Sabah Umno chairman Bung Moktar Radin and newly elected assemblymen have thrown their support behind Hajiji Noor for the post of chief minister, a development signalling the waning popularity of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in the state.
“The people will stop playing politics. We will think about Sabah problems,” Bung told a joint press conference by Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) today to announce the coalition’s consensus on naming Hajiji as chief minister.
This comes amid open protest by Zahid and another veteran Umno leader against Hajiji, the Sabah Bersatu chief, leading the state.
Hajiji, 65, who has served in the Sabah state assembly for three decades, was Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) choice of chief minister, while Umno named Bung for the post.
In the newly concluded Sabah election, PN teamed up with BN and PBS, achieving a comfortable majority to bring down the Warisan-led government of Shafie Apdal.
The announcement by GRS today could point to a lack of say by Umno leaders at the federal level on Sabah’s politics.
Earlier, Zahid called for the chief minister’s post to be given to Bung, saying Umno deserved to be given a senior post after being bypassed for the posts of prime minister and Perak menteri besar.
Another Umno leader, Shahrir Samad, meanwhile accused Bersatu of being detached from Sabah’s issues.
The former Johor Bahru MP’s criticism of the party led by Muhyiddin Yassin is no surprise as the duo have not been on the best of terms since Muhyiddin’s time as Johor menteri besar.
When an exodus of key leaders and assemblymen in 2018 left Umno nearly paralysed, many members blamed it on Zahid.
A Sabah Umno Youth leader, Ghazalie Ansing, urged the party’s Supreme Council to ask Zahid to step down.
“We want Umno to be led by someone who is capable of leading this party. The uncertainty of the president in determining Umno’s direction has resulted in many party leaders and members leaving,” he reportedly said a day after the exodus.