ANALYSIS: For the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), it never rains but it pours. After being thrashed in the 13th general election (GE13), the party is now seriously split by internal problems.
Even if SUPP is cleared by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) on alleged irregularities in branch elections prior to its triennial delegates conference last year, the party faces a daunting task to rebuild itself.
Although the ROS has yet to announce its decision on the party’s explanation to the show-cause letters issued to the Piasau and Bekenu branches, there were already rumblings within the party.
In fact, the internal strife arising from the alleged irregularities has taken a turn for the worse and split the party into two main factions.
The wounds inflicted by the spat between party chief Tan Sri Peter Chin Ka Fui and Sibu branch head Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh have deepened, as evident from the latter’s open challenge against Chin.
“If the two sides continue quarrelling, it will be hard for the 50-year-old Chinese-dominated party to retain support from the public. It will be the beginning of the end for SUPP,” said a party insider.
Political observers noted that the most important agenda for SUPP now is to resolve its internal squabbling and overhaul its outreach for grassroots support.
They said SUPP has to work in earnest to revamp its strategies and policies to change the mindset of voters in predominantly Chinese areas.
It has to regain the confidence of voters and this is a tough task, said the observers.
An observer said if SUPP managed to regroup, it might just make a comeback two elections down the road, provided the DAP and its Pakatan Rakyat partners run into problems of their own.
“SUPP’s disastrous performance was magnified as six of the defeats at GE13 were in urban Chinese-majority constituencies. This was compounded by the fact that all six seats were won resoundingly by one party, the DAP,” he pointed out.
And the open bickering in the party has complicated matters, as political analysts feel that the two warring factions are unlikely to patch up unless there is direct intervention from the Barisan Nasional (BN) top leadership.
“It’s not easy for people who have split up to come back together, unless there is super willingness to work together. This has actually happened previously to parties such as SNAP and PBDS,” said one analyst.
He said efforts to reconcile were harder than thought as Wong’s group consists mostly of state assemblymen and a member of parliament who hold the bargaining power to dictate terms.
Wong is the Bawang Assan assemblyman, and he is backed by five other assemblymen – Datuk Lee Kim Shin (Senadin), Datuk Francis Harden Hollis (Simanggang), Dr Jerip Susil (Bengoh), Ranum Mina (Opar) and Dr Johnical Rayong Ngipa (Engkilili).
They have declared that they will either sink or swim together.
Sibu branch unit chairman Andrew Shilling said recently that his members were unhappy with the party’s Central Working Committee for referring only one of the six assemblymen in Wong’s camp to its disciplinary committee.
“At the moment, it is really a hopeless case unless they can talk together. Those six elected assemblymen are in a better position to make a deal because they can join another party if Chin’s group does not want to compromise,” the analyst said.
A source close to the party revealed that a special convention would be held in November where all BN component parties would be involved in a brain storming session to decide on the way forward.
Observers reckoned that the top state and national BN leadership will eventually have to intervene to resolve the issue as SUPP doesn’t seem to be able to do it on its own.
They warned that should the move also fail, SUPP could end up being deregistered.