KOTA KINABALU - Sabah's influential east coast Bajau leader Datuk Shafie Apdal is set to become a new force in the state's politics as he quits Umno.
The 58-year-old "warlord" from Semporna looks all set to team up with local-based Opposition parties but have yet to make clear the platform he is planning to use for his next political step.
"Today, I've quit Umno. I want you (rakyat) to continue supporting me until I decide on my platform,'' he told a crowd holding Sabah flags that gathered at his house in Semporna on Monday.
Training his guns on his political nemesis Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Shafie said he would go all out to fight Musa and Sabah Barisan to safeguard the state rights.
In his speech, Shafie blamed Musa for allegedly pushing his suspension from the party at the June 24 supreme council meeting.
"I was never given the right to answer allegations of mixing with the Opposition.
"I could have defended myself but they decided to suspend me and then investigate me. I love the party," he said, in questioning why no action was taken against other state leaders, who have been meeting with Sabah Opposition leaders.
Also saying that he was no longer in line with the Umno leadership, he said the breaking point came when he was suspended as party vice-president on June 24 without being asked to answer for alleged disciplinary breaches.
"There has been a lot of lies told about me including that I was going to take over Usno Baru (a new party formed after Usno dissolved to allow Umno into Sabah).
"These were outright lies spread about me," he said, adding that he was now disillusioned with the national leadership.
Shafie, who is the nephew to Sabah Umno's first chief minister Tun Sakaran Dandai, was the first party vice-president from the state and has been Semporna MP since 1995 and held various federal Cabinet positions between 1999 and 2015 before he was dropped as a minister in July last year.
Showing clear signs that he was taking up the Sabah agenda and aligning with the local Opposition was the presence of United Sabah Alliance (USA) under former Berjaya minister Datuk Mohd Noor Mansor at the gathering.
The USA comprises Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) led by Datuk Wilfred Bumburing, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) led by Datuk Yong Teck Lee and State Reform Party (STAR) Sabah chapter under chairman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
During his 90-minute speech streamed live via Facebook, Shafie told the crowd that he was a loyal founding Umno member in Sabah and had been through the ups and downs of the party since it spread its wings to the state in 1991.
Sabah Umno leaders are expected to give their reaction to Shafie's move though many said it came as no surprise.