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Monday, November 29, 2010

Musa claims Sabah has more Umno members than Johor

By Luke Rintod

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah now has surpassed Johor in term of Umno membership, according to state Umno liaison chief Musa Aman.

Musa, who is also the chief minister, claimed Sabah now has 455,828 Umno members, with about 30,000 new members enrolled this year alone. Johor has about 438,000 members.

"This we achieved through our endless effort via various programmes including the "Program Juara Rakyat" to further consolidate Umno strength in Sabah," he disclosed after he chaired the Umno state liaison meeting here last week.

"I am calling on the state Umno machinery to continue enlisting new voters as party members," said Musa whose position in the state Umno hierarchy may be under threat with word of a reshuffles in state Umno leaderships nationwide.

Musa, along with Malacca's Chief Minister, Ali Rustam, has been widely speculated to top Najib Tun Razak's menu of reshuffle with party vice-president Shafie Apdal who is currently heading Umno in Kedah brought back to Sabah.

Meanwhile party insiders said deputy state Umno liaison chief, Salleh Said who was initially seen as aligned to Shafie has since turned Musa-friendly.

The Salleh-Shafie ties were initially bolstered by their Bajau-Sama communities links.

However, when Salleh went ahead to lead a Bajau-Sama cultural body called United Sabah Bajau Organisation (Usbo), Shafie was nowhere to be seen in the line-up. But a check with Usbo website has Shafie listed as 'advisor'.

Salleh, a political scientist who is currently doing his doctorate locally, has been appointed by Musa as his science advisor, a post previously held by Tham Nyip Shen who became party-less after he quit the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and retired from politics.

Usbo making itself relevant

Usbo which was officially re-registered in 2006 meanwhile is said to be re-engineering itself with the aim of joining Barisan Nasional as an associate member under the NGO category.

Word on the ground has it that Usbo is aiming to become the 'balance' in Sabah's increasingly tumultous political landscape.

According to insiders the party is in the process of amending the name of organisation.

Currently Usbo's membership is limited to strictly Bajau descendents, but if the Registrar of Societies approves the amendment to its constitution that Usbo will only need to change the 'B' which means 'Bajau" in its Usbo-acronym to 'B' meaning 'bumiputera'.

By opening its doors to all bumiputeras, insiders said Usbo is making itself 'seriously marketable' to Umno and BN.

Although the amendments are yet to be approved by ROS, Usbo leadership has already begun moving its machinery in preparation of a surge in memberships from grassroots bumiputeras who are not members of Umno or any other BN component parties.

Historically, Bajaus have played a in significant role in Sabah politics with four of the state's former chief ministers - Mustapha Harun, Sakaran Dandai, Salleh Said Keruak and Osu Sukam - having been of Bajau-descent.

However since Musa assumed power, ties with the community have been strained especially so after he dropped several key Bajau leaders from his political lineup.

Usbo is said to represent 12 sub-ethnic groups comprising the Iranun, Sama, Suluk, Binadan or Bannaran, Ubian, Sama Delaut, Sibutu, Sikubung, Simunul, Samal, Yakan and Jama Mapun communities. Together they are the second largest ethnic group in Sabah. - FMT

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