5 things you didn’t know about Shafie Apdal, who’s nominated as Harapan’s PM candidate

In the latest episode of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire the Prime Minister?’, Pakatan Harapan Plus has finally announced a new PM candidate. And, this time around, it’s not Tun Mahathir or Anwar Ibrahim.

A new challenger, Shafie Apdal, has appeared (in the middle). Img from UMNO Online

Well, if you couldn’t take the hint from the image above, it’s Shafie Apdal, the president of Sabah ruling party, Warisan. This announcement was actually made by Mahathir himself amidst infighting within the coalition over its prime ministerial candidate. 

“I believe, if this comes true, it will strengthen the relationship between the peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak.” – Mahathir, in a video posted on his social media account. As quoted by NST.

And this would also mean that Mahathir is no longer in the running to be Prime Minister candidate la.

Anyways, you may have known Shafie when he was sacked from the Cabinet in 2015 for questioning the 1MDB case or even during the previous general elections when Sabah ended up having two Chief Ministers (don’t worry, we’ll explain both incidents in a bit). But there’s more to the man than just those two incidents.

So without further ado, here are some facts you might not have known about Shafie Apdal.


1. Shafie’s family helped build UMNO in Semporna, Sabah

Disclaimer: This section heavily relies on a research paper entitled ‘Legacy of Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (DSAA) in Semporna’s Parliament in GE14’ by a team of academicians from Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

When we say family and politics, you may be thinking of politicians like Mahathir and Mukhriz, Anwar Ibrahim and Nurul Izzah or even Tun Abdul Razak and Najib. Now, allow us to introduce you to another set of politicians who are blood-related; Shafie and his uncle, Tun Sakaran Dandai, who is a former Sabah chief minister.

Tun Sakaran. Img from Daily Express

While this may not exactly be a supernew phenomenon, it is actually pretty common in Sabah districts. Heck, UMS academicians stated that each district is mainly dominated by one specific family. For instance, the Kitingans would be well-known in Tambunan and Tun Said’s family would be known in Kota Belud.

Back in Semporna tho, Tun Sakaran’s family has been dominating the constituency since 1978, when Tun Sakaran was still with United Sabah National Organization (USNO). Shafie was also said to have started his political career with USNO with Tun Sakaran as his mentor.

As a matter of fact, Tun Sakaran’s family was the one who helped build UMNO in the Semporna district in 1994. And when we say Tun Sakaran’s family, we’re not just talking about Shafie and Sakaran but also other family members including…

…and all of them are members of UMNO btw.

In fact, the last general election witnessed the fight between Shafie and his cousins, especially Nasir at the Senallang state seat.

Shafie (left) and Nasir (right). Img from BERNAMA (2018) via NST

Having family members in politics may have come in a bit handy in Shafie’s political career journey and this can be seen when he followed the footsteps of his uncle. And thanks to Tun Sakaran’s guidance…


2. He became the first and only(!) Sabahan to ever hold vice-presidency of UMNO

Besides becoming his mentor, Tun Sakaran also somewhat paved the way for Shafie to be more involved in politics at the federal level. In 1991, Tun Sakaran, who was the then Minister of Land and Cooperative Development, elected Shafie to be his secretary-general.

Since then, Shafie continued to be involved in the federal govt by holding several posts like…

  • Parliamentary secretary in the Communications Ministry
  • Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government (1999)
  • Deputy Defense Minister (1999-2004)
  • Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumerism (2004-2008)
  • Minister of National Unity, Arts Culture and Heritage (2008-2009)
  • Minister of Rural and Regional Development (2009-2015)

Besides that, it also seems as though Tun Sakaran’s guidance has led Shafie to climb the political ladder at a pretty fast rate. Shafie, who started off as UMNO’s youth state exco, eventually became one of UMNO’s vice presidents in 2009. He was the vice president along with Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Hishamuddin Hussein.

UMNO’s vice presidents… once upon a time. Img from The Malaysian Times

See, he was confident that he would be able to win the vice president seat in UMNO despite the possibility that Sabah’s chief minister at that time, Tan Sri Musa Aman, might be contesting for the very same seat. 

