BN STANDS GOOD CHANCE OF WRESTING BACK PUJUT SEAT
‘But SUPP and UPP must forget about past troubles and strengthen solidarity’
SINCE last weekend, shopping malls and wet markets statewide have been flooded with droves of people making early preparations for two important occasions in the coming days.
While the Muslim community is stocking food to usher in the holy month of Ramadan this Saturday, the Dayak community is equally excited, as it will be celebrating Gawai Dayak festivities on June 1.
It is, however, a different situation for politicians from both sides of the political divide, since they will add another item to their respective to-do lists, which is to prepare for the second by-election in Sarawak this year.
Come middle of next month, political parties are expected to move their machineries to Sarawak’s oil capital of Miri for the Pujut state by-election, with nomination and polling days scheduled for June 20 and July 4 respectively.
The by-election was called following the unprecedented move by the Sarawak state legislative assembly to strip the membership of the seat’s former assemblyman, Dr Ting Tiong Choon of DAP on May 12.
Dr Ting was disqualified after 70 assemblymen voted in favour of a ministerial motion against him by State International Trade and E-Commerce Minister and Bawang Assan assemblyman Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh during the state assembly sitting.
Wong had moved the ministerial motion under Article 17(1)(g) of the State Constitution of Sarawak, which provided that a person is disqualified from being elected as a member of the state assembly, if he has voluntarily acquired citizenship of, or exercised the rights of citizenship in, or has made declaration of allegiance to any country outside the Federation.
This led to the vacancy of the Pujut state seat, which has been a DAP-stronghold since the 10th state election in 2011.
Sarawak DAP is expected to file a legal recourse against Wong for defaming Dr Ting of being a bankrupt while the latter was in Australia.
The party will also have to allocate sufficient manpower to defend the Pujut constituency.
In the Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) camp, the ruling coalition’s election machinery will be reactivated again for Pujut, after winning a landslide victory during the Tanjong Datu state byelection on Feb 18.
Unlike Tanjong Datu, which saw BN retaining the state seat through Puan Sri Jamilah Anu, the Pujut by-election is a different ball game and will not be a walk in the park for the ruling coalition.
It is expected to be a multicornered contest with Pas and State Reform Party (Star) expressing their interest to stand in Pujut. Sarawak BN is in for a tough fight.
“Regardless of the number of political parties joining the contest, the by-election, this time around, will centre around the fight between BN and DAP since both parties have large followers in Pujut,” said political analyst Associate Professor Dr Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
At the 11th Sarawak polls in May last year, Dr Ting won Pujut when he polled 8,899 votes against BN direct candidate, Datuk Hii King Chiong, State Pas commissioner Jofri Jaraiee and sacked DAP member, Fong Pau Teck.
Hii of United People’s Party (UPP), the splinter party of Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), garnered the second highest votes at 7,140.
Jofri and Fong obtained 413 votes and 375 votes respectively.
Besides national issues, Jeniri believed that both BN and DAP would speak at great length on the development leading to the sacking of Dr Ting from Sarawak assembly.
“There is a possibility of Sarawak BN wresting Pujut if SUPP and UPP forget about their past troubles and form greater solidarity in the by-election,” he said.
Another prominent political analyst, Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, also did not discount the high possibility of BN winning the state seat since Dr Ting won Pujut with only a majority of 1,759 votes.
This, he said, provided that Sarawak BN fielded a qualified and winnable candidate.
“I believe BN can win back the seat by fielding the right candidate who will address all the issues, such as Chinese education and rising cost of living.
“There are quarters in the Pujut constituency who have lost confidence in DAP,” he said.
Many observers and politicians have described the Pujut by-election as “critical” and that the outcome will reflect the people’s sentiments, especially among the Chinese community ahead of the next general election.
Hence, it is important for all parties and political entities friendly to Sarawak BN to display unity and enter the contest with only one intention — for the ruling coalition to win and serve the people.
All affected parties in Sarawak BN, who are bickering for the right to contest in Pujut should look at previous episodes and learn from them.
All affected parties in Sarawak BN, who are bickering for rights to contest in Pujut should look at previous episodes and learn from them.
Many observers and politicians have described the Pujut byelection as ‘critical’ and that the outcome will reflect the people’s sentiments, especially among the Chinese community, ahead of the next general election.