Straight fight in Taib’s fortress likely

By FMT staff

KUCHING – Speculation is rife here that PKR will pull out its candidate in Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s Balingian constituency to pave the way for a straight fight between “cousins”.

A top level party insider confirmed that discussions were currently underway in Kuching to seek a consensus on whether to withdraw PKR candidate Suriati Abdullah and allow for a one-to-one contest between Taib and his cousin Salleh Jafaruddin.

Former deputy education minister Salleh, is an independent candidate, is standing under the aupices of the Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS).

“Today is the last day to pull out. The leadership is in a meeting right now in Kuching.

“(Sarawak PKR chief) Baru (Bian) and his team are agreeable to a straight fight if MoCS is serious. We should know the decision by afternoon,” said the insider, who also revealed that Pakatan Rakyat leaders Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang were “preparing to leave” for Balingian.

MoCS had on nomination eve disclosed that it had a “deal” with PKR over the seat.

MoCS chief Francis Siah said that he hoped PKR would not contest the seat as both groups shared a common agenda which was to post winnable candidates and bring down the Barisan Nasional regime.

But on April 6, PKR submitted businesswoman Suriayati’s nomination, thus making it a three-cornered fight. When asked, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Sarawak information chief See Chee How had denied knowledge of any such deal.

Baru when contacted in Lawas this morning also confirmed the meeting but declined to say more.

“I met (PKR leader) Tian Chua and have made my recommendations… it is up to the top leaders to decide,” he told FMT.

Intimate revelations

Meanwhile, candidate Salleh, whose ties with Taib goes beyond family, is expected to bring to the campaign table “intimite” details of the CM’s political history.

Salleh’s travels with Taib date back to the duo’s uncle, former chief minister Rahman Yakub’s days, and he is until today seen as a staunch and loyal supporter of Rahman.

Salleh is not just anybody. He was once tipped to take over and lead Taib’s Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).

But he fell out of favour in the 1980s when he became involved in a bid to topple Taib in the well-known “Ming Court” affair.

Since then, Salleh and other PBB leaders, including Bujang Ulis and Wan Habib Syed Mahmud, had become Taib’s sworn enemies.

Taib however dismissed Salleh’s candidacy. “People know and can judge for themselves what kind of character he (Salleh) is,” said the chief minister of more than three decades.

But a PBB source had told FMT on Wednesday that Salleh could “bring into the campaign much intimate information about Taib and how he plotted his rule.”

The source said hearing “Taib’s deeds from a family member (like Salleh) will have an effect on voters.”

Balingian, with its 11,887 voters, is now a seat to watch. – FMT

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