“I am confident the support for me still exists, otherwise I would not have been the supreme council member for four terms.” – Shafie, as quoted by Malaysiakini in 2008.

He eventually became the first and only Sabahan politician to ever hold the position in UMNO and this may have been possible because Musa Aman decided to stay out of UMNO’s election.

However, this position didn’t quite last because…


3. In 2015, Shafie was sacked from the Cabinet because of 1MDB

If there’s one thing Shafie and the current Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, have in common, that would be speaking out against Najib in 2015 for his alleged involvement in the 1MDB case. And as a result of that, both Muhyiddin and Shafie were axed from the Cabinet.

When you have that one thing in common. Img from Suara Perak

Shafie was among the leaders in UMNO who were sharply critical of Najib, calling for Najib’s resignation due to the allegations of graft and mismanagement at 1MDB.

“Justice is not being done. There is no justice in the way UMNO is being run.” – Shafie to Reuters.

This was also why Shafie wasn’t just sacked from the Cabinet but he was also suspended as a member of UMNO. Shafie’s suspension pretty much sparked an internal revolt which caused several local UMNO leaders in Semporna to resign in protest. And, in 2016, Shafie eventually quit UMNO and formed the Sabah Heritage Party (Warisan) that he currently leads.

A year later, Umno minister Nazri Abdul Aziz claimed that Shafie has allegedly received money from the 1MDB fund. But Shafie denied this adding that if he was the recipient, he wouldn’t have raised questions about the fund in the first place.

“I remember when I raised the questions on 1MDB, Nazri was seated next to me. He gave me a thumbs up, but discreetly, not to be seen. He said it was good that we asked those questions. I’m surprised at these characters in politics that he is raising this now.” – Shafie, as quoted by Malaysiakini.

Najib has recently been using this story against Shafie when he made a visit in Semporna in 2018. In his visit, Najib told a crowd of 1,000 people how Shafie had stabbed him in the back.

“I was disappointed that when certain situations arose, Shafie stabbed me in the back. It hurt to my ribs. When I talk about it, I still feel the pain, especially because it was done by a close friend.” – Najib, as quoted by The Star.

We’re pretty sure that’s not his ribs… Unedited img from The Star

Ironically, for a person who speaks against corruption…

7 convincing reasons why BN will confirm WIN GE14


4. Shafie and bros were arrested for allegedly being involved in a RM1.5 billion corruption case

So back in 2017, Shafie was arrested by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to assist investigations into the alleged embezzlement of funds for rural projects in Sabah. See, the project, which is worth RM1.5 billion, was actually meant to help the poor people in Sabah.

But he wasn’t the only one who was arrested to assist in investigations. His brothers, Yusof (yes, the guy we mentioned earlier) and Hamid Apdal were among the 11 people who were also arrested to help with the investigation.

Shafie and his brothers, Hamid (middle) and Yusof (right). Img from FMT

However, in 2018, the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

“After studying the matter, the prosecution decided on June 20 this year on ‘No Further Action’ or not to proceed with the prosecution because the evidence adduced was not sufficient for further action.” – Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong to The Star.

Besides that, he also assisted the MACC in the Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd (Mara Inc) corruption case, involving a Dudley house worth AUD 22.5 million. Okla, Shafie wasn’t directly involved in that case but he may have been required to help with the case because this transaction was done when he was still the Rural and Regional Development minister at that time. In addition, Datuk Mohammad Lan Allani, the director of Mara, who was directly involved in the case, was Shafie’s strong supporter at that time.

Another corruption scandal that happened when he was the Rural and Regional Development Minister was the Sabah State Water Department corruption case.

If you haven’t heard about this, the federal govt has been funneling RM3.3 billion worth of infrastructure projects to Sabah since 2010. These funds were meant to build some 30 water treatment plants, improving water supply, installing pipelines for remote towns in Sabah and replacing old pipelines in the state capital.

However, instead of filling up water tanks, corrupted officials ended up filling their pocket monies instead. :\

Some of the people arrested in this case. Image from The Star.

The MACC confiscated RM114.5 million (you can check out the rundown here), making it MACC’s largest seizure haul at that time. And Shafie was questioned by then Tenom MP Datuk Raime Unggi if his ministry was involved in this case.

