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Message is loud and clear – let Hajiji do his job

Hajiji welcoming Anwar on his last visit to Sabah.

“If you feel like fighting, wait for the election.”
If any politician in Sabah, regardless of his party, does not understand what PM Anwar Ibrahim meant; then he is not fit to be in politics.


The leader of the Federal Unity Government did not mince his words when he urged all political parties to stop fighting in Sabah and give space to CM Hajiji Noor to administer and develop the State. 


Anwar said Hajiji’s political astuteness had stabilized the State’s political landscape with his two-thirds majority in the State government. It is not every day that you get a compliment from the PM like that.


“Hajiji, even though he is known to be mild-mannered, has used some “Silat” moves and stayed in power and even has a majority now.


“We at the federal level welcome this and want this team to work together to galvanise the State.”


These words of the PM clearly showed whom he wants to rule the State and he doesn’t expect any “disturbance” so Hajiji could do his job without hindrance. It was a rare endorsement from the Prime Minister. If his message still does not go through to the heads of Hajiji’s nemeses, then I don’t know.


Anwar’s advice should put to an end what was started in January by a group of people in what was described as an attempted “coup”. If you ask me, it’s “Game Over” although somebody insisted that the “Game is still on.”


But it was a failed “coup”. Obviously some people, with due respect. knew how to add but didn’t know how to subtract. Politics is a number game. When you can’t come up with the number, you fail. As simple as that.


The “Branch Manager” of a KL-based party was obviously depending on the number of assemblymen that his party had plus the number of assemblymen that a certain local party had in throwing its support behind him.


But what the “Branch Manager” didn’t expect was that not all the assemblymen from his own party subscribed to the idea of a coup to overthrow a popular and hard-working Chief Minister. 


He underestimated Hajiji. Initially up to half-a-dozen YBs didn’t go along with the plan, thus throwing the spanner in the works for him.

The half-a-dozen assemblymen probably also didn’t fancy the idea of suddenly working with a party which brought them down a few years ago in the first place. Should I say Miscalculation on someone’s part? Kak Wan (Anwar’s wife) once remarked: “Manusia merancang, Tuhan turut merancang.”


In the meantime, Hajiji didn’t panic. He slowly and quietly built up his strength and low and behold, he managed to come up with 44 assemblymen supporting him at a time when all seemed lost and he had to step down. 


Among the 44 were the Umno YBs who didn’t go along with the plan and 7 from Pakatan Harapan plus those from PBS (7) and Star (6) who are GRS component parties and one from a Tawau-based party whose sole Assemblywoman had earlier left Warisan.


The Istana seemed satisfied with the “simple majority” garnered by Hajiji. The PM in the meantime also didn’t say anything which might affect the CM’s position. Indeed, Anwar is a politician with wisdom.


With that, Hajiji acted swiftly and revamped the State Cabinet. Not satisfied, the coup plotters insisted that the new Cabinet should be modeled after the federal one with all government-friendly parties included. They even said a joint-committee should be formed to discuss the matter.


Anwar’s name (and Zahid’s initially) was mentioned over and over again, as if doing so would frighten Hajiji into submission. But Anwar is a veteran politician who has undergone the ups and down in politics for decades, not years. 


He knows very well that the formation of the State Cabinet is the prerogative of the CM, just as the Federal Cabinet was his prerogative. By not insisting, he indirectly showed his respect for Hajiji and didn’t want to rock the boat as Hajiji was the leader of the State Government as Anwar himself pointed out. Once again, Hajiji was underestimated by his nemeses.


Besides, Anwar had no reason to be unhappy as two leaders from his PH component parties, one each from his own party PKR and long-time ally DAP, were made Ministers. Anwar and PH had nothing to lose and everything to gain. 


Afterall, for slightly over two years, PKR and DAP were not represented in the State Cabinet as they were in the “Opposition”. And the State Cabinet now finally had a woman and Chinese representatives, thanks to the failed coup.


To complete the picture of a unity government, two Cabinet posts were given back to Umno in the persons of Ir. Shahelmey and James Ratib.


