By Clara Chooi
Assistant News Editor
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has officially excluded Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) from seat negotiations on Sabah’s opposition front, PKR’s Azmin Ali has confirmed, insisting the party’s demands are too unreasonable to accommodate.
The PKR deputy president told The Malaysian Insider that on the state-level, PR and its new Sabah allies — Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS) and Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPPS) — have nearly agreed on a seat-sharing formula.
“There are just a few more overlapping seats. But we are now asking the PR presidential council to guide us in determining which seats should be contested by which party,” Azmin (picture) said when contacted here, adding that the matter was raised at Wednesday’s political bureau meeting.
But the Gombak MP, who has been leading seat talks with APS and PPPS, would not reveal PR’s seat-sharing formula with the two Sabah-based movements for strategic reasons.
APS is led by Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing, formerly the deputy president of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO), while PPPS is led by Beaufort MP and former Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin.
“But SAPP is completely out of the list, out of our formula. I am not blaming them for anything, simply that their demands are unreasonable,” Azmin confirmed.
SAPP, a nearly two-decade-old party led by former Sabah chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee, had earlier agreed to collaborate with PR in Election 2013 to topple BN from its east Malaysian fortress, but has been insisting that local parties must contest the lion’s share of the 60 seats in the state’s legislative assembly.
Yong said the peninsula-based PR can contest the majority of Sabah’s 25 federal seats to help its bid for Putrajaya but maintained that administrative power over the state must stay in the hands of parties with roots in Sabah.
He said that this would be in keeping with the state’s right to autonomy as enshrined in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.
But Azmin told The Malaysian Insider that Yong’s demand for 40 or even half the state’s 60 seats was unreasonable.
He pointed out that when SAPP contested under BN in Election 2008, the party had only won two seats in Parliament and two in the state legislature. SAPP officially withdrew from BN in September 2008 and became an independent party.
“But they want 40 seats now? Then what is left for the rest of the opposition parties in Pakatan, in APS and PPPS?” Azmin said.
SAPP is completely out of the list, out of our formula. I am not blaming them for anything, simply that their demands are unreasonable. — Azmin Ali
“I have tried my best and so has (PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim)... we met and discussed with SAPP for the last six months and we made our offer to them — one that is even bigger than what they got in the last polls,” he added.
When asked what was PR’s offer to SAPP, Azmin replied that the federal opposition pact was willing to relinquish 10 seats to the Sabah-based party.
He added that they were “good seats” where SAPP was likely to stand a fair chance of winning, but the party still refused the offer.
“They came back to us and said they want 40 seats,” Azmin said.
“So we have decided — we will proceed with APS and PPPS alone, due to the time constraint,” he said.
APS and PPPS have agreed to contest under PKR’s banner for the coming polls contest.
The Malaysian Insider understands that Bumburing, a known leader among the state’s Kadazandusun and Murut (KDM), have been tasked to woo the communities into PR’s fold while Lajim’s duty is to tackle Malay and Muslim votes.
Both men have also recently found themselves the target of verbal attacks from Yong, who on Tuesday called them buffaloes led around by their nose rings.
The outspoken leader, who is known among Sabah’s Hakka Chinese, alleged that both Bumburing and Lajim have “no choice” but to kowtow to their newfound PR friends from the peninsula to lobby for spots in the coming polls contest.