KOTA KINABALU, July 22: A Warisan statement about the possibility of allowing Dr Mahathir Mohamad to join its ranks has prompted an academic to warn of difficulties the party would face with many of its supporters.
Warisan leaders would have a lot of explaining to do, said Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
“They would have to explain the party’s focus, direction, and vision because Mahathir is not known as someone who is supportive of autonomy for Sabah,” he told FMT.
He was commenting on remarks Warisan chairman Liew Vui Keong made recently in reaction to reports that some quarters were speculating the former prime minister might join his party.
Liew said Warisan leaders would consider amending the party’s constitution to turn it into a national party to enable Mahathir’s membership.
Puyok said he did not believe Warisan would gain any traction outside Sabah.
He questioned whether Warisan was now willing to relax its Sabah rights ideology and slogans, saying these played a big part in giving it victory in the 2018 general election.
Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president Jeffrey Kitingan told FMT he believed Liew had not thought deeply enough before making his statement.
He said Mahathir’s entry into Warisan would mean his subservience to Shafie Apdal, the party’s president.
“I don’t think Mahathir is prepared to downgrade himself unless he is more desperate than Shafie,” he added.
He also said Warisan’s willingness to accept Mahathir was ironical considering the party’s repeated vows to reclaim the state’s rights under the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and the former prime minister’s alleged denial of those rights.
“If Mahathir does join the party and eventually becomes its chairman, it will give the impression that Shafie and his party are now under Malaya’s rule,” he added.
The former prime minister has also been accused of masterminding Projek IC in Sabah, which refers to the alleged systematic granting of citizenship to immigrants.
“Projek IC 2.0 can still happen,” Kitingan said. “If it does, we can all kiss goodbye to the Malaysia Agreement and our state rights.”
A senior Warisan leader told FMT not everyone in the party was as eager as Liew to have Mahathir as a member.
However, he added, the decision would be left to Shafie and the party’s secretary.
Some political commentators have said Warisan should be concentrating on running an efficient state government instead of focusing too sharply on politics.
The proposal on Mahathir’s membership is seen as Warisan’s attempt to ensure its survival now that many grassroots members are resigning and several of its prominent members are being hounded by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Internal Revenue Board.
The state government has often been criticised for not showing enough determination to initiate projects that could benefit Sabah’s economy.
Umno supreme council member Abdul Rahman Dahlan has mocked Shafie by calling him the Father of Announcements in reference to an alleged lack of follow-up actions to his frequent announcements.