But Umno was still unhappy, saying that the duo did not represent the party. Come on brother, the composition of the Cabinet is the prerogative of the CM or PM (federal). 


Since when did the component parties have the power to insist that it must be their choice and not the CM’s or PM’s choice? 
Shafie/Musa/Harris/Pairin.


They claim that the reshuffled State Cabinet didn’t reflect a real Unity Government and not what Anwar wanted. But Anwar kept quiet or didn’t say anything against Hajiji, so people began to see the writing on the wall, adding two and two together. The inclusion of Ministers from PKR (Anwar’s party) and DAP was perhaps part of Hajiji’s “Silat moves”.


When days turned into weeks following the State Cabinet reshuffle and Hajiji seemed to have emerged from the so-called failed coup even stronger, things began to change slowly and some people started singing a different tune.


In early February, three Warisan assemblymen left, initially becoming “Independent” YBs. They were later joined by another Warisan assemblyman, making it four. This is in addition to those who quit the party earlier since last year. In all, Warisan todate has lost 10 assemblymen including one who is in Umno, officially or otherwise, and one from a Tawau-based party friendly to GRS. I understand that at least one or two more will follow suit before the State Anti-Hop law is introduced. Warisan is now left with 15 or something like that. Rumours have it that it’s only a matter of time that the number will be reduced further.


Then, more recently all four announced that they were supporting Hajiji and joining his party. They were joined by five Umno assemblymen including one Minister (James Ratib).


Understandably, both Warisan and Umno are unhappy, saying the assemblymen were “bought”. It is only natural, that when people join you it is called “democracy” and it showed that you are popular. But when your people join others, it is called “kena beli” (bought over). Then were all the Umno assemblymen (plus one from PBS) crossed over to Warisan previously, “bought over” also? Don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do unto you.


The Branch Manager of a KL-based party described the Umno assemblymen who joined Hajiji’s PGRS recently as “monkeys”, jumping from tree to tree. The former Lahad Datu Assemlyman and MP is now in Umno, officially or otherwise. Is he a monkey also? Was he also “bought over?”


Originally, Hajiji/GRS already had 44 assemblymen supporting it as per the list given to the Istana in January. Plus the three Warisan YBs who quit in early Feb, that gave them 47. Plus the 5 Umno YBs, they now had a total of 52, one short of 53 required for a 2/3 majority in the Assembly. I stand to be corrected.


The Petagas assemblyman who is Warisan Treasurer saved the day when he too announced quitting the part to support Hajiji just days ago. That gave GRS 53, the magic number for a 2/3 majority.


By coincidence, more or less on the same day, the KDM party led by former Warisan Minister Datuk Peter Anthony who previously sided with the “coup plotters” made an about-turn and started supporting Hajiji. They have three assemblymen plus three MPs. On paper, GRS now has 56.


This development perhaps led Anwar to say that Hajiji had some “Silat” moves which saw his support rising from 44 assemblymen to 53. Infact 56 if KDM is to be included for calculation purpose. It should be remembered that only a month or two ago, Hajiji was in danger of losing his CMship and the GRS State Government in danger of collapsing. His greatest nemesis (the branch manager) once even said that there was now “no government” in Sabah as Hajiji was CM “Illegally”. 


Then out of the blue Barisan Nasional (BN)/Umno which had previously “supported” the coup also announced it now supported the Hajiji-led GRS State Government and appointed its deputy Sabah liaison chief Datuk Yakub Khan as Sabah Umno’s “representative” to “negotiate” with GRS. As the Chinese would say, “Follow the wind.” As the English saying goes, “If you can’t win them, join them.” But why only the deputy? Your guess is as good as mine.


A political analyst commented that “there is nothing to negotiate actually as the damage has been done. Even if Hajiji is willing to “negotiate” just to give face, Umno can no longer demand as Hajiji now has the “Upper Hand”. This is the reality in politics. “Beggars” don’t demand. Sun Tze Art of War?


The analyst also added that for the sake of argument, had the coup plotters succeeded and Hajiji fell, would they still “negotiate” with GRS? Would there be GRS Ministers in the Umno-Warisan-KDM Cabinet? So what is there to “negotiate”?, asked the analyst. You can’t have the best of both worlds. The Chinese say, this is just like “What is yours is mine, but what is mine is not yours.” 


