One po­lit­i­cal ad­ven­ture af­ter an­other

New Straits Times - - Prime News -

OP­POR­TUNISM: La­jim, who never re­alised his am­bi­tion, dreams on in vain

WHO is Datuk Seri La­jim Ukin re­ally, the 61-year-old Bisaya leader, who quit PKR with a dozen party mem­bers to form their own party on Sun­day?

Their ac­tion de­mol­ished PKR and sent Pakatan Hara­pan into a tail­spin. How­ever, po­lit­i­cal in­sid­ers were not sur­prised by the out­come, hav­ing ex­pected this move from La­jim ever since he aban­doned Umno in 2012 for PKR.

A po­lit­i­cal in­sider, who is also a jour­nal­ist, said: “Be­fore Umno, he aban­doned Parti Ber­satu Sabah (PBS) in 1994 when he was the Klias as­sem­bly­man. With La­jim, it is one po­lit­i­cal ad­ven­ture af­ter an­other, and this usu­ally hap­pens when a gen­eral elec­tion is around the cor­ner.

“We have come to ex­pect this kind of frog-jump­ing from La­jim and like­minded politi­cians. We are not sur­prised.

“Th­ese peo­ple think democ­racy is a foot­ball game and they can jump from one party to an­other to look for an ad­van­tage.”

What is La­jim’s mo­tive and what will hap­pen to his re­bel­lion? Will he suc­ceed in thwart­ing the state Barisan Na­sional with his new po­lit­i­cal ve­hi­cle and best­ing his arch ri­val, Chief Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Musa Aman?

A look at his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer might of­fer some glimpses. La­jim sees him­self as a leader of the Bisaya, an eth­nic sub-group with their own cul­ture.

While many are Mus­lims like La­jim, oth­ers are not. They pop­u­late the Beau­fort dis­trict and are set­tled along Sun­gai Klias.

I got to know La­jim when I was the Sabah cor­re­spon­dent for a lo­cal daily in 1985. He was a jovial chap but po­lit­i­cally shrewd, a man al­ways look­ing out for him­self. Jump­ing from one party to an­other comes eas­ily to him.

A for­mer po­lit­i­cal aide said: “He does not think twice be­cause of his links to the Bisaya peo­ple, who are his power base. They will fol­low him.”

La­jim joined pol­i­tics when he was 30 years old in 1984. As a Ber­jaya mem­ber, he ap­proached then chief min­is­ter Datuk Har­ris Salleh to seek his per­mis­sion to stand as a can­di­date in Klias but was re­buffed.

La­jim had been watching the po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in Sabah closely. He felt that the then new PBS party, led by Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitin­gan, stood a fair chance of best­ing Ber­jaya.

He switched to PBS and Pairin picked him to stand in Klias in 1985. La­jim won hand­somely.

A for­mer PBS leader said: “La­jim was treated as the golden boy by Pairin, an im­por­tant Mus­lim leader and hero of the Bisaya peo­ple. He made it with his de­ci­sion to switch to PBS.

“Pairin needed Mus­lim lead­ers in his gov­ern­ment and La­jim was there.

“But trou­ble was not far away be­cause La­jim’s am­bi­tion was to be recog­nised as the leader of Sabah’s Mus­lim Bu­mi­put­eras. If recog­nised as such, he would be sec­ond only to Pairin in Sabah.”

La­jim was made a full min­is­ter and dreamt of be­com­ing deputy chief min­is­ter, af­ter Pairin.

“But Pairin knew the Bisaya peo­ple were a small com­mu­nity. He had an­other can­di­date as head of the Mus­lim Bu­mi­put­eras, an­other golden boy — Datuk Bahrom Abu Bakar Titin­gan — a leader of the much larger Su­luk eth­nic sub-group from Tawau,” said the for­mer PBS leader.

The Su­luk peo­ple were al­most all Mus­lims and the big­gest eth­nic group. Pairin gave them pri­or­ity and this an­gered La­jim.

The La­jim ver­sus Bahrom feud to rep­re­sent Mus­lim Bu­mi­put­eras in Sabah con­tin­ued un­abated right up to the 1994 state elec­tions, which PBS won nar­rowly. But af­ter vic­tory, its as­sem­bly­men jumped ship, in­clud­ing La­jim, who crossed over to Umno.

The PBS gov­ern­ment fell and was re­placed by BN.

“La­jim never re­alised his am­bi­tion of be­com­ing head of the Mus­lim Bu­mi­put­eras even dur­ing the time when the chief min­is­ter’s post was ro­tated be­tween the Chi­nese, Kadazans and Mus­lim Bu­mi­put­eras,” said the jour­nal­ist.

A Su­luk leader was pre­ferred over a Bisaya like Tun Sakaran Dandai, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak and Datuk Seri Osu Sukam who all took turns be­com­ing chief min­is­ters. Fi­nally, it fell on Musa.

La­jim was passed over re­peat­edly and he be­came a frus­trated man. The ro­ta­tion sys­tem ended af­ter Musa came to power in 2003 and this fur­ther dam­aged and damp­ened La­jim’s am­bi­tion.

“La­jim blamed ev­ery­body for his loss, in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak, but sin­gled out Musa, who be­came his sworn po­lit­i­cal en­emy,” the jour­nal­ist said.

His ad­vance­ment in Umno, cur­tailed by his feud with Musa, caused La­jim to jump ship again, em­brac­ing PKR in 2012.

The Bisaya peo­ple du­ti­fully elected him but by a slim­mer 400 votes. La­jim had ev­ery­thing in PKR — be­ing the state as­sem­bly’s op­po­si­tion leader and state PKR chief. He had Datuk Seri An­war Ibrahim’s ears but he still felt he had missed the chance.

La­jim aban­doned ship again on Sun­day, this time to set up his own party, in al­liance with rebels like for­mer Umno vice-pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Ap­dal.

La­jim dreams on in vain. His fre­quent jump­ing from one party to an­other has be­come a trade­mark for po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism.

He may have Klias but he will fail mis­er­ably to rally Sabah folk to over­throw BN.

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