ANALYSIS In the end it was all in vain. If the 5,000-plus illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls in Batu Sapi and the 1,615 postal voters are discounted, PKR could have won the parliamentary by-election despite it being a three-cornered fight.
Even so, the illegals and postal votes notwithstanding, PKR could have still won Batu Sapi and handsomely. Alas, it was not to be.
The odds were stacked against PKR the moment its so-called de facto chief Anwar Ibrahim entered the picture. He insisted that Tuaran division chief Ansari Abdullah should be the flag-bearer for the Pakatan Rakyat. This was the same Anwar who told the media in the lobby of Parliament House that Sabah PKR was autonomous and would decide on the candidate.
A six-member PKR committee headed by outgoing vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan won a consensus that Kota Kinabalu division chief Christina Liew Chin Jin Hadhikusumo be the candidate for Batu Sapi. Alternatively, since the DAP had been pushing for the seat as well, Jeffrey and his committee were willing to stand down provided it obtained Sandakan in exchange but this did not pan out.
The committee decided that Batu Sapi was a Chinese seat and the voters expected a candidate from the community to raise issues in Parliament. Liew hesitated and by the time she came around, Anwar had seized the initiative. He flew to Sandakan on Oct 24, announced Ansari’s candidacy and flew back.
When Anwar landed back in Kuala Lumpur, he had so many text messages criticising his decision that his ears were burning. He ignored the messages except for some which informed him that Kudat division chief Mursalim Tanjul had been roughed up at Sandakan airport by between 20 and 30 goons taking orders from Batu Sapi division chief Hassnar Ebrahim. This happened just minutes after Anwar took off.
Anwar, furious, rang Sabah PKR state chief Ahmad Thamrin Jaini and told him that he had changed his mind. He asked him to be the candidate instead. Thamrin, also the Libaran division chief, refused. He had been one of the three short-listed for Batu Sapi by an anti-Jeffrey rebel group in Sabah PKR. The other two were Ansari and Hassnar who backed the former.
Hassnar had earlier declared in Batu Sapi that 15 mostly division chiefs of PKR, led by Jeffrey, , were banned from the parliamentary seat. Mursalim was on the list as well along with Liew and others.
In any case, none of the 15 Sabah PKR leaders on Hassnar’s list turned up in Batu Sapi. Ansari had to fight a lonely battle, assisted by the DAP, and Karim Ghani who recently quit Sabah Umno but has yet to join PKR.
Karim’s game plan, whether Ansari won or lost, was to woo 1,000 ex-United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) votes for him and use that as a bargaining chip to enter PKR. He appears to have succeeded considering the number of Muslim votes that Ansari collected. The speculation is that Karim wants to be Sabah PKR chief.
Batu Sapi, in the end, was a repeat of Batang Ai in Sarawak. Jeffrey had recommended Nicholas Bawin but Anwar insisted on Jawah Gerang, the five-term MP for Lubuk Antu whose star had faded. The rest is history.
Had Liew been fielded or Tawau division chief Kong Hong Ming if she had backed out, Pakatan could have called on the electorate in Batu Sapi to unite under its banner and defeat the illegals on the electoral rolls. A PKR Chinese candidate could have crossed the threshold and dispensed with the fear of offending the illegals.
In the end, none of the three candidates in Batu Sapi breathed even a word of the illegals on the electoral rolls, fearful that they would not get their votes. Sabah Progressive Party president Yong Teck Lee could not make that call as well. He was previously disqualified in the Likas state seat in 1999 after an election court found the electoral rolls in the seat riddled with illegal immigrants with MyKads.
There appears to have been other instances of electoral fraud in Batu Sapi. There were quite a number of complaints from many people that when they turned up to vote, they found that someone else had already collected the ballot paper on their behalf and voted.
Yusof Milaham is among those who were denied the vote on the grounds he had already voted. He complained to the local media but to no avail.
Illegals on the electoral rolls in Sabah are a painful reality on the ground ignored by the Election Commission (EC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Such voters can be found in at least half or more of the seats in Sabah, especially in the marginal seats.
Even more painful is the realisation that the illegals can be defeated if Sabahans unite under one banner. This can only happen if voters are presented with the right candidate from the right party. The decision must be made in Sabah and not in Kuala Lumpur.