One of the arguments put up by Hajiji’s nemeses when Hajiji was still “in danger” was that he was not the leader of a political party and therefore could not be a CM. GRS, they argued, was not a party but a component. Unconstitutional, they insisted, despite the former Bersatu assemblymen being Direct Members of GRS and ROS never made a ruling against GRS.


However, perhaps Hajiji should thank his nemeses for indirectly giving him this “brilliant idea”, although the final decision was made only after discussions with fellow component leaders in GRS. The “idea” of having a party of his own and a local one in line with the objectives of GRS. This will put the issue (of Hajiji not leading a party) to rest.


Hajiji acted swiftly. He and the GRS “direct” YBs had 3 choices – 1. Forming a new party which takes time and subject to approval, 2. Joining a GRS component party (PBS/Star/Usno/Sapp), and 3. Taking over an existing local party.


He chose the last option. While scouting around, he noticed a “mosquito party” which contested some seats in the 2020 State election but lost all. Although it was a small party, something about its name caught Hajiji’s attention – the name of the party. It’s Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (PGRS), the last 3 letters exactly the same as the Hajiji-led coalition, GRS. 


The icing on the cake for Hajiji was the “launch” of PGRS, now commonly called Gagasan Rakyat, on March 2, just two days after Anwar visited Sabah and gave Hajiji a pat on the back. The aim is to make Gagasan Rakyat a household name by the time the next State election in held in two years. 


Infact, judging from the atmosphere or mood and the big crowd at the launch, it’s already beginning to be a household name. As the Daily Express front page headline put it, it was a “party by, of and for Sabahans”. 


Following the March 2 launch (or rather re-launch), Gagasan Rakyat is no longer a “mosquito party”. Thousands of party members, supporters and well-wishers from all over Sabah left the hall at SICC with standing-room only while many more stood outside. There was also a live broadcast via FB so party supporters throughout the State could follow the proceedings. 


Hajiji said the next step will be the formation of PGRS divisions and branches throughout the State. Judging from the response at the launch, he was confident that the party will be well-received throughout the State in due course. After all, Gagasan Rakyat has instantly become GRS’ largest component party with the most number of assemblymen.


PGRS now has the most number of State Ministers too – four, compared to only three previously before the attempted “coup”. The four are Hajiji himself as CM, Finance Minister Masidi Manjun, Science Minister Arifin Arif, and Community Minister Datuk James Ratib. Blessing in disguise?


Ratib was one of the two Umno Ministers named in the January State Cabinet reshuffle. Then just days before PGRS’ launch he quit Umno to join PGRS, reducing Umno’s representative in the State Cabinet to just one. I don’t blame James, as Umno had said that he and Shahelmey were not their representatives in the State Cabinet. How do you think he felt? In the previous Cabinet before the attempted coup, there were four Umno Ministers. Now left with only one. You reap what you sow.


With this, the composition of the State Cabinet now is as follows: PGRS (4 Ministers including CM), PBS (2), Star (2), and PKR, DAP and Umno one each.


The sole Umno Minister left is DCM Shahelmey Yahya. It is believed that he too would have left to join PGRS had it not been for the fact that he is also MP (for Putatan). This is because MPs are subject to the newly-enacted Anti-Hop Law by Parliament whereby if you switch party you may be disqualified as an MP.


Not only that, if I am not mistaken under the law if you are sacked by your party for disobedience, you may lose your seat also. I stand to be corrected. I am not a lawyer. 
Ir. Shahelmey was called by the Umno headquarters recently and he presented his case (on why he continued to support Hajiji despite the attempted “coup”). He said he is ready for the party’s decision. No big deal, even if he loses his MP seat, he is still a Minister and an assemblyman.


Besides, Umno better think twice if it had the intention to sack Shahelmey from the party, causing a by-election in the process. This is because it may not necessarily win especially if Shahelmey is allowed to stand again (on another party’s ticket, e.g. PGRS). Judging from the thousands at the PGRS launch March 2, and Hajiji’s increasing popularity among Sabahans, and the “debacle” of Umno following the failed “coup”, it shouldn’t be too difficult for the State’s ruling party to win the by-election.


