A highly ambitious politician


Shafie Apdal

Shafie Apdal Part I : The early years (1990-1994)

Shafie Apdal had it easy. He had the connections. The road to the top was smooth, easy and fast. From the very start he was ambitious and still is.

From just an ordinary public servant, he resigned and went full time politician, first serving as the Political Secretary of the then Federal Minister Land and Cooperative Development, Tan Sri Sakaran Dandai. The year was 1990. Sakaran was his maternal uncle as well as one of his political “God father”.

The entry of Umno to Sabah sped up his rise in the political ladder. As a Political secretary, he could have taken full advantage to build up his network both at national and state level. The post could have given him the opportunity to rub shoulders with Anwar Ibrahim, Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi, Hishamuddin Tun Hussein. He contested the Umno Youth Exco and won in 1993. He was the Sabah Umno Youth Chief too.

The fall of PBS Govt handed him another opening at state level. With Sakaran Dandai, his uncle, as Chief Minister… Important and strategic positions were his choosing. Yayasan Sabah (YS) as Executive Director and Saham Amanah Sabah (SAS) as Chairman.

As a Ketua Pemuda Negeri for Umno and BN, he was influential and powerful. Joining forces with a certain businessman by the name of J. Ambrose Lee. Shafie wore two hats. One as a politician another as a businessman. He was also chairman of a BSKL listed company known as North Borneo Timber Berhad (NBT).

With NBT, together they engineered the purchase of two important strategic companies, namely Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd (SSW) and Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd (RB), both owned by Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd (ICSB) the investment arm of Yayasan Sabah.

The purchase received the greenlight of the state cabinet as well as the Sabah Umno Liaison Committee but faced stiff opposition by some state Umno leaders.

The appointment of Shafie Apdal as chairman of Saham Amanah Sabah and the planned purchase of Yayasan Sabah companies could have spelt the end of the Chief Ministership of Sakaran Dandai. Conflict of interest was plain and clear for everyone to see.

Bank Negara Malaysia did not endorse the appointments of Shafie Apdal and J. Ambrose Lee as Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Saham Amanah Sabah respectively. But it did not end there. There were more stories to tell. There were more twists and turns that caused an unfortunate tragedy befalling SAS not too long after that.

Whilst the purchase of SSW and RB was thwarted, and Sabahans were indeed very fortunate as until today both remain the crown jewel of Yayasan Sabah.

Shafie Apdal must have been very mad and angry with the people who foiled his missions. Till now, he might not have forgiven and forgotten those people who had stood in his way to power and riches.

He was YS Executive Director and he was also Chairman of NBT. Whose side was he on? The people of Sabah or himself then?

In so many ways, it was his own undoing. Shafie Apdal was ambitious but greedy, impatient, clumsy, selfish young politician then. This was only 1994.

By, Sabah Deep Throat

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