GE15: Borneo bloc becomes Sabah’s hottest campaign topic

KOTA KINABALU: The push for the formation of the “Borneo bloc” between Sabah and Sarawak has been a contentious issue between Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Parti Warisan.

Which of them will be most acceptable to neighboring Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has remained a heated debate between the leaders of the two parties campaigning for the 15th General Election (GE15).

Although the GPS did not say which Sabah party it wanted to work with, some members of the GRS said the state government was already in talks with its Sarawak counterparts.

Meanwhile, Warisan said he was ready to cooperate with GPS after the elections for the benefit of people in the two states of Borneo.

The GRS published an advertisement in local newspapers on the eve of the elections on Friday November 18, promoting the idea that it was working closely with the GPS.

The advertisement shows GRS Chief Minister and Chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor and Sarawak Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abang Johari Tun Openg, with a slogan that says “Sabah First” to match the motto “Sarawak First”.

In Tawau, Warisan Chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said his party would work with Sarawak as a bloc to pursue the interests of both states at the federal level.

“We will work with Sarawak as a bloc for the interests (of Sabah and Sarawak) and to protect our rights.

“However, it will not be easy for us in Sabah as the state government is represented by some parties from Malaysia,” he said on Thursday, November 17, referring to Peninsular Malaysia.

The idea of ​​the bloc was for the two states to work together to address various shortcomings in the implementation of the Malaysian Agreement of 1963 (MA63), increases in oil royalties and other issues relating to states’ rights.

Earlier, it was reported that Sarawak Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said that Sabah state government parties must be free from peninsula-based political parties for the bloc to become a reality.

The reason, he added, is that policies affecting Sabah’s interests would have to gain the approval of central party leaderships, thus reducing the possibility of their demands being met.

“In Sabah, the controlling parties include Umno and Bersatu – which are based in Malaysia – and any policy (in the interests of Sabah) must be referred to the big boss in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

Shafie agreed, saying Sabahans should unite and vote for local parties as only these could make their voices heard nationally, just as Sarawak had done.

The former chief minister also said a collaboration between Warisan and GPS would help form the bloc, although formal talks have yet to take place.

Unlike Warisan, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan claimed that the GRS-Barisan administration had already worked with the GPS, as the orientations of the two coalitions were guided by Borneo’s own narrative.

“We met and discussed how things should go. Unlike Warisan who only talks about the Borneo bloc as a political stunt,” said Kitingan on Thursday (November 17), who is also chairman of Sabah STAR .

Political specialist Dr Lee Kuok Tiung said the bloc could potentially be formed as long as the GRS can secure a stable position in Sabah by securing enough parliamentary seats.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about negotiation. If they (GPS and GRS) team up, they will have stronger bargaining power.

“The Borneo bloc can even make whoever has the fewest seats from Sabah become the ‘kingmaker,'” he told The Star.

GRS includes Bersatu Sabah Section, Bersatu Sabah Party (PBS), Sabah STAR, SAPP and United Sabah National Organization (Usno).

The coalition works closely with Sabah Barisan Nasional, led by its president Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, which consists of Umno, MCA, MIC and Bersatu Rakyat Sabah Party (PBRS).

Jessica C. Bell