Another Umno assemblyman cum MP from Sabah is the YB of Kalabakan. He also has nothing to lose as he is also an Assistant Minister even if he loses his MP seat. He, initially was supportive of the attempted “coup” but has since declared his support for Hajiji and said was prepared to face any party action.


So Umno headquarters has to tread carefully on this matter. Whether they have the party’s blessings or not, at least with them Umno has a Minister and Assistant Minister in the State Government. 


If action is to be taken against them, forcing them to join PGRS, Umno may end up having Zero representation in the State Cabinet and there is nothing they can do about it. Hajiji has shown that he is not someone to be easily bullied or pushed.


It will be as good as Umno forming the State Govt in 1994, now booted out of Sabah, as many even wish.


My personal prediction is, the duo won’t be sacked as Umno members. This is judging from the recent statement from the BN secretary general supporting Hajiji’s government. Everybody knows that BN equals Umno and Umno equals BN. Besides, even BN components like PBRS, MCA and MIC too have declared their support for Hajiji. The writing is on the wall.


The BN secretary-general also announced that Sabah Umno deputy head Yakuba Khan will represent BN/Umno in “negotiation” with the GRS government. You cannot want to negotiate on the one hand and take action against your members who supported Hajiji on the other. It doesn’t make sense.


Coming back to Shahelmey, personally I feel that from among the present Sabah Ministers he is the most qualified to be the Public Works (PWD) Minister cum DCM. This is because he is an Engineer. Besides, he previously worked as MD/CEO (something like that) of a GLC that oversaw the Pan-Borneo Highway project.


Although it is a federal project, more power is being given to the State now and Sabah is also part of the federal government. Most suitable.


Shahelmey was present at the PBRS launch, wearing a red shirt (colour of PGRS) minus the party or GRS logo and his name. This is intriguing and it’s anybody’s guess should he be sacked from Umno. PGRS will welcome him with open arms, thus further reducing Sabah Umno’s presence in the assembly.


At the launch of PGRS on March 2, Yakuba Khan was present representing Umno, wearing the blue BN shirt complete with BN logo. Personally, I take that as a good sign and a step in the right direction especially before any “negotiation” is held. Goodwill must be shown first. 


Yakuba’s presence also indirectly reflected Sabah Umno’s acceptance of Hajiji’s leadership, finally and hopefully, perhaps may be against the wishes of one or two characters.


Infact, Yakuba was one of the Sabah Umno leaders who were present at Hajiji’s house the night the “coup” was announced. But he later said it was just a friendly meeting among friends.


As Anwar pointed out, Hajiji is “mild-mannered”. As someone who know him personally, I would add that he is soft-spoke, humble and friendly. He is not revengeful, Otherwise, he would not have invited Yakuba to the launch and Yakuba did the right thing by attending. As Hajiji said in an interview recently, “dalam politik tidak payah lah berdendam-dendam….” (In politics there is no need to be revengeful all the time.)


Such is the personality of Hajiiji. Even when he was a BN/Umno Ministers years ago, he had no qualms meeting an Opposition YB in his office unlike some others. Even helped wherever possible, fully aware that the CM of the day may not be happy. Ask Datuk Chrsitina Liew who was then an Opposition YB. In a previous election in his constituency, even Opposition people praised him in the social media. An aide of his told me that he once scolded the aide for suggesting that Opposition people should not be helped. In short, Hajiji has a likeable personality.


Hajiji is no pushover politically, He is a veteran. He has been an assemblyman since 1990 which is a record, even longer than his former boss Tan Sri Musa Aman. 


The previous record holder was Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan who was the Tambunan assemblyman since 1976 until his defeat in 2018 by his own brother Dr Jeffrey of Star who is now a DCM. Pairin the then PBS president was DCM under Musa prior to 2018. By the way, the Huguan Siou was present at the PGRS launch and Hajiji praised him.

Pairin’s presence sparked some speculations though.


