Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman was seen sporting a broad smile when met by media personnel with their outstretched hands holding handphones to record his words recently.
Among the news fraternity, this sort of session is called “jolok”, or an unscheduled press conference.
Looking relaxed and clad in a blue short-sleeved shirt with the Barisan Nasional logo on the left and the 1Malaysia emblem on the right, Musa appeared to be more than happy to oblige the waiting reporters.
He had earlier toured the BN district polling centre (PDM or pusat daerah mengundi) before handing out aid in the form of schoolbags and supplies to children and wheelchairs to the disabled at Kampung Sungai Kayu in Sandakan.
The PDM will be the operation centres for the ruling coalition to prepare for the coming 14th general election.
Since the new year, Musa has made it a point to visit eight of the dozens of PDM around the east coast Sandakan district where his Sungai Sibuga state constituency is located.
After the visit to the Sungai Kayu PDM, the chief minister told the media he was satisfied that the centres were on an election footing.
“From what I’ve seen, we are ready to face the polls,” he said, noting that each PDM had its chief, assisted by the wings of all BN components, heads of divisions as well as its members.
The 67-year-old former businessman should know well the preparedness level of Sabah BN, having led the seven-member ruling coalition through four elections in a state that is about half the size of the entire Peninsular Malaysia.
“What is important is that we in Barisan remain loyal and united in helping our candidates,” said Musa, who has served as chief minister since 2003.
Musa also heads Sabah Umno that has been on a “turbo-charged” election mode, according to its deputy information chief, Ramlee Marahaban.
Ramlee, the Bugaya state assemblyman and state assistant finance minister, said the party had been ramping up its programmes to prepare its members and grassroots leaders for the polls.
They include various activities, ranging from distribution of party flags to briefings.
Sabah BN is heading into GE14 on a confident note, holding 21 of the 25 parliamentary seats and 48 of the 60 state constituencies.
The same cannot be said about the opposition front which, at best, can be said to be fractured.
DAP and Parti Warisan Sabah each hold two parliamentary seats.
Warisan got its first parliamentary seat after Semporna MP Mohd Shafie Apdal, who won the seat on a BN ticket, quit Umno in mid-2015 and took over the party’s reins a year later.
Consequently, Penampang MP Darrel Leiking, who won the seat on a PKR ticket, switched to Warisan in 2016.
In the state assembly, Warisan holds three of the opposition seats.
DAP holds two state seats while Parti Anak Sabah, Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) and Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah (Harapan) have one each.
Another two assemblymen — Jeremy Malajad of Kadamaian and Jailani Hamdan of Matunggong — who won the seats on a PKR ticket in the 2013 polls later ditched the party and declared themselves as independents.
But the undercurrents of resentment remain strong among Sabah’s opposition due to switching of allegiances since 2013.
After the GE13, PKR suffered losses when Wilfred Bumburing of Tamparuli and Lajim Ukin of Klias went on to set up their respective parties — PCS and Harapan.
Terrence Siambun of Moyog also quit PKR for Warisan. Junz Wong (Likas) followed, moving from DAP.
Also making the move to Warisan was Jaujan Sambukong of Sulabayan, after ditching Umno.
Likewise, DAP’s Edwin Bosi of Kapayan quit the party for Parti Anak Sabah.
DAP suffered another setback after Hiew King Chew of Luyang crossed over to BN after signing up with MCA.
Complicating the opposition field further is the appearance of even more parties — the latest being Parti Kebangsaan Sabah (PKS), led by former Bingkor state assemblyman Thomas Anggan, who won the seat as a PBS candidate.
The opposition also includes the peninsula-based Pakatan Harapan, which includes PKR, DAP and Amanah, while the local-based parties Harapan Rakyat, STAR, Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah (PPRS) and SAPP, have teamed up under the United Sabah Alliance or Gabungan Sabah.
The increasing number of opposition parties ahead of the polls is no surprise to BN component leaders.
Other smaller opposition parties — Parti Anak Sabah and PKS — insist they are not aligned to any parties and intend to also contest most of the state seats on their own.
“Oh yes, the more the merrier but it also shows the opposition side is in a mess,” said Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) secretary-general Johnny Mositun.
SAPP president Yong Teck Lee said all parties were heading into the polls with their respective issues.
Among issues BN will have to field are higher living costs, the unpopular goods and services tax (GST), corruption, questions over security, especially along the east coast, and the unresolved problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah.-FMT