KUALA LUMPUR • Two lawmakers in Malaysia’s Sabah state quit their party yesterday to support the alliance of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, amid speculation of more defections.
Sabah is controlled by Parti Warisan Sabah, an ally of opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance has toppled the state governments of Johor, Melaka, Perak and Kedah since it came to power three months ago, and is now aiming to take over hydrocarbon-and timber-rich Sabah.
The two state assemblymen from United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko) – Datuk James Ratib and Datuk Limus Jury – said they will become independent legislators who support PN. The defections do not affect Warisan’s control of the state assembly, as the ruling alliance still has two-thirds of the 65-seat legislature.
Sabah-based Upko still has three seats in the assembly.
Last week, Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, who is Warisan’s president and a close ally of former premier Mahathir Mohamad, claimed that PN has been trying to woo its 15 Sabah MPs and 47 state lawmakers with posts and money.
He said PN was using intimidation through various instruments of government to make the MPs and assemblymen switch camps.
Last week, Sabah’s Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony, a staunch loyalist of Datuk Seri Shafie, was charged with five money laundering charges in relation to rural development projects. He pleaded not guilty.
Malaysia’s government last week caused shock waves by acquitting and discharging former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman of all 46 criminal charges linked to timber concession contracts in the state. Tan Sri Musa, from Umno, is a key rival of Mr Shafie to lead Sabah.