Semporna contest shapes up to be family feud

Julia Chan
Nasir Sakaran is contesting the Senallang state seat again. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, April 26 — It will be a family affair in Semporna with two brothers set to face their cousin-turned-rival in the general election.

Datuk Nasir Sakaran and his brother, Razak Sakaran, will contest the Senallang and Bugaya state seats respectively, going up against Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and his Parti Warisan Sabah.

“I believe Bugaya is still our BN stronghold. Even though I’m a first timer, I’ve been familiar with this area. I’ve been working here so long in and out so I’m confident,” said Razak when met at the Umno building here after the BN candidates’ naming ceremony here today.

“I am confident the rakyat will still choose BN because of our history and how we deliver what we promise.”

Razak, the son of former governor Tun Sakaran Dandai, said family ties will be set aside for the battle as Umno is adamant on seizing the Semporna parliamentary seat from Shafie. Bugaya, Senallang and Sulabayan are the state seats in the Semporna constituency.

Shafie, who is a five-term Semporna MP, left Umno in 2016 and started his own party with the aim of ousting the state government. Joining him is Sulabayan assemblyman Datuk Jaujan Sambakong, also a close relative of the cousins.

“He is my cousin, always my cousin. In terms of principle and beliefs, we have separated, but we still respect each other for that,” said Razak, who was once Shafie's political secretary.

Nasir, who had considered stepping down to make way for his son, Marzuki, is also quietly confident about retaining his seat.

“The leadership still needs my service,” he said when asked about talk that he would be stepping down, “But, it’s good to be chosen again, hopefully we can retain the seat with hard work,” he said.

Nasir said he was used to going up against relatives and challenges in Semporna, adding that GE14 would be no different.

“We face this during every election. Cousin or not. And I am defending a seat, not chasing a new seat, I think the people are still with us,” he said.

Shafie will announce his party’s candidates tomorrow and is expected to defend Semporna, which he won with a 20,000-vote majority in 2013, and take on a state seat, likely Senallang.

Bugaya incumbent Datuk Ramlee Marahaban has been given the task of challenging Shafie, who will face former Sulabayan assemblyman Datuk Harman Mohamad if he does go for Senallang.

 Sabah’s longest-serving assemblyman, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, said this election will be his last and an opportunity to deal with any “unfinished business”.

The 77-year-old politician, who has on numerous occasions hinted at retirement, said there were several reasons on why he chose to stay and defend his Tambunan state seat.

He will give up his Keningau parliamentary seat, however.

 “Apart from sentimental reasons, there is also the question of responsibility and unfinished business. At the request of the people in my division I have to continue for Tambunan,” said Pairin.

Pairin said he was unfazed at the prospect of facing against his brother in Tambunan and would go about the business of serving the people.

“Whatever it is, the people will know how to choose, I am only there to serve the people. I hope to do the best in my last service. This will definitely be my last service for the people in the context of an elected representative,” he said.