On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Reading the signs of Sabah politics

Once the election is over, the  whole pattern repeats itself. More  new parties and more defections.

Sabah, regarded as the wild east  of
Malaysian politics, is not for the 
idealistic and faint-hearted.

Politics in Sabah is about raw  power.
There is no such thing as  political
allegiance. Nothing is impossible.

Next to the drought and food  problems,
which have hit parts of  Sabah, election
fever seems to have  caught the attention
of Sabahans  most.

The scramble for power has  started
because Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee ends his tenure  on May 28 
slightly more than a  month

There has been no announcement  so far as
to who will succeed Yong  but the general
acceptance is that  it will be either
Datuk Joseph  Kurup, who heads the Parti
Bersatu Rakyat Sabah, or Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, the Parti Demokratik Sabah

It is now the turn of the Kadazans  to
take over the helm of the state 
administration under its unique 
sharing of power among the three 
main communities.

After the 1994 state polls, the  chief
minister's post was held by  Tan Sri
Sakaran Dandai, who later  became the
Yang Dipertua Negeri.

Datuk Salleh Said Keruak then  took over
the helm to represent the  bumiputra,
followed by Yong for  the Chinese
community in 1996.

Going by convention, Kurup is  likely to
succeed Yong as he is also  a deputy
chief minister.

Cynics said Kurup is favoured  among the
Barisan component parties because he is the weakest of  the two, saying his party had only  two representatives  Kurup and 
Datuk Adib Sigoh, who defected 
from Umno recently.

For Kurup, the state assemblyman for Sook, he will have to look  for a new seat if polls are called  tomorrow because under the new  electoral boundaries, the Sook seat  has disappeared.

Dompok, who was regarded as  hawkish
while in PBS, is seen to  have more
political clout with 17  state

It goes without saying that  Kurup,
should he step into Yong's  seat, can
expect himself to be  strongly tested and
challenged in  his decision-making.

Those who predict a snap polls  have
argued that a Kadazan chief  minister
will only materialise after  the

The only man who can give the 
go-ahead  Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir
Mohamad  hasn't given a  single clue.

In fact, those who know the  Prime
Minister can testify to his  dislike for
unnecessary politicking.

More so, at this juncture, when  all
resources have to be channelled  towards
the economic recovery.

A state election at this point will  mean
the use of money. And in Sabah, it means big money.

Although the state election is not  due
until March next year, Sabah  politicians
are not letting anyone  put a damper on
their belief that  elections are just
around the corner.

Even if the Barisan Nasional has  to
serve the full term, it's only  about a
year from now before polls  have to be

Excitement has mounted with  former Chief
Minister Datuk Harris Salleh announcing his little known Parti Bersekutu.

In the 1990 state polls, Harris attempted to set up Parti Angkatan  Demokratik Liberal (Adil) but  failed.

The season for defections, meanwhile, has started. Former Parti  Bersatu Sabah (PBS) leader Datuk  Mark Koding, who left to form the  Akar Bersatu, is back in PBS.

So is Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan,  who
left PBS to join Akar after the  1994
state polls. Former state Gerakan chief Datuk Kong Hong Ming  has returned to PBS.

New newspapers have, meanwhile, hit the streets of Sabah. Berita Sabah, said to
be linked to Dr  Jeffrey, appeared about
a year ago,  carrying mainly pro-PBS
news  items.

The New Sabah Times, an English broadsheet, started publication recently. The
previous Sabah  Times strongly backed
Yong's Sabah Progressive Party during the 
1994 polls.

An evening newspaper, Corridor,  has
announced that it plans to come  out by
the year's end.

When Sabah politicians go on  their
ceramah rounds, they have to  constantly
remind themselves what  parties they are
currently with.

Every promise and pledge made  will be in
the name of the rakyat,  but what could
be more embarrassing than a confused politician who  contradicts himself?