“If two senior state department officials could monopolise the projects tendered to amass the extraordinary wealth of hundreds of millions, then it is impossible that the ministry was not aware.” – Raime, as quoted by Daily Express.

But that wasn’t the case. Shafie denied that his ministry knew anything about this and it’s probably because the money kinda just flowed directly to department without any supervision as it wasn’t even passed through the ministry.

Despite all these, Shafie still managed to gain enough support during GE14 and…

5. …he became Sabah’s chief minister. But it sparked a constitutional crisis

It seemed like Lat’s cartoon which was drawn more than 30 years back became relevant again when a power struggle incident, which may have caused a constitutional crisis, between Musa Aman and Shafie Apdal happened back in 2018. This is because both were elected as Sabah’s Chief Minister in a matter of two days!

Oddly enough, this illustration became relevant again in 2018. Click image from Dato’ Lat to see more of them.

Basically, both of them were sworn in as chief ministers because they both won 29 seats respectively in the 60-seat legislative assembly. When this happened, Joseph Kitingan played the Sabah’s rights sentiment to gain trust from his supporters but is now called a traitor to Sabah when he chose to unite with BN in Sabah.

However, BN Sabah was unlucky when the former President of United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO), Datuk Madius Tangau announced he was quitting BN to form a coalition with WARISAN. This caused WARISAN to win a simple majority of 35 seats with the help from 5 ADUN Barisan. Musa Aman who was then fired was said to have fled the country whilst being investigated by the MACC. But, at the time of writing, Musa Aman has been acquitted of all his charges.

But the feud love-hate relationship between Shafie and Musa Aman didn’t just end there. Just recently, Musa Aman has demanded Yayasan Sabah to pay RM1 billion and a public apology for making ‘slanderous claims’ against him.

Img from FMT

What actually happened was Yayasan Sabah has reportedly slapped a RM872 million lawsuit against Musa Aman in a bid to recover monies lost during his time as the fund’s board of trustees chairman. This happened when Musa Aman was the then chief minister.

In response to this, Shafie had only told Musa Aman to see each other in court.

At the end of the day…


Shafie is said to be loved by the rakyat

One interesting thing we noticed while researching for this story was how strong the rakyat support is for him from when he was with UMNO up until today. As a matter of fact, the support for him grew after he was sacked from the Cabinet. This may have something to do with how he cares for the people.

“Normally, each person who visits his house won’t be coming home empty-handed. That is Shafie’s advantage.” – An excerpt from Legacy of Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (DSAA) in Semporna’s Parliament in GE14.

Img from Malaysiakini

And this support can still be seen when he was announced as the new PM candidate. Before the announcement was officially made by Mahathir, several Borneo leaders have stated their support for a potential easterner PM candidate (tho they didn’t name who it was, it was pretty clear that they meant Shafie).

“Many may disagree for their own reasons but as someone predicted years ago that to correct the Federation of Malaysia, anyone acceptable to the Federation and coming from Borneo (Sabah & Sarawak) can equally lead the Federation as a PM.” – Warisan deputy, Darell Leiking in his Facebook post, as quoted by Malaysiakini.

In fact, political analyst, Prof James Chin of Tasmania University, Australia, believes that the general public in East Malaysia would be supportive of Shafie as the PM candidate. He said this is despite some beliefs that this is an attempt to stop Anwar from becoming PM or to gain support from the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), who has 18 MPs in Parliament.

This is probably how Anwar reacted towards the announcement. Img from Babab.net

According to Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Sivamurugan Pandian, the move was rather a strategy to prevent mass defection from Warisan. But, at the time of writing, over 1,300 Warisan members have reportedly quitted the party.

Political scientist, Wong Chin Huat, on the other hand, believes that a Sarawakian compared to a Sabahan politician is the key to recapturing Putrajaya.

“If GPS did not join the effort against Perikatan Nasional, whoever emerged as the PH-endorsed candidate to be PM would only get an empty title.” – Wong to FMT.

Regardless of how people perceive this announcement, at the end of the day, it may be important to note how Shafie has yet to officially accept the nomination. So until then, we shall just wait and see how this further develops.

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