Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s presence in Sabah to support Mohd Shafie Apdal and Warisan in the state elections can backfire due to the lingering anger over Project IC, said analysts.
They told The Malaysian Insight Sabahans were still smarting over the purportedly government-sanctioned effort in the 1980s and 1990s to give citizenship to foreigners in Sabah.
Dr Mahathir was implicated in the scheme, which saw thousands of illegals receiving Malaysian identity cards purportedly to allow them to vote for Umno and Barisan Nasional.
Agora Society Malaysia member Chang Hsiao Yi, who is also a political observer in Sabah, told The Malaysian Insight that Sabahans’ anger over the issue could be why Dr Mahathir did not go to the Borneo state to campaign in the 14th general election.
“In the last general election, he did not go to Sabah to help in the campaign.
“If he goes for the coming elections, the opposition parties will use Project IC against his allies,” Chang said.
Agora Society is a loose network of intellectuals, writers and activists who espouse democratic values in Malaysia.
Chang said it would be difficult for Dr Mahathir’s allies in Sabah to gain support with his presence, adding that this issue would become a trump card for the opponents to attack him and his allies over the issue of undocumented immigrants.
The outcome will also be unfavourable, especially if his new party decides to contest in the state elections, she said.
“He will make everyone, especially in places where there are mostly indigenous people, uncomfortable,” said Chang, who is also Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall economy bureau member.
Sabah will hold snap polls after Shafie called for the dissolution of the state assembly following claims by his rival Musa Aman from BN of having a house majority.
Dr Mahathir has a close relationship with Shafie and Warisan and has said that he would fly to Sabah for the polls to campaign against assemblymen who had defected to support Musa.
Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said there were polarising views over Dr Mahathir in Sabah, which differed from other parts of the country.
“It’s good for him to form an alliance with Shafie. But if he comes (to Sabah), then everyone will be worried about the need to take responsibility for Project IC.”
He said Dr Mahathir would also be doing his allies a favour by staying away from the Sabah elections.
“People who support Shafie both love and hate Dr Mahathir. This is a very subtle feeling,” said Oh.
“Some people still hate his Project IC. On the other hand, those who want Shafie to be prime minister would think that Dr Mahathir’s support is needed.
“He can come if Shafie asks him to and then after that, he should not come any more.”
Oh said Dr Mahathir had acted in haste in forming his own party, which he announced last Friday.
Dr Mahathir’s new party chances of winning look slim if it fields candidates for the Sabah elections, he said.
Therefore, it’s better for him and his party to silently support Shafie, he added.
Dr Mahathir said his new party is to take on the current Perikatan Nasional government.
The name of the party has yet to be decided and is awaiting Registrar of Societies’ approval. – TMI