By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: The Sarawak Pakatan Rakyat coalition is keenly watching the latest political developments in the state, namely the crises in Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP). At stake is 11 parliamentary seats belonging to both SUPP and SPDP.
“The two parties – SUPP and SPDP – are getting weaker due to internal conflicts,” said See Chee How, Sarawak PKR vice-president.
“SUPP and SPDP are the latest victims to fall prey to PBB’s ploy to weaken the state BN. They want them to remain weak and dependent on PBB,” he said when asked to comment on the current political developments in the state.
According to See, both Baram and Mas Gading seats allocated to SPDP as well as its Saratok and Bintulu seats are now tough seats for BN.
Similarly, SUPP’s allocation of seven parliamentary seats in Serian, Stampin, Bandar Kuching, Sibu, Lanang, Sarikei and Miri are also weakened by the internal conflicts in the party.
Bandar Kuching and Sibu are already in the hands of DAP.
In their current political situations, both SUPP and SPDP are vulnerable to “aggressive” attacks by Pakatan in the coming general election.
SUPP, for instance, has seen one problem after another in almost all its 43 branches that have held their meetings.
The line is clearly drawn between the supporters of party’s organising secretary Peter Chin, and its deputy secretary -general Wong Soon Koh.
SUPP won’t be ready
Chin and Wong are battling for the party’s presidency in the coming triennial delegates’ asssembly (TGA) scheduled from Dec 8 to 10.
SUPP has a two-tier system of electing its leaders.
The branch will elect 600 delegates to the TGA, who will in turn elect 133 central committee (CC) members. The CC members will in turn elect the principal office-bearers.
As electing delegates are extremely important, branch leaders have resorted to underhand tactics against each other in their bids to ensure the “right” people be elected as delegates.
In branches known to be supporters of Chin, they were overzealous to find “irregularities and faults” with those who are supporting Wong.
Similarly, branches supporting Wong have also tried to find “problems” against Chin’s supporters.
In Sibu, the Dudong branch revival committee tried to stop the Sibu branch under the chairmanship of Wong from holding the branch meeting by resorting to court injunction, but the Sibu branch successfully fought against the injunction.
In Kanowit, there was almost a fist-fight between supporters of the two leaders. Troubles also occurred in branch elections in Sarikei, Kuching, Miri, and Lundu.
What the state Pakatan envisions is that SUPP may not be able to recover from the internal bickering in time for the next general election no matter who wins the presidential race.
Free-for-all fights likely
As for SPDP, the sacking of Marudi assemblyman Sylvester Entri from SPDP and the dropping of the three-term MP Tiki Lafe from re-contesting the Mas Gading seat are not only worsening the crisis in the party, but is also certain to have some bearing on the Mas Gading and Baram parliamentary constituencies.
Both Entri and Lafe are part of the infamous “SPDP 5” now called Rentap. The others are assemblymen Peter Nansian (Tasik Biru), Paulus Gumbang (Batu Danau) and assemblywoman Rosey Yunus (Bekenu).
Even SPDP’s Saratok and Bintulu seats are shaky.
Whoever is going to be nominated in the Mas Gading seat is going to have a tough time trying to win over Lafe’s staunch supporters.
In the event of a straight fight between the candidates of BN-SPDP and Pakatan, both sides have an equal opportunity to win.
Assuming there will be a three-cornered fight among Lafe representing Rentap, a SPDP candidate and a Pakatan candidate, the BN leadership may adopt a formula that was first used to solve claims over constituencies between Sarawak National Party (SNAP) and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (both members of BN) in the 1983 state election.
The formula will allow SPDP and Rentap to have a free-for-all in the four parliamentary constituencies. The BN leadership in the midst of the election may have to choose who has a better chance to win – SPDP or Rentap.
In the case of the 1983 state election, Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud declared his full support for PBDS’ candidates and accused SNAP of being the “enemy number one”.
SNAP was the biggest loser.
Turmoil in Baram
In the Baram parliamentary constituency, SPDP’s Jacob Sagan has been named as the candidate to defend it.
Judging by the hot issues concerning the construction of the proposed Baram dam, which the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities strongly opposed, Sagan may have problems with the 13,623 voters in Telang Usan, a part of the Baram constituency.
Previously, he gained so much from the 13,093 voters from the Marudi constituency to win big.
About 90% of them are Iban voters.
But now the Marudi voters, who are Entri’s strong supporters, are against Sagan who is aligned to SPDP president William Mawan Ikom.
In last month’s function, Mawan and Sagan needed the help of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to be “allowed” to visit Ulu Teru in Marudi where the Iban voters were trying to stop them from “disturbing” the longhouse residents.
At Rumah Ela in Selulit, Tinjar, Marudi, last Saturday, more than 2,000 people including 88 longhouse chiefs and councillors expressed their strong support for Entri.
Also present there were other Rentap members except for Lafe who was attending an official function in Bau.
Condemning Mawan for sacking Entri, councillor Kalang Kimie said: “Our Marudi assemblyman stood and won on a BN ticket, and his sacking is a show of total disrespect to the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Taib and the mandate of the people.
“Sacking the party’s elected representative who had won with the biggest majority in the last election and acting against the others is tantamount to a hidden agenda.
“Every political party wants to have as many representatives as possible; now, throwing them out would weaken the party,” he said.
SPDP’s two other allocated parliamentary seats, Saratok and Bintulu, are also tough seats if the crisis in the party persists.
The incumbents are Jelaing Mersat, (Saratok) and Tiong King Sing, (Bintulu) who are in Mawan’s camp and they too will defend their seats.
“If the results of the last state election are of any indication, Saratok and Bintulu are in deep trouble,” said a political observer.
The Krian state seat, which is the other half of the Saratok parliamentary seat, is currently held by PKR’s Ali Biju. Biju won the seat in the April 16 state election with a big margin. The other half is Kalaka seat.
In Bintulu, Tiong’s position is also precarious. The combined majorities (6,477)) obtained by BN in Jepak and Kemena are far less than the majority of 6,930 votes obtained by DAP in Kidurong.
Said See, the Batu Lintang assemblyman: “Pakatan is keenly watching what is happening in SUPP and SPDP. We expect to gain by their conflicts.” – FMT