Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sabah UMNO Leaders Create History

Leaders of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) from Sabah created history at the on-going party congress held in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. UMNO is the largest of 13 component parties which make up the National Front (BN), Malaysia's ruling coalition.

They achieved many firsts in the party election held over the last two days. Leading the pack is Datuk Shafie Apdal who won one of the three UMNO vice-presidencies, the first Sabahan to do so since the party entered the State in 1990.

The vice-presidency is considered the 3rd highest-ranking in the party heirachy after the president and deputy president. Since there are 3 vice-presidents, the candidate who gathered the most votes at the party election would be considered the most senior among the trio.

The vice-president normally holds a senior portfolio in the Malaysian Cabinet, unless he is the Chief Minister or Mentri Besar of a State. The vice-presidency is also seen as a stepping stone for the deputy presidency and eventually the coveted presidency.

Presently, Shafie is Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage and formerly Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister. Prior to his promotion to the full ministership, he served as Deputy Minister in a couple of Ministries.

Shafie's political star started shinning after his election as a Member of Parliament for Semporna in 1995. He was soon appointed a Parliamentary Secretary (a post which has since been abolished) until his promotion as a Deputy Minister.

Prior to today's party election, Shafie was a UMNO Supreme Councillor. The UK graduate has held that post since 1996, another first for a Sabahan.

Before joining politics, Shafie served in the Sabah civil service and was an officer at the State Ministry of Finance. He is a nephew of former Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) Tun Sakaran Dandai.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kurup, Yee keep seats

Despite today being Friday the 13th and earlier speculations being not in their favour, both Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (pic) and Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai have a good reason to celebrate.

The Federal Court which sat in Kota Kinabalu decided that Kurup can keep his Pensiangan parliamentary seat in the Interior of Sabah bordering Indonesian Kalimantan while Yee can remain as the Sabah State Assemblyman for Api-Api which is part of the State Capital, Kota Kinabalu.

For the same reason too, Malaysia's ruling National Front (BN) coalition can also rejoice; for both Kurup and Yee are leaders of BN component parties. Kurup is Sabah People's United Party (PBRS) while Yee is deputy president of Sabah United Party (PBS).

Both Kurup and Yee are also lawyers, but Yee is one up. He is also a medical doctor.

Kurup, a Deputy Minister for Rural and Regional Development in the federal government of Malaysia, won the Pensiangan seat in the March 2008 general election. Although there was another candidate at the nomination centre, he won unopposed as his was the only nomination papers submitted to the Returning Officer before the 10am deadline.

This led to the other aspiring candidate, Danny Andipai of the opposition People's Justice Party (PKR) to lodge a petition with the Election Court in Kota Kinabalu. On Sept 17 last year, the Court ruled that Kurup's election was null and void.

Kurup, a first-term MP, filed an appeal to the Federal Court which delivered its ruling today; quashing Election Court judge David Wong's earlier decision. Although the Malaysian legal system has another tier - the Appeal Court - decisions of the Election Court can only be appealed straight to the Federal Court, the nation's supreme court.

"I am very happy and relieved. Now I can focus on doing my work as a deputy minister," said Kurup, a long-time Sabah State Assemblyman and former Deputy Chief Minister until he switched to federal politics.

In the case of Yee, he won the Api-Api state seat also in the March 8 election last year; albeit with a slim majority of only 174 votes. However, instead of the losing candidate, a petition was filed by a voter, Audrey Karen Barry, believed to be the proposer for Yee's opponent and fellow-lawyer Christina Liew also of PKR.

The Election Court ruled in Yee's favour. Audrey appealed and the Federal Court upheld the lower court's decision today. It is believed that Liew did not file the petition herself so she could act as counsel for Audrey.

Today's court decisions must have come as a relief and consolation,even sweet revenge to the BN as it was only yesterday that the Federal Court in Kuching, State Capital of neighbouring Sarawak upheld an Election Court decision that an opposition MP from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) remained the elected representative.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sabah BN MP thrown out of Parliament!

The Member of Parliament for Ranau, Siringan Gubat, was thrown out of Dewan Rakyat, the Lower House of the Malaysian Parliament this morning.

Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Haji Mulia suspended the first-term MP at about 11.35am after the latter interrupted him. However, Pandikar said Siringan could return at 2.30pm after the lunch break.

The incident started after fellow MP Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa of the opposition Pan-Islamic Party (PAS) had asked what the government was doing to curb parties that used a narrow perspective of the term 'social contract' to attack other races in their speeches.

His question created an uproar.

As the MP for Parit Buntar finished asking his question, he said he heard someone call him "bodoh" (stupid).

So he shouted: "Kalau jantan, berdiri sekarang. (If you are man enough, stand up.)"

This led the Speaker to advise MPs to behave themselves.

Just as Pandikar finished speaking, Siringan, who remained seated instead of standing up and seeking permission to speak, said: "Ngam, Tuan Speaker, Ngam.(Correct, Mr Speaker, Correct.)"

The Speaker immediately asked him to leave the House. Siringan asked if he could be forgiven, but the Speaker stood firm.

However, when met by reporters at the Parliament lobby, Siringan said he was not angry over the Speaker's ruling.

"I did not ask for permission when I said that. If it is not right, I am sorry about that.

"It is ok, I am alright," he said.

Although it is common for Opposition MPs to be sent out of the Malaysian Parliament, Siringan was the first government backbencher to be suspended, at least since the current House was convened after the March 2008 election. Another first was that both Pandikar and Siringan happen to be Sabahans.

"In suspending Siringan, Pandikar was also trying to show that being a fellow Sabahan MP and a backbencher doesn't save one from suspension," a political observer commented.

Siringan, also known as Alliance, first shot to political fame when he defeated his former boss, the late Datuk Mark Koding, in a by-election for the State Constituency of Ranau in 1989. The present Ranau parliamentary seat was then known as Kinabalu.

Siringan, a university graduate from the United States, was Koding's political secretary when the former was Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Industrial Development under the Sabah United Party (PBS) government.

Prior to the by-election, Koding was sacked as a member of the State Cabinet by then Chief Minister and PBS president Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan for allegedly undermining the State Government and Pairin's leadership.

Siringan stay put in PBS and was chosen as the ruling party's candidate against his former boss in the ensuing by-election.

Although Siringan remained Ranau Assemblyman until 2004, he switched party in 1994 after the collaspe of the PBS government which had won with only a slim majority in the March election that year.

He joined the Sabah Democratic Party (PDS) led by a former Deputy Chief Minister under the PBS government, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok. PDS was one of the splinter groups formed by former PBS leaders and all of which joined the new ruling coalition, BN.

PDS later changed its name to the United Pasok-Momogun Kadazan Organisation (UPKO) by which time Siringan had become an Assistant Minister under the new National Front (BN) government.

Dompok himself became Chief Minister under the BN's unique system of rotation of the post whereby the Muslim Natives, Non-Muslim Natives, and Chinese take turns to become CM for two years. However, Dompok served for only 9 months as he was defeated in the 1999 state election by a PBS candidate. The system has since been scrapped and the present CM, Datuk Musa Aman has been one since 2003.

Dompok was however elected MP after he moved to Kinabalu (later Ranau) in the parliamentary election held a few months later and was subsequently appointed a Federal Minister. Re-elected Ranau MP in 2004, Dompok however moved back to his former parliamentary constituency of Penampang in 2008; thus enabling Siringan to take his place.