June 20, 2008
WHAT a moment that must have been for Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee. What a way to make history - as the first Barisan Nasional component party to call for the ouster of an incumbent coalition chairman and sitting prime minister. In the past, if and when any BN component lost faith in the coalition to such an extent as to be at odds with the government, it would simply pack up and leave.
No one knows this better than Yong, who was with Parti Bersatu Sabah when it pulled out of the BN just weeks before the 1990 general election, and who then pulled out of PBS four years later to help bring down the state administration and ensconce his own SAPP within the BN, the better to have his two-year turn as Sabah chief minister.
Well, there he goes again. If "politics is the art of the possible", it can be frankly amazing just what heights of brazen conceit are possible in the Malaysian version of the art. Yong chose his moment to coincide with the BN's lowest ebb, with the coalition still painfully convalescing nearly four months since its mauling in the March general election.
At a time when the BN's components are striving to reconsolidate themselves as parties and partners-in-government, the SAPP under Yong shakes the table. The blatant cynicism of this act devalues Yong's righteous "justifications" - Sabah's illegal immigrant problem, share of resource revenues and relationship with the peninsular centre.
These are real and pressing issues, and they are receiving real and urgent attention by the present state and federal administrations, as witness the billions of ringgit in development pledged to Sabah in just the past month. Yong's gambit does nothing to help these causes, and indeed does them unwarranted harm.
However, this shabby attempt to lob a bombshell into the BN is unlikely to have much effect. Yong's initiative hasn't raised much applause among the constituents of the Pakatan Rakyat, other than Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's prompt claim of credit. Anwar's overture only casts further into disrepute Yong's bid to mask his motives as pious concern for Sabah and its peoples.
Most importantly, many of Yong's SAPP colleagues are repudiating his action, drawing a clear distinction between the party and its president. If saner heads prevail, the party itself may not have to quit the BN. That cannot be said for Yong Teck Lee. He must surely go.