Hiew remains Independent trying to allay claims of being an opportunist

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

By Jude Wang

KOTA KINABALU: Party hopping is endemic in Sabah. Some politicians have no qualms about jumping ship.

On Sunday, former DAP member Hiew King Cheu, the state assemblyman from Luyang, who had won a seat on the opposition ticket jumped ship and declared himself ‘independent’; finding new friends in the government camp.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun was on hand to receive a basket of fruits at a Pesta Buah-Buahan (fruit festival) organised by Hiew to show some sort of alliance between the state government and the erstwhile opposition member.

But the weekend’s love-in between the former political arch enemies isn’t the usual garden variety encounter.

It’s been in the works since the last ballot was counted and the opposition made substantial in-roads into a state considered a BN stronghold.

Hiew’s role in DAP and the opposition ever since his unexpected victory in the tussle for the Kota Kinabalu parliamentary seat in 2008 has been suspicious. Though he made the right noise while in parliament, his ambitions were questionable.

He accused his critics of being jealous when they suggested that he was double dealing. The ill feeling finally led to his resignation from the party in September and he joined Barisan Nasional (BN); and labeled as the biggest catch from the opposition.

Hiew walks on a tight rope fending off claims that he is an opportunist and struggles to dismiss concerns about his actual stand.

He has started to send out feelers to gauge his constituents’ mood, thus conforming to the idea that he will go to any extend to stay in power.

To-date he has denied any links with BN formally but takes pains to say that they are after him. But Sunday’s joint show with Masidi may be an indication that he is on the verge of joining BN formally.

Hiew disclosed that he was approached by two fellow recent defectors from the opposition, the Matunggong and Kadamaian state assemblymen, Jelani Hamdan and Jeremy Majalad respectively to join their new party but he wants to remain as an independent for now.

“I was approached by Jelani and Jeremy. We had a little bit of discussion,” local newspaper, Borneo Post, quoted him saying.

Hiew told the paper he believes remaining independent is better for him for the moment as the state government is assisting him look after his constituency.

One of the concessions he has received from the state BN government for quitting DAP is the use of public halls.

“When I was in the opposition, I could not even use this hall (Damai community hall) to organise activities.

Now the government has been very cooperative to me and my office every time I ask for a favour,” he told the local newspaper.

“If I join Jeremy and Jelani in the new party, it will be the same like before because a new party will not be accepted in Barisan Nasional,” he explained.

A single objection by any of the Sabah BN component parties – Umno, PBS, PBRS, Upko, LDP, MCA and Gerakan – to the new party joining the coalition would keep it on the sidelines.

“If one of these seven said no, there will be no chance for any new party to join them. Once MCA or Gerakan said no, it won’t happen,” he added.

In the meantime, Hiew is continuing efforts to shore up support for himself in the constituency in the wake of his shock exit from DAP. His latest offering is the fruit festival which he hopes will be a monthly affair.

The programme, he said, will give his constituents an opportunity to meet and do business.

The first one over the weekend, however, was a dud with just a few fruit vendors turning up to cash in on the opportunity. Perhaps it’s a hint that his constituents cannot be bought so easily.



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