Full autonomy a ‘big test’ for Sabah Umno in upcoming polls, say analysts

Among the privileges given to Sabah Umno include the power to choose their own candidates in elections, determine their choice for chief minister and elected representatives and individuals to be given positions if they win the election as well as various issues related to the rights and interests of Sabahans. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Among the privileges given to Sabah Umno include the power to choose their own candidates in elections, determine their choice for chief minister and elected representatives and individuals to be given positions if they win the election as well as various issues related to the rights and interests of Sabahans. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 31 — The full autonomy given to Sabah Umno by the central party leadership is a big test that needs to be translated in determining the party’s direction so as to meet the people’s aspirations in the upcoming state election on Sept 26, political analysts said.

According to them, the most important thing is to give the people an understanding of the autonomous power which is one of the privileges given to ensure that development in Sabah is according to its own mould.

Among the privileges given to Sabah Umno include the power to choose their own candidates in elections, determine their choice for chief minister and elected representatives and individuals to be given positions if they win the election as well as various issues related to the rights and interests of Sabahans.

The full autonomy aims to ‘localise’ Umno in Sabah and dispel allegations that Sabah Umno is only following the lead of the central Umno leadership, thus safeguarding the party’s survival in Sabah after losing power in the 14th General Election (GE14).

Political analyst from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Dr Syahruddin Awang Ahmad said the full autonomy given to Sabah Umno is not a trivial matter that can be easily understood, especially to young voters in the upcoming 16th Sabah election, the first to be faced by Sabah Umno since being given autonomy.

He said the Sabah Umno’s leadership should take advantage of the autonomy to restructure the party by featuring new candidates in the election this time, especially in the 13 new state seats.

Syahruddin, who is a senior lecturer at the UMS’ Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage, said the new challenges require the state Umno leadership to line up credible young leaders.

“There are many among the young generation of Sabah Umno who can be given opportunities, and this may be the best formula for Sabah Umno to return to the struggle, in the eyes of the Sabahans, who once enjoyed development as a result of the party’s struggle,” he said.

Another political analyst from UMS, Dr Ramli Dollah opined that the Sabah election was not only a test of the full autonomy given, but would also test state Umno leadership on how it would determine the party’s direction in the polls.

In this context, he said, the selection of candidates and the distribution of seats, as well as possible candidates for the chief minister’s post should be discussed and decided carefully by the state Umno leadership.

This, he said, was to avoid internal bickering among the state Umno top leadership such as the criticism over the appointment of Sabah Umno Liaison chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin to lead the Barisan Nasional (BN) election machinery which was allegedly not discussed at the state leadership level.

Ramli was also of the view that matters related to the party should be discussed in private using the available channels as Umno is a systematic and large party and has extensive experience in the country’s political arena.

“Therefore, discussing the party’s internal problems openly will have a negative impact on Umno’s image, besides giving the impression that Umno was bickering even before the actual ‘war’ takes place in the state election,” he explained. — Bernama

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