By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: Just out from an eight year political turmoil, Sarawak National Party is hit by yet another ‘crisis’ that forced the party’s highest decision-making body, the central executive committee (CEC), to postpone its triennial general assembly (TGA) at the last minute.
The TGA and the party’s presidential polls was scheduled to have been held yesterday morning.
Four days ago SNAP received a letter from peninsular-based People’s Progressive Party (PPP) saying that presidential candidate Michael Lias was a member.
SNAP’s constitution does not allow for double memberships.
Also Lias is currently a member of SNAP’s CEC, the party’s highest decision-making body.
The disclosure threatened the polls.
To preserve the intergrity of the presidential election, the CEC decided to postpone Sunday’s TGA and polls to a later date.
Explaining the situation, out-going SNAP president Edwin Dundang said: “We received a letter on Sept 22 from PPP saying that Michael Lias, who has offered himself as a contender for the post of president of SNAP is its member.
“We don’t want to deny him the right to contest, but we have to be very clear regarding his status in the party and to be fair to him and to the party, we give him a show cause letter and should come back to us within 30 days to answer and to clarify.
“While waiting for all this, the CEC gives itself 60 days to organise the TGA. I hope this will give us a good breathing space,” he said.
Dundang said that Article 3 of the party constitution clearly stated that the party will never accept anyone who is known to be a member of other political party or someone who is known to be bankrupt or someone who has been jailed.
He said: “If you are a member of SNAP and are found to be a member of other political party, you are deemed to have resigned from SNAP.
“But if you are to rejoin SNAP, you need to reapply, and this has been the precedent and the case in the past.
“Michael has been sitting as CEC member since 2009, because we did not know that he is a member of PPP,” he said.
Not a PPP member
Lias however is insisting that he is no longer a PPP member.
On his part, Lias has submitted a statutory declaration to SNAP stating that he did join PPP on Sept 14, 2009 as an ordinary member but had ceased to be a member as his yearly membership had been duly expired and was never renewed.
Following an urgent meeting on Saturday to discuss PPP’s letter and Lias’ statutory declaration, the CEC decided to give Lias a show-cause letter and 30 days to reply and explain his position.
It would also give the party time to sort out problems and issues with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) arising from this.
Lias when contacted by FMT, said he will consult ROS and his lawyer once he received the show cause letter.
“I have to see the contents of the letter first before making any move, but I can assure you the battle is on.
“Proving my membership is an internal issue is not the reason to postpone the TGA as the attendance of the delegates has been done,” he said.
Political observers said that adding to the complications of the contest for the presidency between Lias and the incumbent secretary-general Stanley Jugol are outside ‘forces’.
Both have accused each other of being assisted by those forces.
Lias is allegedly being supported by the sacked SNAP deputy president Ting Lian Kiew who was said to be interested to see the defeat of Jugol, who was instrumental for his sacking last year.
Jugol is alleged to have the support of Sng Chee Hua.
Close aides to Jugol confirmed that Sng met Jugol a number of times before the TGA and allegedly asked Jugol to give way to Larry Sng to be the next SNAP president.
Jugol, they said, refused to give way, saying that it is against the party’s constitution.
He told Sng that his son has got to be a member of SNAP at least one year before he could contest any post in the party.
The Sng senior was a SNAP treasurer general in 1980s before he resigned to join Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak in 1990.
SNAP was deregistered in November 2002 because it breached its own constitution. When the party increased its five appointed CEC members to seven, their appointment had not been approved by ROS, yet they took part in decision making.
Since the amendment to the constitution which was made two years earlier had not been approved, thus all decisions involved them were rendered as illegal.
As a result the party was de-registered.
‘Don’t be stupid’
However, SNAP appealed to the High Court against the decision, which decided in its favour eight years later.
Dundang told the members that they must strictly observe the rules and the constitution.
“We don’t want SNAP to die the second time,” he added.
“My advice don’t do stupid thing. You must follow the constitution, and if you do stupid thing against the party then you really want to kill the party.
“If that is your intention, then you better resign from the party,” he advised the members.
Dundang said there was a need for him to explain the situation because the media had spun their own interpretations of TGA.
“I need to explain all this so that there would be no misunderstanding and confusion.
“Already some newspapers have written about TGA. One newspaper even called the TGA a false start.
“They ridiculed SNAP, and I don’t know what the impact of this on the party is as the people throughout the nation have been reading about it.
“The people will be asking: is this what SNAP all is about?
“This is not a good or pleasant thing as it gives an opportunity for our political enemies to continue to put us down.
“What I am saying here is that I am duty bound as your president to explain to you why the TGA has to be postponed by the highest body of the party, ” he said.
Dundang said while many people had deserted SNAP folwoing his crisis, there were others who had stayed on.
“Many members have remained faithful and stayed behind with the party.
“Now the party is alive again and I hope you are not going to destroy it,” he said.
Meanwhile SNAP advisor, Daniel Tajem said that a registered SNAP member may resign his membership by tendering a letter to CEC addressed to Secretary General.
“His resignation is not automatic and has to be approved by CEC and again if a member of SNAP joins another party, if the party discovers so he is deemed to have resigned.
“If he wants to be readmitted, he must reapply.
“There is also another provision put into the constitution which gives him grace period of one year before he can stand as an executive member of the party unless he obtains a dispensation from the president to allow him to stand if the period is shorter than that,” said Tajem, who was instrumental in the drafting of the SNAP constitution in the 1960s.