In 1990, Hajiji won Sulaman on an Usno ticket while Musa lost in Sg Sibuga also on an Usno ticket. Musa only won in 1994 as an Umno candidate. Hajiji also won again in Sulaman in 1994, also on an Umno ticket like Musa. Both kept their seats until 2020.


It is also not easy to match Hajiji’s experience both politically and administratively. While still an Usno assemblyman in the early 90s, the then ruling party PBS invited Usno to form a PBS+ coalition government. As a result, two Usno assemblymen were made Ministers while another one or two Assistant Ministers. 


Hajiji, together with the late Datuk Dayang Mahani, decided to stay put in Usno. For his loyalty, he was appointed Political Secretary to the then Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Ghafar Baba in KL. He also became a Bank Rakyat director.


After the formation of the BN/Umno government in Sabah in 1994 replacing PBS, Hajiji became an Assistant Minister. He remained one for 10 years, changing Ministries a few times. But he never complained, although his juniors as assemblymen already became full Ministers. 


Again, his loyalty was finally rewarded 10 years later when new CM Musa made him a full Minister (Local Government & Housing). He remained there until 2018 when the BN government fell.


When Musa decided to call it a day after Umno fell, he passed the baton to Hajiji, reflecting Hajiji’s leadership qualities. When Musa was Usno treasurer, Hajiji was his Assistant. 


When Musa was Finance Minister, Hajiji was his Assistant. The two go back a long way.

That was perhaps why after Hajiji was sworn-in as CM late 2020, Musa no longer pursued his case in the courts claiming that his sacking as CM in 2018 was unconstitutional.


When Hajiji left Umno in 2019, then PM Dr Mahathir picked him to lead Bersatu in Sabah, again reflecting Hajiji’s leadership qualities. 


During and after the 2020 State election, then PM Muhyiddin gave his blessings for Hajiji to be CM, and to lead GRS which was then just formed. Fast forward to today, he is still CM and now leads a “new” party, appropriately called PGRS or Gagasan Rakyat. Almost similar to the name of the ruling coalition, GRS.


Another thing which I would like to mention here is that there has also been accusations that Hajiji or GRS purposely “delay” the tabling of the Anti-Hop Law in Sabah. As Hajiji pointed out at a press conference after the PGRS launch, the timing of the tabling is up to the State Cabinet which has yet to make a decision. There is no such thing as “delay”.


In any case, for the sake of argument, Warisan+ was in power for two-and-a-half years. What stopped them from tabling the Bill if they were serious? Waiting for more assemblymen to join them? Another delaying tactic?


Umno was part of the GRS-BN state government for more than two years. How many times did they push for the Bill to be presented during Cabinet meetings? Truth hurts.


Coming back to Hajiji, the reason I mention the above regarding him is just to show that he has what it takes to be CM and ruling party leader. The very fact that he survived the attempted “coup” and even emerged stronger, speaks for itself. 


Unfortunately, a few personalities thought that he was weak or could be pushed or bullied (including by politicians from Sabah who often used the names of KL leaders). Recent events proved them wrong. As the PGRS tagline goes “Rumah Kita, Kita Yang Jaga” (We look after our own house). Sabah Maju Jaya!


With Hajiji and co. in a local party, GRS truly is now a political coalition consisting of only local parties, similar to GPS in Sarawak. With this, the “Borneo Bloc” consisting of GPS and GRS has truly become a reality. Easier to fight for East Malaysia’s rights now vis-à-vis MA63. United we stand! 


Not all like what is written here. Never mind. My experience as a reporter before tells me that there will always be those who like what you write and others who don’t. 


Those whom you praise will say that you are a good writer and those whom you don’t praise will say that you are biased or that you are a paid or mercenary writer. This is only human nature. You can’t please everybody.


­I write only now as I see it as the right timing, a befitting finale for Hajiji’s political career or, if you like, “struggle”. As the saying goes, “All is well that ends well.” 

*Datuk Teddy Chin is a veteran journalist who for 40 years served four Ministers as a Press Secretary, including a Chief Minister.He was once a senior reporter with the Daily Express

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sabah Baru News.