr Mahahtir Mohamad who had carried out a devastating campaign to get rid of Abdullah. Dr Mahathir made no secret that he wanted Najib to be the Prime Minister.
But the sources said Musa is a very shrewd politician. When he realised that Khairy and him were losing the campaign to Dr Mahathir, he quickly played a double game by getting his younger brother Datuk Seri Anifah Aman to criticise Abdullah in parliament and to refuse the appointment as the Federal Deputy Transport Minister. That pacified Najib a little and won a bit of time for Musa who knew that Najib would not let him off lightly.
But then Musa schemed to support Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to get rid of Najib. Muhyiddin, like Anifah, had criticised Abdullah’s leadership, falling short of asking him to resign. But Muhyiddin did not like Musa’s plan and rejected it. With Dr Mahathir behind Najib, it would be difficult to oust Najib although his popularity had seemed to have been bobbing.
Najib, being a veteran politician, knows how to play his cards well. He was the youngest politician to join the Federal cabinet at 25 when he was appointed Deputy Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Post in 1978.
In the months since he became Prime Minister, Najib had succeeded in destabilizing the opposition Pakatan Rakyat. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is on trial for sodomy for a second time. The Federal Court has ruled in favour of his Barisan National in the Perak constitutional crisis. The controversy over the Christians’ right to use the Arabic word “Allah” for “God” is likely to be resolved after the recent rulers’ conference. Najib’s moves to reform the economy have been well received locally and abroad.
Now, Najib has all the time and ease to deal with Musa.
In the past weeks, the Daily Express has started a campaign to discredit Musa by writing of the success of former Chief Minister Datuk Harris Salleh (a close friend of Najib) in making Sabah the richest state in Malaysia. This compares badly with Musa’s poor showing. After more than six years as Chief Minister, Sabah is still the poorest state under Musa. This is despite the fact that more than RM12 billion of Federal and State funds have been spent on Sabah’s development. Except for new shopping complexes built mostly by private enterprises and joint-ventures with the Sabah government in Kota Kinabalu and other urban areas, there is hardly anything to show for the money that has been spent.
“Where has the money gone? Why is there still so much poverty in the midst of plenty?” asked John Lo Thau Fah, former Chief Executive Officer of the now-defunct Sabah Bank, in a recent letter to the Daily Express. “We cannot kid ourselves any more — many Sabahan families are not better off now then 20 to 30 years ago.” This surely is a strong indictment on Musa’s poor performance.
And yes: Najib has asked Musa to give him an accounting of all the money spent and the results of this spending. Najib has visited Sabah a few times since becoming Prime Minister. During each of his visits, he had no praise for Musa. In fact, sources close to Najib said that during Najib’s last visit to Kota Kinabalu to launch the national Christmas open house, the Prime Minister has told Musa in no uncertain terms to have the decency to resign if he could not give a satisfactory accounting of the federal money spent on Sabah’s development.
Since then, Musa has put undue pressure mainly on his deputy Datuk Yahya Hussin, who is also Agriculture and Food Minister, to show results for the development spending. It is thus no coincidence that the Agriculture Ministry was Musa’s first visit this year and Datuk Yahya has been visiting Kota Belud and Kota Marudu to talk about planting padi to achieve 30% sufficiency in rice. But it remains just talk with nothing to show for the money spent.
The wide coverage given to Harris’ visit to East Kalimantan by the Daily Express leaves no question of how the Indonesians treated Harris as if he were the Chief Minister of Sabah. This is an insult to Musa. At other times, this would have created a diplomatic row. But with Anifah as the Foreign Minister who knows nothing about diplomacy, the insult is not obvious to him. So, there was no protest from Wisma Putra.
Lo has called for Sabah to form a kind of economic think-tank to a find a new “Sabah Economic Model” to bring Sabah out of the economic doldrums under Musa.
“I cannot think of a more eminently qualified person than Datuk Harris Salleh or Datuk Andrew Sheng (a Sabahan who was the deputy governor of Bank Negara and de facto central bank governor of Hong Kong), both of whom are non-political and have the correct credentials and experience to chair this group,” Lo said.
Of course, Musa is not qualified to join.