Sunday, 13 October 2013

The story of Sabah’s two most powerful politicians and their gentleman’s agreement that screwed the plans of a third force...

The current political landscape in Sabah is dominated by two heavyweights – Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and Federal Minister for Rural and Regional Development Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

It is a fact that Musa Aman and Shafie Apdal are currently the two most powerful politicians in Sabah, each with their own supporters and detractors.

But it is also no secret that Musa Aman and Shafie Apdal don’t see eye to eye, let alone talk to each other.
Even if their paths do cross inadvertently, be it at official functions or party gatherings, they quickly shake hands, mumble greetings and turn the other way around.

But more than a decade ago, both men were good friends.
Situation, circumstances and the people surrounding them is certainly to be blamed for the animosity between these two astute, intelligent and shrewd politicians.

There is also a third force active in Sabah politics that want to see both men removed from their respective positions and this was the group that initially started to pit Musa with Shafie, and vice-versa.
This third force comprises few shadowy characters within Sabah Umno itself and from component parties in Sabah, not to mention those who have a beef with either Musa or Shafie.
Some party veterans in Sabah claim the political rift between Musa and Shafie is beyond repair, but others believe they will readily bury their hatchet if the situation warrants the need for them to work together for a greater cause.

Shafie hails from a family with deep political ties with Umno.
His uncle (mother’s brother) is Tun Sakaran Dandai, Sabah’s first Chief Minister from Umno.

For more than three decades, the families of Sakaran Dandai and Shafie Apdal have worked and struggled for Umno.

There is no question on their loyalty to the party.
Sakaran Dandai and his colleagues prepared the framework that played a pivotal role in Sabah Umno becoming a dominant party in the state in the 90s.

Shafie is a close confidant of Prime Minister Najib Razak and served as Deputy Defence Minister when Najib was Defence Minister between 1999 and 2004.
Over the years, Shafie has earned Najib’s trust and their relationship has grown beyond politics.

Najib feels secure when he is with Shafie. He never has to second guess or doubt Shafie’s loyalty unlike a few other politicians within the party.
Musa on the other hand, never had that kind of relationship with Najib.

But he made efforts to become close with the First Family and eventually earned the trust of First Lady Rosmah Mansor.
It is a known fact amongst senior Sabah politicians that Musa has Rosmah’s ears.

And in his own way, Musa has proved his loyalty to Najib and takes great effort to maintain strong ties with Putrajaya.
Much of the bad blood between Musa and Shafie started more than a decade ago when both politicians’ careers started to rise.

Shafie rose to prominence in the Federal scene while Musa took the top job of running the state.

While it is not really possible to pinpoint the one single cause that led to the cracks in their relationship, many believe it was over the way Shafie and Musa handled the state’s coffers.

Shafie was known to be generous while Musa was very selective about spending, to a point that prudence was the keyword.

Camps aligned to Shafie become unhappy with Musa’s management of the state while camps aligned with Musa became unhappy with Shafie’s way of doing things in the state as well as federal level.

All this infighting gave a splendid opportunity for the third force within Sabah’s political echelons to further aggravate the situation between Musa and Shafie.

There are also stories on how Shafie’s powerful Rural Ministry with billions under allocation refused to hand over it funds for Sabah to Musa because of the people associated with Musa.
It is learned that Shafie’s camp was concerned that the funds might not reach the intended people but end up in the wrong hands.

Musa’s camp, on the other hand, was angry that only people deemed aligned to Shafie were getting lucrative infrastructure contracts.
Each time the rift became wider, and more controversies surfaced, the third force was smiling gleefully.

But unknown to Shafie or Musa, the third force was actually monitoring their each and every move, and were secretly hatching more plans to topple them.

It will not be wrong to say that the controversies involving Musa (over the Michael Chia money laundering scandal) and Shafie (for his alleged affair with an actress) were linked to the third force.
But controversies alone were not sufficient to bring down any of the two.
In fact, both Musa and Shafie walked away unscathed from their scandals.

Shafie continued to enjoy support as Umno vice-president while Musa gave Barisan Nasional its two-third majority in the State during the May 5 General Elections.
As the nominations for the Umno elections drew closer, elements of the third force at work surfaced again.

Musa was being pushed by 'some' quarters to contest for the VP’s post and several divisions immediately threw their support for Musa.
This started to give PM Najib a headache.

Not wanting to take sides, Najib picked up the phone, called Shafie and Musa and told them both to sort things out amicably and revert to him on their decisions.
Some insiders say Najib told Musa to concentrate on the state as he was doing a great job but nevertheless, did not force Musa to stay away from the contest.

On the morning of Sept 15, Musa called Najib to inform his decision and then later the same day, broke his silence to the media by announcing that he is not contesting the VP’s post, let alone defend his post in the Umno Supreme council.
Musa made his intentions clear that he is just going to concentrate on developing the state.

Shafie heaved a huge sigh of relief at this news and immediately thanked Musa for the decision – albeit not personally but through the media.
All this was done in a gentlemanly manner by both Musa and Shafie.

Shafie went on to say in an article which appreared in the Star on 23rd September 2013 (page 7): “I do not have any personal conflict or ill-feeling towards Musa. Maybe we have some differences in our approach but that is normal. To say that we cannot work together at all is not right”.
Suddenly, those who made noises from the background became silent and retracted to their hiding.

The third force was caught off guard. Their plans backfired.
For the first time, Shafie and Musa nailed them at their own game.

 - / -


  1. Interesting. Who's this third force? Common sense says it should be the opposition parties, but that's just too simple to guess.

  2. So it is all about who gets the money. nothing to do about proper planning and distribution of wealth and projects. no wondered the country is screwed up.