By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: ‘Powerful’ Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president James Masing is flexing his political muscles.
The party, which currently holds the second largest number of seats in Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s state cabinet, is said to be firmly behind Masing’s decision on the selection of candidates for the impending general election.
Rumours are rife that Masing will drop three of his incumbent parliamentarians who were forced down his throat by deputy chief minister Alfred Jabu Numpang during the last two general elections.
Jabu sees himself as the ‘paramount leader’ of the Dayaks and has little respect for those who ignore or defy him.
PRS has six members of parliament in its fold. The three MPs set to be dropped are Masir Kujat (Sri Aman), William Nyallau (Lubuk Antu) and Billy Abbit Joo (Ulu Rajang).
Kujat and Nyallau are seen to be not from Masing’s camp. It is common knowledge here that Kujat and Nyallau are closely and politically linked to Jabu who is also deputy president of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB). Taib is the president of PBB.
When Nyallau contested in the 2004 general election, it was the Chief Minister’s Office which arranged for him to be candidate. Masing’s recommendation was ignored.
Again in the 2008 general election, Nyallau’s re-nomination was strongly supported by PBB.
Similarly for Kujat, his nomination in the 2008 general election was made by PBB through Donald Lawan, a strong PBB man.
Masing was helpless on both counts. The humiliation has not washed-over for Masing.
In the coming general election, Masing is said to be firm with his own recommendations and is prepared to take on Jabu.
And for this reason, PRS has formed its election committee which is empowered to find and nominate the potential candidates, including the incumbents for the election.
The committee is headed by Masing himself. Others include secretary-general Wilfred Nissom, Youth chief Mong Dagang and Women chief Senator Doris Brodie as the members.
Masing, when contacted, said more members will be appointed to the selection committee. He however refused to confirm or deny rumours that PRS was dropping its three incumbent MPs.
All Masing said was “maybe’.
Meanwhile FMT learnt that Masing will retain PRS’ three other MPs.
They are Joseph Salang Gandum (Julau) who is also information, communication and culture deputy minister and Joseph Entulu Blaun (Selangau) who is regional development deputy minister.
Also likely to be retained is Aaron Dagang, the MP for Kanowit.
Sources told FMT that Masing is happy with these MPs performances. Masing has apparently already identified replacements for the three soon-to-be dropped MPs.
Masing’s private secretary, Wilson Ugak Kumbong, is tipped to be one of the potential candidates to replace Abit Joo in Ulu Rajang.
Abit Joo has served his fifth term as MP for Ulu Rajang from the days when he was a member of the defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak right to present day. He is now a senior leader of PRS.
Ugak, who was once a political secretary to Taib, said that he is spending most of his weekends meeting voters.
He considers it as among his ‘duties’ to go around from one longhouse to another in the Ulu Rajang constituency.
Sources here believe Ugak has a good chance of winning the seat for the Barisan Nasional as he has connections with both the Iban and Orang Ulu communities.
While he himself is an Iban from an aristocratic family, his wife is a member of the Orang Ulu community.
As for Nyallau, he has served his second term as an MP. His performance however has been below par
Masing is said to have been grooming one of his men to take over. The candidate is said to be a lecturer.
Meanwhile in the Sri Aman seat, Kujat is likely to be replaced, even though he has only served one term. Like Nyallau, his performance too is much to be desired.