KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s presence in Kuching today, hours before Anwar Ibrahim and Lajim Ukin are to attend a gathering there, has spawned rumours that the PKR de facto leader maybe closer to his goal of convincing Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s men to switch camps or declare their independence.
The Anwar threat in Sarawak following speculations of more impending defections in Sabah is “raising alarms in Umno in the peninsula,” claim FMT’s political sources in Sarawak.
According to these sources, Najib’s “hasty” visit is aimed at convincing Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu’s (PBB) 14 MPs to stay put with Barisan Nasional.
Taib heads PBB, which is the lead party in the state BN coalition.
Speculations are rife that Sarawak including PBB will see some defections in the days before the 13th general election, tipped to be held anytime between September and Hari Raya Haji this year.
The grapevine is sizzling with names, among them are PBB’s Santubung MP Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaffar and Petra Jaya MP Fadhillah Yusuf.
Anwar and Lajim, touted as Sabah Umno’s westcoast warlord, are scheduled to hold a gathering in Kuching tomorrow. They are also expected to hold a dialogue with Sarawak Pakatan Rakyat coalition leaders and, according to a press statement issued yesterday, NGO leaders were also invited.
Pre-empting Anwar’s visit, a worrried Najib and wife Rosmah are expected to buka puasa today with Taib and his delegation.
Najib is desperate to consolidate Sarawak’s support of BN given that Sabah is in a precarious position and sources said the “PM is prepared to do whatever it takes”.
Sarawak and Sabah have collectively 56 parliamentary seats. Sarawak has 31 seats of which PBB holds 14, Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) was allocated seven, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (six) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (four).
Anwar is rumoured to have a personal deadline which was “Sept 16, 2012″ having had to suffer the grave embarrassment of an aborted attempt to wrest Putrajaya on Sept 16, 2008.
Having been “severely embarrassed” by Umno, Anwar is hoping to go into the 13th general election armed with more MPs on his side.
Najib’s personal assurance
Already on his “side” are Lajim and Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing, who defected from Sabah BN last month.
Rumours are that eight more MPs in Sabah may jump in the coming weeks. Among the names most repeated are Ghapur Salleh (Kalabakan) and Bung Mokthar (Kinabatangan).
A Sabah Umno deputy division chief Nasir Sakaran did not dismiss the possibility of more Umno warlords joining Lajim and Bumburing.
According to him, it was now obvious that these men had been in negotiations with Anwar for sometime.
“They have no role in BN or its struggle. I believe they have long been in negotiation with Anwar,” he said.
Talks of defections in Sabah have not left Sarawak unscathed despite the heavy denials by BN federal and state leaders.
According to PBB insiders in Kuching, Najib, who simply cannot afford dissent in Sarawak, wants to personally assure the 14 MPs and ensure their support remains with BN.
“In this election, he sees them as his fixed deposit. He will also be meeting with PRS, SPDP and SUPP leaders to gauge the mood in Sabah.
“Najib does not trust Taib but his hands are tied.
“He must heed Umno’s desire. Umno is only interested in Najib delivering a majority and the party remaining in power.
“If Najib upsets Taib, he will go to Anwar,” said the observer alluding to recent report that Taib had allegedly met with Anwar in Singapore in June.
But the meeting was short-circuited after Taib had to rush back to Kuching for a meeting.
It was later learnt that Taib met an emissary from Putrajaya and never returned to Singapore to continue discussions with Anwar.
A snubbed Anwar is believed to be romancing Taib’s boys with what PBB Asajaya assemblyman Abdul Karim Hamzah described as “carrots that are too good to be true”.
Najib’s presence in Sarawak, on the pretext of breaking fast, only confirms that speculations that Anwar maybe getting closer to politically bedding Taib’s MPs.