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TRULY A RECORD: New party appears to have conflicting goals
KNOWN for the dubious distinction of having the most political parties, Sabah is poised to continue keeping that record for some time.
A new political entity called Parti Kebenaran Sabah (Kebenaran) was registered recently, bringing the number of Sabah-based political parties to eight.
Founded by several unknown individuals, Kebenaran is basically a Suluk-based party by virtue of the fact that it is led by one Bentan Alamin, 31, who is also president of the newly-registered United Suluk Community Organisation (Usco).
Just what is the objective of setting up the new party is anybody's guess. What is more interesting is that, just a few days after its formation, the party pledged its support to the ruling Barisan Nasional.
And to make things even more intriguing, Kebenaran, despite having declared its support for the Barisan Nasional, had announced that it is planning to contest in the 13th general election, widely expected to be held soon.
Bentan was reported to have said that he wanted his members to support other parties, not discredit them, and that Kebenaran's goal is to support the BN.
I don't mean to be disrespectful or question the "intelligence" of its leaders, but it appears the party is undecided what course it should take.
Except to add meaning to the saying "the more the merrier", many do not see Kebenaran making an impact, and think it will probably eventually die a natural death.
Such a verdict on the newly formed party may sound presumptuous, but then again, just look at what happened to United Pasok Momogun Organisation (Pasok).
The party had contested in every election since the early 70s, only to see its candidates faring miserably. It was deregistered about two years ago after a futile existence for more than three decades. Until its deregistration, Pasok was the oldest party in the state.
Pasok's demise elevated Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) as the longest surviving political party in the state.
Besides the Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan-led PBS, the other Sabah-based political parties are United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp), Sabah People's Front (SPF) and Parti Demokratik Setiahati Kuasa Rakyat Bersatu Sabah (Setia).
The PBS, Upko, LDP and PBRS are part of the ruling BN coalition, while the Sapp, SPF and Setia are in the opposition.
The presence of peninsula-based parties Umno, MCA, Gerakan, MIC, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, DAP and Pas and Sarawak-based State Reform Party (Star) in Sabah have made the state a melting pot for political parties.
As the new party on the block, Kebenaran will have to contend with the more experienced political entities to make its presence felt. It certainly would not want to be just making up the numbers.
Perhaps, it would be wiser for Kebenaran to stick to its pledge of supporting the BN or face the likelihood of a humiliating defeat if it is to field candidates in the coming election.
Based on history, the success or failure of local political parties in Sabah, to a large extent, depended very much on the issues at hand and popularity and standing of the individuals leading it.
One just needs to look at how the now-defunct Parti Berjaya and the PBS unseated the ruling party in Sabah in 1976 and 1985, respectively.
In 1976, the then Parti Berjaya, riding on the issues of rampant corruption and dictatorship, succeeded in toppling the Usno-led state government because it had experienced leaders like Tun Fuad Stephens and Datuk (now Tan Sri) Harris Salleh.
The PBS dethroned Parti Berjaya in 1985 because it had a popular leader in Pairin who capitalised on the alleged erosion of the 20-Point agreement that formed the basis of Sabah joining the federation of Malaysia, among others.
While everyone has the right to form a political party, their fate, including Kebenaran, would be decided by the people.