Party Time Again in Sabah

It’s party time again in Sabah and embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife, Jeanne, are flying there this weekend to join Sabah’s Kadazandusun people in doing their “sumazau” dance at the Tadau Kaamatan or harvest festival.

This is his second visit in a month to Borneo, hot on the heels of two other party creatures. PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was in Sarawak last Friday (23 May 2008) while Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was in Sabah two days later. Dancing the “sumazau” with Sabahans looks deceptively simple. Usually performed at religious ceremonies and social events, it is traditionally used to honour spirits for bountiful paddy harvests, ward off evil spirits and cure illnesses. Male and female dancers perform this steady hypnotic dance with soft and slow movements imitating birds in flight. The dance beat is nothing like any of the traditional dances in the peninsula. Hence, it requires a lot of getting used to for the new dancer to learn how to flap his hands gracefully and join the party line without being out of step.

Both Anwar and Ku Li had already tried their hands at “sumazau.” Now it’s Pak Lah’s turn.

One does not go to a party empty handed. Both Anwar and Ku Li brought party packs along with them or rather promises of bags of goodies to their East Malaysian brethren in the hope of enticing them to join their party. They sure know what to offer, considering that both were previously finance ministers under their nemesis, former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

How is Pak Lah going to pull a rabbit from out of his hat now? If there’s one left.

Anwar’s visit was for real. His party, PKR, planted a new division in the predominantly Iban Lubuk Antu, bordering Kalimantan, during his visit to Sarawak. This adds credence to his claim to wanting to take over the largest state in Malaysia from the BN.

This weekend, Pak Lah has a hard act to follow. As the incumbent PM, he has to deliver handouts immediately to stay on the job. Promises are not good enough to quell the rumblings in Sabah BN, especially after all these years of being treated like second-class citizens.

It’s the East Malaysians who are calling the tune now after the 8 March general elections that saw the Barisan Nasional coalition nearly swept out of office if not for the saving grace of Sabah and Sarawak voters.

Out of the 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs at the recent polls, BN got only 140, thus losing their two-third majority for the first time ever. Of these, 24 came from Sabah and another 30 seats from Sarawak, making it a total of 54 seats or nearly 40 per cent of the BN seats in Parliament.

It takes only 30 of their MPs to cross over to the Opposition for it to get a simple majority of 112 and the party is over. A new government will then take over from the BN. This would be most unprecedented, but not entirely implausible.

Anwar coincidently met Ku Li on the plane and he told Ku Li that he is confident of getting the numbers. He has already laid his cards on the table; an additional deputy prime minister’s post to be created for an East Malaysian MP, among other things.

Meanwhile, Ku Li, who has declared his intent to take on Pak Lah for Umno’s presidency at the party’s polls year-end, is rumoured to be looking for a running mate from Sabah Umno. If that’s true, and if they win, then the first deputy prime minister’s post itself will go to Sabah. Of course, Ku Li gets to become PM. That is, if Anwar does not jump the queue. It so looks like there’s going to be a long hangover, when the party is finally over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *