Umno media including newspapers and portals are working overtime to try and damage control for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who faces a firing squad for failing to attend to the grouses of two BN MPs despite knowing about their problems more than a year ago.
Frustrated by Najib's indifference and inaction, the two men - Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing and Beaufort MP Lajim Ukin - had over the weekend switched their political support over to the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
"Najib and UMNO had a year to prepare for the Lajim-Bumburing exit and yet still scramble for an intelligent response. Like many, I am stunned," DAP MP for Bukit Bendera Liew Chin Tong said on his Twitter.
Liew was referring to the excuses offered by a red-faced Najib and his minders including Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan. Ahmad had insisted that Lajim and Wilfrid had left BN due to personal reasons and as such, no one should be blamed.
But it is well known in Umno circles that Lajim had met Najib several times over the past year to complain that Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman was sidelining him and giving his predecessor Azizah Mohd Dun too much opportunity to make herself popular with his constituents in Beaufort while he was in Kuala Lumpur attending to his duties as the Deputy Minister of Housing & Local Government.
Bumburing too had lashed out at Najib, saying the emergence of Pakatan provided a check and balance against Umno. The two-party system created by the 2008 election allowed unhappy leaders to finally act on their grievances, he added. He complained that after 15 years, there were still no new roads built in his constituency.
Panic mode: 1 in 6 Umno MPs come from Sabah
As Liew pointed out, of the 79 parliamentary seats held by Umno, 13 are from Sabah, another from Labuan. This means that 1 in 6 of Umno MPs come from Sabah.
Hence the panic mode and the rush to pour cold water on the Pakatan's latest feat.
"Yes, Umno is saying Lajim and Wilfrid will add to Pakatan's problems and some even say it will deepen the rivalry between the Pakatan parties when we negotiate for seats. That is nonsense. The Pakatan top leadership welcomes Wilfrid and Lajim. It is Umno and Najib who regret and want them back. These 2 men are senior leaders who can punch their own weight. They are an asset to us," PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
"Of course, we have to make room for them. That goes without saying. There are others who will soon follow Lajim and Wilfred and it is up to them to decide whether they wish to contest under DAP, PAS, PKR or SAPP flag. The main object is to get the best team to beat BN. The ones who are grumbling are those who fear competition. For example, in PKR, it is a good wake-up call for those who have not been working hard enough. This is not a time for personal ego and jealousy. Those who cannot control themselves have no place in Pakatan because they are not putting the people first, only their personal interests."
Another 'biggie' coming soon
Meanwhile, PAS deputy commissioner for Kelantan Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah warned of another 'earthshaking development' coming to rock Sabah BN soon.
"We hear many stories about their dissatisfaction with the state leadership in Sabah. And the decision taken by Datuk Lajim Ukin is a manifestation of this dissatisfaction," said Mohd Amar.
So far, apart from MCA president Chua Soi Lek, few other BN leaders have spoken. Conspicuously quiet are the Sabah BN components other than Sabah Umno, which today assured that no one else was leaving the Beaufort division other than Lajim.
"All of them are staying put in Umno. The same goes for the branch chiefs, who are staying in Umno. Obviously, Lajim is on his own," Sabah BN secretary Abdul Rahman Dahlan said in a statement on Monday.
Seat negotiations still ongoing - not just at Pakatan but BN too!
Wilfred also launched the Sabah Reform Front or Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS), a platform for Sabah political forces to unite on to fight for change in the state.
"It will have more problems because on top of PPS and APS, you have SAPP, Star, Pakatan, UBF, the opposition (in Sabah) is in a mess," UiTM Sabah political scientist Arnold Puyok was reported as saying.
Puyok was immediately slammed for his remark and accused of being an Umno stooge.
"The professor must be pro-Umno to make such an irresponsible comment but this may be why the Umno newspapers and websites interviewed him. Firstly, it is not true that the Opposition in Sabah is in a mess. If it was, why would Lajim and Wilfred join us. These men are established politicians and to make such a move, they have taken on huge risks," said Tian.
"Secondly, our seat negotiations are still on-going. What's wrong with that? Has Umno-BN finalized their candidates list? Aren't they still negotiating too? Lastly, has Najib called for GE-13 yet? Until the GE-13 date is announced, all parties would surely continue to negotiate to get what they believe is the best team to field."