KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Sept 2008: Sabah Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Anifah Aman said Umno’s leadership must "do something" about the party’s internal problems rather than worry about whether any of its MPs are going to cross over to the Pakatan Rakyat.
"What is happening now is that Umno leaders seem to be more preoccupied with the speculated defections of some of the MPs instead of addressing the problems within Umno itself," he told Bernama from Kota Kinabalu.
Anifah, who is chairman of the Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs’ Backbenchers Club, said there was no question of Umno MPs defecting if the party remained strong and its top leadership was not sidetracked by other issues.
"I am much more concerned or worried about what is to become of Umno, especially with the impending party elections in December, than other matters," said Anifah, who is the BN MP for Kimanis and Umno Kimanis division head.
Following the general election in March 2008, which saw the BN losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament, the outspoken MP created history of sorts by publicly refusing his re-appointment as a deputy minister. He had been a deputy minister for two terms.
His subsequent sharp criticisms that states like Sabah and Sarawak were not getting a fair deal in development budgets and appointments to national-level posts led to announcements of allocations of billions of ringgit to the two states.
For the first time, the Dewan Rakyat saw a politician from Sabah, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, being appointed Speaker, aided by two Deputy Speakers, Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Datuk Ronald Kiandee from Sarawak and Sabah respectively.
Alluding to 16 Sept, which opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed would be the day the Pakatan Rakyat coalition would take over the federal government with the help of defections by BN MPs, Anifah said: "It’s not going to happen if the top Umno leadership really addresses the party’s internal problems".
Anifah said Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s remarks on 10 Sept that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi’s transition plan to step down by 2010 was too long, was another problem within Umno which should be addressed before things got worse in the party.
Muhyiddin, the International Trade and Industry Minister, had also asked Abdullah to review the timeframe.
Reacting to this on 11 Sept, Abdullah said he was surprised that a member of his Cabinet wanted him to step down before 2010, as his transition plan had been endorsed by the Cabinet and the Umno supreme council.
BN MP Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe, echoed Anifah’s sentiment, and said other BN component parties which regarded Umno as their "big brother" were getting worried about the goings-on in the party.
Tiki, who is vice-president of the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and a former deputy minister, said he could see signs of a "crisis" brewing in Umno following Muhyiddin’s remarks against Abdullah.
He also cited the alleged racist outburst by Umno Bukit Bendera division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail as a worrying trend, adding that by suspending his Umno membership for three years, the party was only "treating the symptoms".
"I believe the controversy sparked by Ahmad is just the tip of the iceberg and things are not looking that good for the BN either.
“We MPs have to face our constituents who voted us in and if the leadership is not receptive or sensitive to our grouses, then the problems on the ground are likely to grow," he said.
Asked why he was not among the BN backbenchers currently visiting Taiwan on a study tour of agricultural projects, Tiki said he felt the trip would not serve its purpose.
"Furthermore, the timing is not right when there [are] so [many] problems at home that we should be more concerned with," he said of the eight-day visit, beginning 8 Sept, by 46 BN backbenchers. — Bernama