KOTA KINABALU,Nov 30: Analysts say the setting up of a Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) presidential council would strengthen the coalition’s ties, but one observer expects Umno to slow down the council’s establishment.

Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said Barisan Nasional’s (BN) decision not to officially join Perikatan Nasional (PN) is a hindrance, while there was less of a problem with other parties in GRS.

“At this time, I don’t see BN joining PN, although BN MPs and assemblymen are working with PPBM to form the federal government and several state governments,” he told FMT.

He said the main issue that such a council will have to take on is the distribution of positions or roles, from the chief minister’s post to government-linked company (GLC) positions.

“Once the recent state polls were over, the issue of who was to become Sabah’s chief minister had arisen, even forcing the swearing-in ceremony for some top positions to be delayed a few days.

“Next is the distribution of positions in the state Cabinet and local government, as well as GLCs. When the distribution of Cabinet positions is over, sometimes we have to look at the distribution of positions at the local government level.

“Some might view this issue as trivial, but it can be a hidden source of contention that can give rise to bigger problems to the ruling coalition at any time,” he said.

Lee said a presidential council would be able to prevent clashes in seats, which had occurred in the September state polls, in the next general election.

However, Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Pawi said the presidential council might not be able to resolve the scramble of seats among GRS parties, although it will improve their ties with one another.

“This issue comes from the Umno grassroots who are not happy with PPBM at their level, and Umno wants to keep their Parliamentary seats.

“As long as the issue of seats remains a point of contention and there’s no compromise, efforts to unite GRS under one umbrella will be very difficult,” he told FMT.

Sabah BN chairman Bung Moktar Radin recently told FMT that he believed GRS could have its own presidential council, saying it would be handy to discuss “sensitive” issues.

“If it brings benefits and will strengthen us, then why not? I think there is a need for a presidential council so the chiefs can talk among each other on a deeper level of things that aren’t suitable to speak in a big group,” he told FMT.

However, Bung, who is the Lamag assemblyman and a deputy chief minister, said the matter has yet to be brought up in the GRS coalition.


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