Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.— Albert Einstein, German-born scientist
Well, here’s a crazy thought: Apparently Sabah — or Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) to be more accurate — is aiming to lead the next national opposition.
Party president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has not shied away from the idea and in fact in the last few days openly lobbied for himself and his faction to take the lead in providing a competent opposition to Perikatan Nasional (PN).
Of course, given the blunder by the opposition now led by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in failing to defeat the 2021 Budget, the bar is quite low, the public would presume.
After their bid to derail the Budget ultimately fizzled out, confidence is low among the Pakatan Harapan (PH) bloc — whether it is in themselves, their numbers or the current opposition leader.
Now is a good time as any for the Sabahan to parachute in and take control, but the path ahead isn’t as straightforward as one might think.
You see, the problem now in PH is that it is too fragmented, riddled with trust issues with the big-name players not seeing eye to eye with each other.
It all went downhill when Anwar urged the opposition members to allow 2021 Budget to be passed at the policy stage as it would still be subject to scrutiny at the committee stage during the second reading of the Supply Bill 2021 last month.
Opposition MPs were lambasted by their supporters after valiantly criticising 2021 Budget on social media but did not stand up to support a bloc vote in Dewan Rakyat.
This was not helped with the already strained relationship Anwar has with mentor-turned-nemesis Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who apparently still wields influence in the political scene and is viewed as an ally to Shafie.
The Semporna MP is seen as a compromise by the nonagenarian and was even touted to be the PH Plus prime minister candidate not too long ago.
Getting there is one thing, the bigger question is will he remain there and can he win support from the other MPs and more importantly the current opposition support base?
Political analyst Prof Dr Azmi Hassan, who is formerly of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), does not believe Shafie and Warisan’s expansion plans to West Malaysia will be smooth sailing due to their “anti-Putrajaya” sentiment.
He said the party’s message of unity will miss the mark, despite it being the backbone of Warisan’s attempt to garner substantial support in the peninsula.
“The unity factor that Warisan wants to use as their foundation to be established in the peninsula is peculiar because during the Sabah state polls, Warisan leaders were seen to be ‘anti-Putrajaya’,” he said when polled by Free Malaysia Today.
Regardless, Shafie and by extension, Warisan needs to stand on its two feet and not rely on the support by Dr Mahathir and his group to establish themselves.
But then again, an opposition leader from East Malaysia with a formidable representation is a different ballgame — with two Sarawakian MPs previously holding the position between Aug 1974 and Nov 1975, not enjoying the same benefit.
It would be interesting to see how an East Malaysian opposition leader would juggle between the needs of Malaya and the needs of Sabah and Sarawak.
On one hand, he would be pressed to cater to his local supporters, in this case Sabah to favour the state in any decision and while on the other hand, he would need to tread carefully as to not offend or lose the support of his base in Malaya.
Of course, it would be easier to make promises in the opposition as you are not burdened over the need to fulfil them compared to being in the government as prime minister.
So will it be Sabah and Sarawak first; or party and Malaya first for the potential opposition leader? Will it be Malaya yielding to Sabah and Sarawak or the other way around?
The convention is that Malaya — regardless of how you look at it holds all the cards to determine who the prime minister — is based on the number of seats alone in Dewan Rakyat.
There is no changing that. But, breaking convention — for better or worse — is what tickles the opposition’s fancy.
Then again, the last thing we want is a Malayanised Sabahan or Sarawakian prime minister giving our rights away due to being at the mercy of Malayan leaders and their support base.