On April 15, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan announced that the UMNO chapter in Sabah will get its independence by the end of 2019.
According to him, UMNO will amend its constitution to grant the Sabah chapter full autonomy over the state’s affairs.
Back in February, UMNO Sabah was given partial autonomy. The state branch increased its administrative power over memberships, annual reporting to the Registrar of Societies and the handling of disciplinary cases.
If the state chapter were to be given independence, they will then have the power to choose their own liaison chief, candidates for election and the state Chief Minister if the party were to win the next election.
However, when we go through the influencers list of UMNO Sabah for the past month, it was dominated by non-UMNO members. Most of the influencers gave statements regarding the motion in Dewan Rakyat to amend the Federal Constitution so that Sabah and Sarawak will become equal partners. During voting to pass the bill, UMNO Sabah vote against the motion.
For other issues, Prime Minister Tun Mahathir and Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal gave statements on Sabah UMNO members jumping over to Bersatu.
For UMNO, acting president Mohamad Hasan is the most active on the topic. He addressed the upcoming Sandakan by-election. The Rantau MP said BN will discuss on whether they will participate in the by-election or not. If PAS were to contest, then BN will not field a candidate and instead support PAS.
Meanwhile, Rahman Dahlan only gave 52 statements. Most of them are about UMNO Sabah independence.
Bung Mokthar, the sole Sabah UMNO parliamentary member representing Kinabatangan was under the radar for the past month.
Last December, Sabah UMNO witnessed an exodus. The state branch lost 5 MPs, 10 assemblymen and 2 senators. All of them became independent.
However, in March 2019, 8 of them joined Bersatu. Some of the notable politicians include Ronald Kiandee and Hajiji Mohd Noor. Additionally, both senators who left UMNO, John Ambrose and Abdul Ghani Yassin also joined Bersatu.
On April 6, Bersatu Sabah branch at Kota Kinabalu was officially launched.
The ones who remains in the party like Rahman Dahlan and Salleh Said Keruak were defeated in GE-14. Hence, they did not become a member of parliament.
Overall, Sabah UMNO was weakened by Warisan in GE-14. Later, it was further torn by Bersatu setting up a branch in the state.
Will granting autonomy to Sabah UMNO recover voters’ confidence with the party?