KOTA KINABALU, 17 Sept 2008: Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) today pulled out of the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition to become an independent party.
In announcing this after chairing the party’s supreme council meeting at its headquarters this afternoon, its president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said SAPP would be an opposition party but would not be joining the Pakatan Rakyat for the time being.
“The SAPP supreme council has declared that the party is no longer a member of the Barisan Nasional coalition. We will be independent at the moment and provide quality opposition in and outside the parliament, as well as the state assembly, until the time comes when SAPP is ready to be back in the government,” Yong said in a strongly worded statement read out to the media.
The statement was also posted on the party’s website.
Claiming that the BN had “lost its spirit”, the statement claimed that the coalition had “abandoned the people” and had treated them with contempt.
“Perhaps after 50 years of uninterrupted government, some BN leaders have got it in their heads that they have a divine right to rule,” the statement said.
The BN, the statement said, had refused to learn any lessons from the 8 March general election results, and had instead inflicted more hardship on the people by raising petrol prices and failing to tackle the economic slowdown or the rising inflation.
The recent abuse of the Internal Security Act (ISA) on Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, Seputeh Member of Parliament Teresa Kok, and blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin on 12 Sept, as well as the inciting of racial tensions were also mentioned as examples of the BN not learning from its mistakes.
Tan was released a day later.
“The BN has lost its moral authority to rule. Numerical majority in Parliament means little if the people no longer respect you,” the statement said.
Stating that the party had nothing personal against the Prime Minister or his family and their business dealings, the statement went on to say that it was “only concerned about the issues affecting the country such as the need for good governance, the dangers of racial polarisation and injustice of economic imbalances to be tackled effectively.”
“SAPP hereby proudly dissociates itself from these shameful wrongdoings of the BN government. SAPP further believes that the BN is not capable of practicing good governance and non-racial politics.
“SAPP had only wanted to see that the legitimate rights of Sabah and the unfairness suffered by Malaysians in Sabah be given due attention with results.
The BN must realise that, if not for Sabah and Sarawak, BN would be in the opposition today. But instead of sincerely working to solve the issues raised by SAPP, the BN has chosen to embark on a course of action to destroy SAPP,” it said.
The party has two parliamentarians and four state assemblypersons. The two MPs are Datuk Eric Enchin Majimbun (Sepanggar) and Datuk Dr Chua Soon Bui (Tawau), while the state representatives are Datuk Raymond Tan (Tanjong Papat), assistant state finance minister Melanie Chia (Luyang), Au Kam Wah (Elopura) and Datuk Liew Teck Chan (Likas).
Deputy party chief Tan and SAPP vice president Jimmy Wong reportedly opposed the move to pull out of BN, with Tan, who is deputy chief minister of Sabah, walking out of the meeting. He later said he would be submitting his resignation from the state cabinet.
The statement said SAPP members who hold political appointments in the executive branch of government shall relinquish their posts, starting at the cabinet level.
In an immediate reaction, Bernama reports that Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman expressed regret over SAPP’s decision to pull out of the BN coalition.
“Although we expected it, it is most regrettable that the decision to leave was taken. SAPP has been long-time friend and supporter of the BN,” he said in a statement.
Musa, who is also Sabah BN chairman, said the BN component parties always worked as a team and relied on each other’s strengths for the benefit of the people, including overcoming problems that also affected component parties.
“As such, Sabah Umno and its other friends within the BN would remain steadfast with the coalition and continue with our common cause.
“Of course, there are problems in every coalition-based government but within a family-like relationship in BN, these problems can be resolved together if we keep an open mind and adopt a give-and-take attitude. This is one of the core principles of the BN,” he added.
Yong had proved to be a thorn in the side of the Abdullah administration, and had called for a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister, which was endorsed on 20 June by the SAPP supreme council.
The Anti-Corruption Agency then announced it was investigating Yong over an alleged payment of RM5 million from the sale of shares belonging to a state-owned company to his agents in 1996 when he was Sabah chief minister.
Yong claimed the investigation was politically motivated.