Friday, June 20, 2008

We have made a stand, says Yong

The Star : Thursday June 19, 2008


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Progressive Party is waiting to see if its push for a no-confidence motion against Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister will get the political ball rolling.

The unprecedented move by the Barisan Nasional partner to back such a motion was announced yesterday by SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee, who admits that the next 48 hours will be crucial for the party.

In his usual affable self, the 50-year-old former chief minister gave quick and witty responses to questions of how throwing a political card of no-confidence could spark off a groundswell within Barisan in the peninsula, Sarawak and Sabah.

“As far as the issues facing the people and as a far as our stand is concerned we are not alone. There are many others ... When they will make a move and declare a stand, that we will see,” he told a packed 90-minute press conference.

“We have made a stand and we bear the consequences,” said Yong, who revealed that he had met Parti Keadilan Rakyat advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on two occasions in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur as well as other Umno and Barisan leaders.

The announcement, which saw immediate mixed reactions from stunned Sabah Barisan colleagues and the opposition, was made at 2pm at the party’s headquarters in Luyang, here, after months of speculation on who will make the first move since the March 8 polls.

“Our MPs will support a vote of no-confidence on the Prime Minister. Whether the motion will be tabled by our party MP or another party’s MP will be decided in due course,” he said on the 101st day of the Barisan government holding 140 of the 222 parliament seats.

Making his stand clear that SAPP still remained in Barisan, Yong said Sepanggar MP Datuk Eric Enchin Majimbun or Tawau MP Datuk Dr Chua Soon Bui could propose the motion.

The signed statements of Majimbun, the SAPP deputy president who is overseas on an official trip but will be back for Parliament sitting on Monday, and party vice-president Chua were issued to the media surrounded by party members.

Chua, by Yong’s side with the party supreme council standing behind them, said people had lost confidence in the leadership of Abdullah, and even Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and other Umno leaders had asked him to step down.

SAPP’s four assembly representatives - Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Raymond Tan, assistant finance minister Melanie Chai, Au Kam Wah (Elopura) and Datuk Liew Teck Chan (Likas) - and Deputy Speaker Datuk Frankie Chong were not present at the conference but Yong said that they would be at Friday's supreme council meeting.
Yong, who was confident that all the supreme council members would attend the supreme council meeting, said some people expected SAPP to be sacked from Barisan.

In any case after the March 8 election, he said several Sabah Umno MPs, including the chief minister’s brother Datuk Anifah Aman of Kimanis, Kalabakan's Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh and Papar's Rosnah Mohd Shirlin, had stated that Barisan was not giving due recognition to Sabah.

“Barisan is no more in Sabah; only in form, not in spirit,” he laughed when pressed as to why SAPP was still remaining in the coalition. “Pullout is not something we have not said, we have to study the political implications.”

Stressing that he had nothing personal against Abdullah, Yong said if the vote of no-confidence fails, then SAPP would look for ways to achieve its objectives.

As to whether joining Pakatan Rakyat was an option, Yong said SAPP would work with whoever shared the party’s vision in solving Sabah issues like oil royalty, the return of Labuan, illegal immigrants and political autonomy.

Anwar is scheduled to be in Sabah on Saturday and the anticipation is that the former deputy prime minister may make an announcement on his claim to have enough MPs to topple the Barisan government.

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